Jersey Reds fought out a thrilling 28-28 against Vannes in their opening match of 2021/22.
The Reds took on a home team who came close to promotion to the French top tier last season but were unawed in front of 2,960 spectators at Stade de la Rabine.
The hosts scored an early try but then Brendan Cope’s cross-kick was seized in the air and touched down by Ryan Olowofela. Cope converted.
The hosts recovered to score two more tries and lead 21-7 at the break, but the Reds started strongly after the break and earned a penalty try after Vannes were unable to legally defend the Jersey maul.
The Bretons restored their 14-point lead on the hour but soon afterwards Scott Van Breda hacked through and chased to put Vannes on the back-foot. The visitors capitalised when Ciaran Parker steamed over adjacent to the posts, with Bader Pretorius’ conversion making it 28-21.
With seven minutes to play, another superb counter saw Wes White feed Pretorius for the fourth Jersey try in the corner and the fly-half converted magnificently from the touchline to level it.
Both sides could have won it, with Vannes turning down chances to kick at goal and the Reds going the full length of the pitch with Olowofela almost latching on to Van Breda’s kick and claims for another penalty try with the wing arguably being held back. The noisy crowd roared their appreciation as both sides gave it their all, but remained locked together until the whistle blew.
With 11 new signings making their debuts, it was a fine display by the Reds against a well-resourced and ambitious home side.