With barely room for a cigarette paper between them in the Greene King IPA Championship table, Jersey Reds and Bedford Blues look set for a memorably close contest when they lock horns this Saturday.
The match-up at Stade Santander International, which will kick off at 2pm, features the sides equal third in the league on points, although the Blues have the higher ranking after amassing one more win thus far. The winner will claim third spot outright and stay in touch with league leaders London Irish - the Reds' next opponents - and second-placed Ealing Trailfinders.
The Blues are the form side in the Championship, having won their last six league matches in a run dating back to the start of October. Potentially the biggest achievement during this period was last Saturday's 23-18 home win over Ealing. They also won their home match against the Reds at the start of September by 26-22, and could bring up to five ex-Jersey players in their match-day squad: Alex Rae, Lewis Robling, Rich Lane, Sean McCarthy and Charlie Clare.
The hosts, who have launched a #RedsDay initiative encouraging their supporters to turn up in the team colour, are also going into the game on the back of an impressive win, recovering from an early nine-point deficit to score five tries in defeating sixth-placed Nottingham 41-16.
Head Coach Harvey Biljon makes three changes to his starting XV. Two are in the backs, with Jason Worrall stepping up at wing after an injury to Koch Marx, and Aaron Penberthy coming in at fly-half for Brett Herron, who took a knock in training this week. And there's rotation in the front row, with Roy Godfrey starting and Harry Morley switching to the bench.
The Jersey replacements also include a potential debut for newly-signed scrum-half Liam Howley, and the return of Dave McKern and George Eastwell, the latter set for his first league action of an injury-affected season after featuring in two Championship Cup ties before Christmas.
The two matches between the Reds and the Blues in 2017/18 were contrasting affairs, both ending in away wins. Bedford took the honours at Stade Santander International, with Harry Sheppard and ex-Jersey wing Rich Lane scoring two second-half tries against one by Roy Godfrey to seal a 13-15 success. There were nine tries in the return match at Goldington Road, five of them scored by the Reds - Hardy, Selway, Van Breda and Hodson (2) - and the match finished 29-33. Overall in matches at this level, the Reds have won eight of the 13 games.
The match is part of a run of four home games in five weekends for the Reds, which will also include the Championship Cup quarter-final against Cornish Pirates on Saturday February 2nd and the league encounter with London Scottish on Saturday February 9th. Both games kick off at 2pm, with advance tickets and places for pre-match lunches now available via the Eventbrite site.
For the online programme, click HERE
For a downloadable team-sheet, click HERE
Jersey Reds 1st XV squad v Bedford Blues (H) - Greene King IPA Championship, Round 12/22, Saturday January 19th, Stade Santander International, k-o 2pm
Leroy Van Dam
Jerry Sexton (capt)
Nick Selway, Harry Morley, Sam Rodman, Dave McKern, Jake Upfield; Liam Howley, George Eastwell.
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