One of the great festive rugby experiences awaits Jersey Reds as the Island side’s players prepare to run out in front of a sold-out crowd at the home of the Blues.
The Reds will take on Bedford Blues at Goldington Road at 3pm on Boxing Day, bracing themselves to take on all 16 of the home club’s players, number 16 being represented by a capacity crowd.
The match will be just the second time that the Reds have played a league match on the day after Christmas, and takes place on the fifth anniversary of the other occasion, which also involved a trip to Bedford.
Supporters may be hoping for a repeat of the thrilling 2016 encounter, in which 10 tries were scored and the lead changed hands a dozen times. But those of a Red persuasion will hope that this time they can finish on the right side of the scoreline after a last-gasp try by George Perkins tied the scores and Jake Sharp’s conversion sealed a 39-37 win for the Blues in front of 4,621 spectators.
The Reds have the chance to finish the year on a winning note and potentially overtake Ealing Trailfinders – who have a bye for this round of games – at the top of the Championship table. But they know they’ll have their work cut out against a fired-up home side looking to make up ground on the four sides ahead of them in the league rankings.
Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon makes three changes to his starting XV from the line-up which began the 31-13 home win over London Scottish last Saturday. Former Bedford fly-half Sam Leeming is recalled at fly-half, with Tom Pittman switching to the bench, while Jack Roberts plays at centre after coming on as a first-half replacement for the injured Dan Barnes last Saturday.
The other change sees Wes White return at number 8 after bench duty last weekend, with Max Argyle redeployed at blindside and Alex Humfrey joining the replacements. Hooker Eoghan Clarke has been passed fit after a head injury sustained against London Scottish.
The two clubs have met on 18 previous occasions over the past decade, with the Reds winning 11 of the games, including the most recent encounter: a 40-28 victory at Stade Santander International at the end of September that once again included 10 tries. In 11 of the games the losing side has been within a score of the victors.
Although the final tickets for the game were sold by Monday of this week, spectators in the Channel Islands, Bedfordshire and any other staging posts around the rugby globe are able to watch via an online streaming, with details available via the Blues’ website or social media accounts.
Following the trip to Bedford, the Reds will have a bye week for the games scheduled over the new year weekend and are next due to be in action when Doncaster Knights visit the Stade on Saturday January 15th. The match is the first of a package on offer to supporters buying a half-season ticket, with the first five games of 2022 included for the price of £50, with details available at jerseyreds.je/tickets
Jersey Reds 1st XV squad v Bedford Blues (A) – RFU Championship match 11/20, Goldington Road, Sunday December 26th 2021, k-o 3pm
Brendan Owen; Ryan Olowofela, Jack Roberts, Jordan Holgate, Will Brown; Sam Leeming, James Elliott.
James Flynn, Eoghan Clarke, Steve Longwell, Sean O’Connor, Macauley Cook, Max Argyle, Lewis Wynne (capt), Wes White.
Harry Doolan, Roy Godfrey, Luke Yendle, Tom Everard, Alex Humfrey; James Mitchell, Tom Pittman, Harry Simmons.
Why not get yourself a Hot Pot (Curry or Chilli served with rice) in the supporters marquee £8 per pot.