Jersey v Ealing Trailfinders will be played under floodlights at St Peter on Friday December 4th, with kick-off at 7.45pm. Ahead of this week's game, Tom Innes looks back at the previous games between the sides...
Ealing Trailfinders will be welcomed to St Peter as old rivals, the two clubs having tracked each other in the RFU pyramid (moving mostly by ladders, rather than snakes).
In fact it's surprising that the clubs have actually only met six times during their respective histories, during the two-season burst from 2010 to 2012 when they were alongside each other in National Two South and National One, and then again in the Greene King IPA Championship in 2013/14.
Prior to that, a combination of geography and the rugby equivalent of sliding doors had kept the two clubs apart since the leagues started in the year dot, a.k.a. 1987/88. Ealing began at Level Five, two rungs above the Channel Islanders, but within a couple of years there was a four-tier gulf between the two, Jersey slipping to Hampshire One (L8) and Trailfinders up to National Four South (L4).
Ealing fell back around the millennium to London Two North (L6) but picked up again with promotion in 2005, staying one level ahead of Jersey, who won London Three SW (L7) that season.
The London side moved two levels clear of Jersey with another promotion to National Two South (L4) in 2007 but by 2010 Jersey had finally caught up after achieving a further brace of ascents.
The quadrilogy of meetings between the two clubs during their National League co-habitation unfolded thus:
Ealing notched 132 points that season, sealing the N2S title ahead of Jersey (128), who soon followed up the promotion ladder after play-off success over Loughborough Students.
Jersey stormed to the 2011/12 National One title with a game to spare (it finished 119-112 on points in the final table), but the following season, as the Islanders battled for survival in the Championship, Ealing were tearing it up in the league below, winning National One at a canter with 128 points, 19 clear of runners-up Esher, to get back on level terms with their old buddies across the Channel.
At the end of November 2013, Ealing headed over to St Peter seeking their first Championship win. They were bottom of the table by 11 points and had suffered some heavy defeats during the opening weeks of the season. And by half-time they were 15-7 adrift, with the second-row duo of Nick Campbell (pictured above) and Alex Rae scoring tries for the hosts and Niall O'Connor adding the remaining points, while Tom Bedford responded for the visitors. Another O'Connor penalty was the only score of the third quarter, but then Jersey were stunned with a brace of tries for that man Chesters as Ealing took the lead. The visitors then rubbed it in at the death when Chesters set up Jersey old boy Andrew Henderson for the try that turned a 1-4 split of match points into a 0-5 affair. Full report HERE
As well as giving Ealing the belief that they could compete at level two, the result proved to be the final chapter in Ben Harvey's tenure as Jersey Boss - the Director of Rugby tendered his resignation the following week.
By the time of the Spring Equinox, a new man was in charge of the Islanders. Harvey Biljon (pictured below) had already overseen wins in two of his six league games at the helm, and knew that another victory would almost certainly be enough to steer Jersey clear of the Londoners in the battle to avoid the drop.
On a Friday night at Vallis Way, Jersey again made the early running. Tries from Mark McCrea and Latu Makaafi and 10 points from the boot of Aaron Penberthy helped their side to a 15-20 half-time lead, Trailfinders' scores coming from Alex Bradley's try, a penalty try and five points from Ben Ward's kicks.
Three players were yellow-carded in the first half - Ryan Hodson and Nick Selway for the visitors, and Phil Chesters for the hosts. But the Ealing speedster made amends with a try straight after the break, which was converted to give his side the lead (22-20). Penberthy struck a penalty soon afterwards, Ward responded just before the hour, and that was the end of the scoring, a 25-23 win for the Londoners. Full report HERE
The defeat condemned Jersey to an uncomfortable closing month of the season: three defeats, and nil points, saw the Islanders slip to the bottom of the table ahead of the final Saturday of the league season. Only a win at Bedford, combined with a defeat for Ealing at home to Rotherham could save Jersey, but of course that's exactly what happened. You can read more about it HERE.
The 2014/15 season saw Jersey have their most successful campaign to date in the Greene King IPA Championship, winning eight games and drawing two more in racking up 48 points and a seventh-placed finish, Jersey's first in mid-table since 2001/02. Ealing meanwhile were blazing rather than finding a trail in National One. They lost just three of their 30 games, and the bonus point picked up in the penultimate game, a home defeat to nearest rivals Rosslyn Park, was enough to clinch the title. The eventual points margin over Park was 136-127, and Ealing were back in Jersey's company in the second tier.
Why not get yourself a Hot Pot (Curry or Chilli served with rice) in the supporters marquee £8 per pot.