Jersey Reds are preparing for their first home league match of the new season, a clash with Coventry that will also be the Island side’s 200th game in the RFU Championship.
During a decade in the second tier, the Reds have become an established Championship force. Harvey Biljon’s side will want to build on a round 1 win at Ampthill last Saturday, but aware they face a tough task against a team who have claimed three notable wins at Stade Santander International in recent seasons.
With the period of mourning after the death of Queen Elizabeth II continuing, players, officials and spectators will pay their respects to the late monarch with a minute’s silence at 3pm, immediately prior to kick-off.
The Reds were one of five side to take maximum points from their opening league outing, scoring five tries at Dillingham Park against Ampthill and eventually winning 21-36.
Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon keeps faith with his starting XV and makes just two changes among his replacements: hooker Eoghan Clarke recovers from recent injury to replace James Hadfield, while Tom Pittman comes in for Brendan Cope and will provide a bench option at fly-half and in midfield.
The two sides have met seven times in competitive games over the past four years since Cov returned to the second tier in 2018. During 2018/19, the Blue-and-Whites went seven months and nine matches without a league win away from home before picking up two in eight days, including a 23-36 success at Stade Santander International that ensured a season's double over the Reds.
The opening round of 2019/20 saw a 22-15 win for the Reds on home turf, with the onset of the pandemic preventing the staging of the return fixture, but in May of last year – after a 34-33 home win in a February friendly – Cov gained another impressive result on the Island, winning 10-34 with four tries scored by centre Will Butt, who was on loan from Bath at the time.
Last season the Reds performed a league double over Cov: the home leg in December saw a half-time scoreline of 29-3 before the visitors battled back before the full-time whistle blew at 29-24; then the Island side claimed 10 of the 16 tries racked up at the Butts Park Arena in March in a game that finished 38-66.
But the men from the Midlands had the last laugh in May when they visited the Stade again for a Championship Cup semi-final, took an early 17-point lead and held on for a victory by 17-20. Alex Rae’s side gave a good account of themselves in the final, but eventually went down 19-13 to Ealing Trailfinders at Vallis Way.
The first-known encounters between the clubs came when Cov toured the Island in 1956 and 1960, and after a gap of more than half a century the sides were both members of National 1 in 2011/12, with the Reds winning both games, including the 11-37 win at the Butts that sealed the title and promotion to the Championship.
The Reds 200th Championship match comes just after the 10th anniversary of their bow in the second tier, a home match against Cornish Pirates that finished 6-20 in the visitors’ favour.
The 199 Championship outings have included 92 wins, five draws and 102 defeats, including a 23-18 defeat at London Welsh in October 2016 – the season which saw the Exiles drop out of the league, with their results expunged from the record.
Tickets for the Reds v Cov game should be bought online ahead of kick-off and can be obtained via THIS LINK.
Jersey Reds squad v Coventry Rugby (H) – 2022/23 RFU Championship game 2/22, Stade Santander International, Saturday September 17th, k-o 3pm
Starting backs (15-9)
Scott Van Breda; Ben Woollett, Alex McHenry, Jordan Holgate, Tomi Lewis; Russell Bennett, James Mitchell.
Starting forwards (1-8)
Sam Grahamslaw, Antonio ‘TJ’ Harris, Steve Longwell, Sean O’Connor, Macauley Cook, James Dun, Lewis Wynne (c), Alun Lawrence.
Replacements (16-23): Eoghan Clarke, Greg McGrath, Monty Weatherby, Hamish Bain, Max Argyle; James Elliott, Tom Pittman, Charlie Powell.
03 Feb 2023
Home side look to improve poor record over London rivals