Jersey Reds will be looking for a third successive win this weekend to continue their recent upturn in fortunes. But the Island side know they face a tough task against a visiting Cornish Pirates’ side who currently sit on top of the pile in the Greene King IPA Championship.
The Pirates’ impressive start to the 2018/19 season has seen them win five of their six games so far, claiming a try bonus point in each match, plus a losing point when defeated 41-35 at Ealing in round 5.
The visitors for Saturday’s game at Stade Santander International are also top of the try-scoring charts, with 29 tries in six matches, although the Reds have also shown their ability to get over the whitewash, averaging more than four tries per match thus far.
The Cornishmen’s good form stretches back into the closing weeks of last season, with the recent defeat at Vallis Way their only reverse in their last 13 Championship outings.
The turn-round in results helped the Pirates move up to fourth in the final table for 2017/18, one place above their hosts this weekend after an indifferent first half of the season which included two narrow defeats to Jersey Reds: 19-13 at Stade Santander in September, and then by 15-19 on New Year’s Eve at Mennaye Field.
Although the Reds have won the last five matches against the Pirates in league and cup, the overall record since 2012 is much closer, with eight Jersey wins to their rivals’ seven.
After three narrow defeats to start the season, Jersey have claimed back-to-back wins, defeating Yorkshire Carnegie 36-19 on home turf and then taking five more league points in beating Doncaster Knights 22-47 at Castle Park last Saturday.
Head Coach Harvey Biljon, whose spell in charge of the Reds has recently surpassed his four-and-a-half years as part of the Pirates’ coaching team, has been obliged to make two changes to his starting XV as a result of injuries sustained in the Doncaster match.
Prop Roy Godfrey and flanker Conor Joyce had both been ever-present so far this season, but their absence with injury presents opportunities for two players who were on the bench last weekend. Harry Morley is set to make his first league start for the Reds at loose-head, with Jake Upfield coming in to the back row. The Reds’ back-line is unchanged, with Aaron Penberthy continuing at fly-half and preparing to face his former club.
Promotion for Morley and Upfield leaves two seats to be filled on the replacements’ bench, with Cameron Holenstein and Dave McKern selected as impact players.
In the absence of Godfrey, the Reds will be captained by Jerry Sexton.
Jersey Reds 1st XV squad v Cornish Pirates (H) – Greene King IPA Championship Round 7/22*, Saturday October 13th, Stade Santander International, k-o 3pm
Leroy Van Dam
Jerry Sexton (capt)
Nick Selway, Cameron Holenstein, Sam Rodman, Dave McKern, Rory Bartle; Calum Waters, Brett Herron.
* Round 3: Reds v London Irish – rescheduled from Sept 15th to Nov 3rd