Rugby has been played in Jersey since 1879 with breaks for war and the five years of Nazi occupation (1940-45). The modern era started when the club acquired land for a permanent home near Jersey Airport in 1961, opening a wooden Clubhouse in 1964.
From the early 1970s, Jersey attracted many of rugby’s top clubs who could combine a break from their regular fixtures with a game against the Island side. This period culminated with a very successful centenary year in 1979, when some of rugby’s biggest names came over to play and help celebrate, JPR Williams being one of the most famous! This period left the club with one of the largest collections of plaques of any club in the world (the latest total is around 800) and memorabilia; teams coming from the UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia (the beach guard connection, with many Aussies having worked patrolling Jersey’s beaches), Rhodesia (the national side!) and Holland.
Channel Island rivals Jersey and Guernsey play annually for the Siam Cup, one of rugby’s oldest trophies. For a full history of the Siam Cup, see HERE
The current Clubhouse was opened in September 1994; by this stage, league rugby had been introduced, with Jersey in London Three South-West (level seven) of the league pyramid for the first season of league rugby (1987/88). The club’s league status fluctuated between L3SW and Hampshire One (level eight) until 1995 when they returned to L3SW. There was then a period of consolidation over 10 seasons, featuring a number of near misses for promotion – there were five top three finishes out of nine prior to a title-winning season in 2004/05 which featured 20 wins in as many games and promotion to London Two South.
In 2006 two professional players, Latu Maka’afi and Kern Yates were signed and played alongside local amateur players. After two third-placed finishes in L2S a further promotion was secured in 2007/08 after Jersey finished second behind Haywards Heath and beat Staines 15-0 in a play-off.
Now at level five (London One was rebranded as National Three London/South-East at this time), Jersey appointed former Bristol, Stourbridge and Richmond half-back Ben Harvey as Head Coach and recruited additional professional players, although these full-timers were still heavily outnumbered by amateur players.
In 2008/09 Jersey were third and the following season the Islanders were champions of N3LSE, winning 25 successive games after a lone defeat to Bracknell on the opening day of the season to finish 12 points clear of Old Albanians.
The four regional title winners in National Three qualified for the short-lived Champions play-off matches. St Peter played host to a semi-final against Taunton, which Jersey won 65-14, and N3 Midlands champions Ampthill defeated their northern counterparts Morley to set up a final at Twickenham.
Saturday May 8th 2010 was a day to remember, with upwards of 1,000 people making the journey to ‘HQ’ to support Jersey, and the travelling Island hordes were left celebrating: tries from Ashley Elphinston, Ed Dawson and Ashley Maggs and two Dan Hawkes’ penalties sealed a 21-12 triumph.
Success in 2010 was the first of a hat-trick of promotions: in 2010/11 Jersey were runners-up to Ealing Trailfinders in National Two South and then defeated Loughborough Students 30-5 in the promotion play-off. The following season the Reds lost three of their opening six games in National One, but then won 23 out of 24 to seal the title and achieve promotion ahead of Ealing with a game to spare.
Jersey’s first season in the RFU Championship saw the Island side struggle to begin with, losing six straight games but then gradually coming to terms with the second tier of the English game and eventually earning sufficient points to set up a virtual decider against fellow strugglers Doncaster Knights at St Peter on the penultimate weekend of the season. The Reds won a nervy encounter 16-13 – their sixth league win of the season, and it was their opponents from Yorkshire who were relegated.
Jersey entered the 2013/14 Championship, now sponsored by Greene King IPA, with a squad of full-time professionals for the first time, but still struggled and at the start of December 2013, following a defeat at the hands of bottom side Ealing, Ben Harvey resigned after five-and-a-half seasons in charge. At the start of January, former Cornish Pirates Assistant Coach Harvey Biljon was appointed; some crucial wins were secured, but a stutter towards the end of the season set up another nail-biting finale. Jersey sat bottom of the table going into the final round of matches, but a thrilling 31-41 win at Bedford, coupled with Ealing’s home defeat by Rotherham saw the West London side relegated, by a single point, with Jersey surviving to fight again. For a link to the ‘Great Escape’ match report from Bedford
A strong second half to the 2014/15 season saw Jersey finish seventh, the club’s first mid-table finish since coming fifth in London Three South-West in 2001/02, and the following season there was a further improvement – eleven wins and a draw from 22 league games to finish sixth, plus a run in the British & Irish Cup that culminated in a cruel 33-32 defeat to Yorkshire Carnegie.
In summer 2016, the club formally adopted a widely-used nickname and officially became the Jersey Reds ahead of their fifth season in the Championship. Biljon remained at the helm after two-and-a-half seasons, and after the departure of his Assistant Steve Boden, former Club Captain Alex Rae was appointed to the role and retired from playing. Another former player, Mark Morgan, became the Club’s new Chairman, replacing Bill Dempsey who had served in the role since 2008.
The 2016/17 season saw another ‘PB’ performance, with the Reds fifth in the final standings and only missing out on the Championship play-offs by virtue of winning one game fewer than Doncaster Knights. The team reached the final of the B&I Cup as well, chartering two flights to Cork for the game with Munster ‘A’, which finished in an agonising 29-28 defeat.
Winning 13 of their 22 games and amassing 65 league points meant another fifth-placed finish in 2017/18, and for the third season running a disappointing conclusion to a B&I Cup run (in the competition’s final season), when Leinster ‘A’ came from behind to seal a 27-29 semi-final win at Stade Santander International.
The 2018/19 has seen the Reds end the season in fourth place, the highest-ever finish in their seventh season in the Greene King IPA Championship.
In the summer of 2010 there were two additions to the ground facilities. The Lord Jersey Stand was built between the 1st XV pitch and the airport road and the Pavilion with kitchen and bar was built to the east of the main club house. These provided improved amenities for an increasing number of spectators – average crowds exceed 2,000 and on occasions have been far greater than this, with an estimated 4,500 seeing the pre-season match against Leicester Tigers in August 2012.
Floodlights were installed around the 1st team pitch in time for the start of the 2011/12 season, and after the dreadful winter of 2012/2013, an extensive drainage system was fitted under the 1st XV pitch to reduce the risk of flooding. In summer 2016 the floodlights were upgraded, and a new covered terrace was installed at the Rue des Landes end of the ground. The ground at St Peter was officially named Stade Santander International in summer 2017 in recognition of the contribution of the club’s primary sponsor.
With the switch to full-time professionalism in 2013, an opportunity was identified to enter a second team into an English league. Jersey Athletic, the club’s amateur second team, entered the Zoo Sports Shield, playing second teams from clubs in the South of England, and in their first three seasons the Athletic side registered second-, fifth- and fourth-placed finishes in the first division of the Shield. In 2016/17 the Athletic were again fourth, followed by fifth in 2017/18 and sixth in 2018/19. View HERE