A summit meeting looms large in west London this weekend as two teams – unbeaten across the first nine rounds of league and cup action in the Championship – go head to head.
League leaders Ealing Trailfinders and their visitors from Jersey have each claimed seven straight wins to start their league campaigns, with the Londoners also claiming maximum bonus points to secure a two-point advantage. And both sides go into the third round Championship Cup clash having gained 10 points from wins over Hartpury and Nottingham.
The Reds scored nine tries against Hartpury in round 2, winning 55-24, while Trailfinders’ 19-26 success at Nottingham was just enough to see them top pool A narrowly on points difference.
Barring an unlikely draw, something has to give, and the Reds will be aiming to improve on a disappointing record against Ealing in encounters at level two, with just two wins from 17 league and cup encounters. The Londoners have racked up nine straight wins over the Reds since being turned over 34-41 at Vallis Way in November 2018.
Having rung the changes during the opening rounds of the cup, Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon reverts to many of those who featured most strongly during the opening block of league action.
Sam Grahamslaw, TJ Harris and Stevie Longwell will once again join forces in the front row, while Sean O’Connor returns at lock to partner James Scott, who crowned a strong display against Hartpury with a try. Macauley Cook and Max Argyle retain their places in the back row, while captain Lewis Wynne returns and will make his 50th appearance for the Reds.
The Jersey back-line sees James Mitchell restored to the number 9 shirt, partnering Russell Bennett at half-back. Centres Jordan Holgate and Alex McHenry are back in tandem, with Tomi Lewis recalled at left wing. The remaining spots are taken by full-back Brendan Owen, who claimed a brace of tries against Hartpury, and Ben Woollett, who made his presence felt off the bench last weekend and claimed his fourth try in seven games.
The Reds’ replacements include recent back-row signing Hallam Chapman, another to have impressed off the bench – and scored a try – against Hartpury, and the return of Scott Van Breda.
Ealing and the Reds have built up a strong rivalry since first meeting in National Two South in 2010/11 – of the current crop of clubs in the second tier, only Richmond have a longer playing relationship with Jersey.
A week off will follow Saturday’s game, with the eighth round of the Championship scheduled for the first weekend of December, when Richmond will be the visitors to Stade Santander International for a game that’ll kick off at 2pm.
Jersey Reds squad v Ealing Trailfinders (A) – 2022/23 Championship Cup Pool A, game 3/6, Trailfinders Sport Ground, Vallis Way, Saturday November 19th, k-o 2pm
Brendan Owen; Ben Woollett, Alex McHenry, Jordan Holgate, Tomi Lewis; Russell Bennett, James Mitchell.
Sam Grahamslaw, TJ Harris, Steve Longwell, James Scott, Sean O’Connor, Macauley Cook, Lewis Wynne (capt), Max Argyle.
Eoghan Clarke, Greg McGrath, Adam Nicol, Hamish Bain, Hallam Chapman; James Elliott, Dan Barnes, Scott Van Breda.
31 Mar 2023
Five games remain to define Championship season