Jersey’s players and supporters will be hoping Black Friday is followed by Red Saturday this weekend. The third round of the Championship Cup sees Jersey Reds hosting Richmond and looking to maintain a recent run of good form.
Victory over the visitors from London would make it three wins on the bounce in the cup, and nine in succession in all competitions, but the Reds know from recent experience that they’ll face a formidable challenge. Richmond were on the Island just four weeks ago for a Greene King IPA Championship match, and pushed their hosts all the way, not only taking a 14-point lead early in the match, but also finishing the game as the stronger side, pushing for an equalising score but eventually beaten 28-21.
Richmond will also be anxious to make their mark on this season’s Championship Cup, having lost both their games so far: 10-6 against London Scottish, and 7-33 at home to Ealing Trailfinders. They face back-to-back games against the Reds, who will travel to London this time next week.
The Reds’ starting XV for the game sees six changes, plus a positional switch, from the line-up that began the encounter against London Scottish at Stade Santander International last Saturday, a match that finished 41-10 to the home side.
In the backs, Zimbabwean international scrum-half Hilton Mudariki is promoted after a bench appearance last Saturday and will partner Aaron Penberthy. Midfield duo George Eastwell and Apakuki Ma’afu retain their spots, with the Tongan skippering the side, and there’s also another opportunity for winger Jack Stapley after impressing on debut last weekend. The other additions to the back-line are James Newey on the opposite wing, and Jason Worrall at full-back.
Rotation in the front row sees hooker Jack Macfarlane and loose-head prop Harry Morley come in alongside Sam Rodman, with Nick Selway and Roy Godfrey moving to the bench. Charlie Beckett and Dave McKern retain their places in the second row, while Rory Bartle comes into the back row alongside Graham Geldenhuys and Kyle Hatherell, with the latter moving from flanker to number 8.
Impact from the replacements will include a front row trio of Selway, Godfrey and Zi Alexis – the latter having made his debut last weekend. Second row forward Adam Batt is set for a debut of his own, while Jake Upfield covers the back row. Half-back duo Calum Waters and Brett Herron complete the bench options, with the latter having shown his ability to play at full-back and centre in recent weeks, as well as his preferred position of fly-half.
Richmond and the Reds have met in four previous league campaigns. In 2002/03, Richmond were champions of London Three South-West, defeating the Reds 3-32 at St Peter and 30-13 at the RAG as part of a run of 83 successive league wins. In 2010/11 it was Jersey who gained promotion from National Two South – honours between the two sides finished even, with home wins of 29-9 at St Peter and 25-14 at the RAG.
Fixtures between the two sides book-ended the 2016/17 season: a big win for the Reds at the RAG (16-41) in September, and a less one-sided Jersey win (28-17) in April. Last season, the Island side were well-beaten in September 2017, the Londoners winning 23-14 on home turf, but gained revenge in the return fixture when a late try by scrum-half Kieran Hardy secured a 10-9 home win for the Reds.
Saturday’s game will be watched by a large number of former players for a number of Island teams, not just Jersey RFC, who are gathering for a pre-match lunch; many may be extending their day with a couple of pints after the final whistle as well.
Jersey Reds 1st XV squad v Richmond (H) – Championship Cup Pool 2, Round 3/6, Saturday November 24th, Stade Santander International, k-o 3pm
Apakuki Ma’afu (capt)
Nick Selway, Roy Godfrey, Zi Alexis, Adam Batt, Jake Upfield; Calum Waters, Brett Herron