Jersey Reds face a tough challenge in the back-yard of the Greene King IPA Championship's fourth-placed side this Friday.
A warm welcome may await supporters travelling to Bedford, with the host club staging a beer festival coinciding with the match, but once outside on the chilly Goldington Road piste the Reds will have their work cut out against one of the division's most potent attacks.
The Blues have scored 59 tries in the Championship to date, an average of more than four per game, while Jersey have notched a more modest 33 in their 14 games. The home club will be seeking to pick holes in the Reds' defence that has conceded a league-low 30 tries to date.
The contrast in style is evidenced by the two most recent games between the sides: an arm wrestle at Stade Santander International in September featured just three tries, with Bedford squeezing home by 13-15 as Harry Sheppard and former Red Rich Lane crossed for the visitors. But on Boxing Day 2016, in front of one of the largest Championship crowds of the season, the two sides fought out a 10-try, 76-point thriller that was sealed at the death by George Perkins' try and a conversion by Jake Sharp with the final kick of the match, which made it 39-37 to the Blues.
Overall the sides have met a dozen time since Jersey were promoted to the Championship in 2012, with the Reds currently having seven wins to Blues' five.
The visitors' starting XV shows just two changes from the last match, a close-fought 10-9 win over Richmond sealed by a late try from replacement Kieran Hardy. The scrum-half returns to the starting XV in place of Joel Dudley, while centre Mark Best misses out through injury, prompting a reshuffle in the back-line: Scott van Breda switches to centre, Jason Worrall starts at full-back and Tom Pincus is back on the wing after missing the last game through illness.
Recalled to the Jersey bench are centre George Eastwell, who could make his first Championship appearance of the season after a lengthy injury break, and flanker Seb Nagle Taylor, alongside Dudley, lock/number 8 Uili Kolo-ofa'i and the front row trio of Roy Godfrey, Jack Macfarlane and Leeroy Atalifo.
The match will be refereed by Hamish Smales, a former winger with Tynedale who played twice against Jersey in National One during the 2011/12 season, including scoring a try at St Peter.
The going won't get any easier for the Reds after their return from Bedford, with focus switching to the visit of second-placed Ealing Trailfinders to Stade Santander International on Friday February 16th (kick-off 7.45pm) - advance tickets available HERE
Meanwhile Jersey Reds Athletic will be looking to follow up the impressive 36-0 Zoo Shield win over Esher Cardinals last weekend with another good performance away to Bishop's Stortford.
Jersey Reds squad v Bedford Blues (A) - Greene King IPA Championship, Round 15/22, Friday February 8th, Goldington Road, k-o 7.45pm
Scott Van Breda (co-capt)
Jake Woolmore (co-capt)
Jack Macfarlane, Roy Godfrey, Leeroy Atalifo, Uili Kolo'ofa'i, Seb Nagle-Taylor; Joel Dudley, George Eastwell.
17 Nov 2022
Old rivals both seek to stretch start-of-season winning run to 10 games