With a proud cup record over the past four seasons, Jersey Reds are desperate to gain their first win in this season’s Championship Cup at the second attempt this weekend.
The Reds travel to the ALPAS Arena, the newly-branded home of Hartpury University, on Saturday afternoon keen to get the ball rolling after a losing start to their competitive season at home to Newcastle Falcons last weekend.
The relegated Premiership side may have been a bit rusty, bit nevertheless had enough about them to score two tries in the final quarter to defeat a below-par Jersey side 8-21.
Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon has resisted the temptation to make wholesale changes to his squad following the loss to the Falcons. There are just two alterations to the staring XV, both among the forwards. England under 20 hooker Nic Dolly will play his first game for the Reds after arriving on season-long loan from Sale Sharks, coming in for TJ Harris, while Alex Thompson comes into the second row in place of Charlie Beckett.
There are also four changes on the bench; Kyle Hatherell takes Thompson’s spot, Harris is chosen as back-up hooker, Liam Howley comes in for the injured Will Homer and Jack Stapley is selected ahead of George Spencer to provide back-line cover.
Two former Hartpury students are among the Jersey XXIII – prop Alec Clarey and lock Rory Bartle.
This weekend’s game will be the fifth between the sides. In Hartpury’s first season at level two, both games were close affairs: in September 2018 the Gloucestershire side battled back from an early deficit and it finished 19-20 in Jersey’s favour; and three months later the Reds won 18-14 at Stade Santander International in a pre-Christmas ‘Friday Night Lights’ encounter.
In October last year, the visiting Jersey side wore blue at what was then called the Gillman’s Ground, but showed red-hot form to score seven tries and defeat Hartpury 14-52. But their winning run in the fixture came to an end on home turf last March; each side scored an early converted try, and after 64 minutes of deadlock Sam Leeming won it for the visitors from Gloucestershire with a late penalty (7-10).
This weekend’s game is one of two ‘road trips’ for the Reds in successive rounds of the Championship Cup. After travelling to Doncaster on Saturday October 5th, Biljon’s side will prepare for their opening Greene King IPA Championship match of the season, with Coventry the visitors to Stade Santander International on Saturday October 12th.
Jersey Reds 1st XV squad v Hartpury University (A) – Championship Cup Pool 2 Round 2/6, Saturday September 28th, ALPAS Arena, k-o 2pm
Leroy Van Dam
Max Argyle (capt)
TJ Harris, Roy Godfrey, Zei Alexis, Kyle Hatherell, Jake Upfield; Liam Howley, Brendan Cope, Jack Stapley