Games between Jersey Reds and Ealing Trailfinders are invariably spicy affairs, and Saturday’s encounter at Stade Santander International is likely to be no exception.
The two clubs’ tussle at the top of the RFU Championship may be temporarily on hold during the February cup window, but this leaves another battle for top-spot in pool A of the Championship Cup.
Ealing currently have the advantage courtesy of a 22-13 win on home turf in November, leading the pool by four points. The cup victory was the first of two Trailfinders’ wins so far this season, with the result in the league encounter at Vallis Way on Christmas Eve being a more convincing 43-22.
Neither side has had it easy in January. Ealing won two of their four league games, but suffered a shock loss at Caldy and were narrowly defeated at home by Coventry (22-25) last Saturday. The Reds salvaged a draw at Coventry and scraped a fortuitous win at the Stade over London Scottish, recovering strongly to claim a notable 25-34 triumph over Cornish Pirates, leaving the Mennaye Field last Saturday with maximum points for the first time in 10 visits.
Rotation of the squad for the cup has been kept to a minimum by the home side, with Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon looking to enhance the Reds’ prospects of reaching the knockout stages of the Championship Cup in May. Four teams will qualify, with a one place available to the best runner-up across the three pools.
The starting XV sees just two changes from the line-up that began the win over Pirates: Greg McGrath comes in for Sam Grahamslaw in the front row of an otherwise unchanged pack; and Dan Barnes, a replacement at the Mennaye, gets a start at centre with Jordan Holgate moving to the bench. Props Huw Owen and Monty Weatherby are among those to get opportunities to impress from the bench.
The home side will also be keen to improve a poor record over Ealing in a decade of rivalry in the Championship. Across 20 encounters in league and cup the Reds have won only two: a 35-7 win on home turf in December 2015 and a 34-41 cup victory at Vallis Way in November 2018.
Relations between the sides dates back to the 2010/11 season in National 2 South, when Ealing were promoted as champions, followed by Jersey soon afterwards as play-off winners. The rivalry continued the following year in National 1, when it was the Reds who took the title and were first to reach the Championship.
The Reds will finish their pool A schedule over the remainder of the month, with two Friday games: away at Hartpury on February 10th and at home to Nottingham a week later.
Jersey Reds squad v Ealing Trailfinders (H) – 2022/23 RFU Championship Cup Pool A, game 4/6, Stade Santander International, Saturday February 4th, k-o 2pm
Brendan Owen; Ben Woollett, Alex McHenry, Dan Barnes, Will Brown; Russell Bennett, James Mitchell.
Greg McGrath, James Hadfield, Stevie Longwell, Sean O’Connor, James Scott, Macauley Cook, Lewis Wynne (capt), James Dun.
Harry Doolan, Huw Owen, Monty Weatherby, Tom Everard, Josh Gray; James Elliott, Jordan Holgate, Tomi Lewis.
17 Mar 2023
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