Sometimes paired together as ‘local rivals’ when fixtures are arranged, there is definitely something of a derby occasion when Jersey Reds meet Cornish Pirates.
A distance of 150 miles, and plenty of water, between Penzance and St Peter means the ‘neighbours’ are hardly next-door to each other, but nevertheless the next instalment of the rivalry this Saturday is eagerly awaited.
Not only will the Reds be running out on their home turf at Stade Santander International, but they have a chance to narrow the gap over their opponents in the Greene King IPA Championship.
After six wins from eight league games so far, the Pirates lie second in the table, while the Reds have claimed five wins and lie in fourth place, four points behind.
While Pirates had a comfortable home win over Yorkshire Carnegie, the Reds were made to sweat at Hartpury and only clinched a single-point win courtesy of TJ Harris’s last-play try at the Alpas Arena.
Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon makes six changes to the starting XV from last weekend’s line-up. Two switches in the backs see Luc Jones and George Spencer come in at scrum-half and centre respectively, with Will Homer and James Newey switching to the bench.
In the pack, last Saturday’s starting front row and their bench counterparts are rotated en bloc, while Kyle Hatherell come in to the second row as Charlie Beckett moves to the bench.
For just the second time in 14 league and cup matches so far this season, Biljon has selected six forwards on his bench. The previous instance, at Ampthill in November, was a result of the number of injured backs in the Reds’ squad, but the Pirates’ selection indicates that the home side are expecting a physical battle.
Cornish Pirates were Jersey Reds’ first opponents when the Island side arrived in the Greene King IPA Championship, winning by 6-20 (click for match report links) thanks to a hat-trick from Canadian international Matt Evans.
There have now been 18 league and cup encounters between the sides, 10 of them won by the Reds and eight by the Pirates.
Last season saw a Jersey double in the league, with a 33-10 win at home and former Pirate Aaron Penberthy kicking the winning penalty for a 7-8 success at the Mennaye. But the Pirates finished on top in the Championship Cup quarter-final at the Stade, knocking out their hosts courtesy of a 13-17 win sealed by Dan Koster’s 75th-minute try.
The match is the first of back-to-back home games for the Reds, with Yorkshire Carnegie heading across for a Friday Night Lights clash on 24th January – kick-off is at 7.45pm. Advance tickets are available online, with an early bird discount (£15 for adult non-members) available until 7.45pm on Wednesday.
Supporters can enjoy a double-header of live action this Saturday, with Jersey Reds Athletic hosting Barnes at the nearby Airport Playing Field at 11.30am. And on Sunday there’s a rare home outing for the Colts XV, who play a cup match against Brighton at 1.30pm.
Jersey Reds 1st XV squad v Cornish Pirates (H) – Greene King IPA Championship, Round 9/22, Stade Santander International, Saturday January 18th 2019, k-o 2pm
Leroy Van Dam
Josh Bainbridge (capt)