The first match of a new decade sees Jersey Reds return to action with a trip to face Hartpury University at the Alpas Arena.
The Reds may have kicked off the previous decade with victory, beating Old Albanians 19-12 in a National 3 South-East fixture in January 2010, but it will be the last outing of the decade that remains fresh in the mind and will concern them more – a distinctly below-par performance that saw a three-month unbeaten run on home turf come to an end as London Scottish won 10-13.
Three weeks on, there are five changes to the starting XV from the line-up from the Exiles’ game, which saw the Reds slip to fifth in the end-of-year rankings in the Greene King IPA Championship.
Four of the changes are in the pack, with Roy Godfrey, Nic Dolly and Leeroy Atalifo forming an all-new front row. Max Argyle comes in at blindside flanker in place of Kyle Hatherell, who reverts to the bench.
As part of an unchanged second row with ex-Hartpury player Rory Bartle, Reds’ lock Charlie Beckett is set for a back-to-back family double as his sister Sarah is likely to be part of the Harlequins squad for the Tyrrell’s Premier 15s match against Gloucester Women, which follows the Championship match on the same pitch at Hartpury’s Alpas Arena.
The Reds’ lone alteration behind the scrum comes as Auguy Slowik is absent from the starting XV for the first time this season. Greg Dyer will start at full-back for the second time this season, having worn the 15 shirt in the home win over Doncaster Knights in October.
The Reds will be seeking to maintain an undefeated record on Hartpury’s home patch, starting with a 19-20 win in the College side’s first-ever home match at this level in September 2017. A thumping 14-52 win followed the following season, but there wasn’t much between the side in the Championship Cup clash between the teams last September, with the Reds eventually winning 13-24.
Hartpury’s league visits to Stade Santander International have been close affairs, with an 18-14 win in December 2017 followed by a Hartpury win in March last year when Sam Leeming’s penalty broke a 7-7 tie in the dying minutes. Most recently, the Reds led by just a point (14-13) at half-time in last month’s cup tie, but eventually won 33-20.
In other action for Reds’ teams this weekend, the Athletic squad travel away to Richmond Vikings on Saturday, while Jersey Reds Women are at home to Worthing on Sunday. In an unusual quirk of scheduling, all three games this weekend will kick off at 1.30pm.
After returning from Gloucestershire, via Southampton Airport, on Saturday night, the Reds 1st XV will prepare for a massive brace of back-to-back home games that could go a long way to defining their season. Cornish Pirates are the visitors on Saturday January 18th (2pm kick-off) and six days later the home side will entertain Yorkshire Carnegie in a Friday Night Lights encounter (7.45pm).
Jersey Reds 1st XV squad v Hartpury University (A) – Greene King IPA Championship, Round 8/22, Alpas Arena, Saturday January 11th 2019, k-o 1.30pm
Leroy Van Dam
Josh Bainbridge (capt)