Hartpury had a difficult afternoon when Jersey Reds visited the Gillman’s Ground yesterday. Thank you to Tom Innes, of Jersey, for this report…
Hartpury endured a tough day at the office against a powerful Jersey Reds side, who scored seven tries to leave their hosts sitting uncomfortably close to the Championship relegation zone.
Although the home side, featuring several late-notice additions from Premiership neighbours Bristol and Worcester, competed gamely they were outgunned by the Reds, especially in the last 50 minutes.
The Reds struck early when Charlie Maddison finished a powerful rolling maul but then Hartpury equalised in spite of the absence of winger Ben Foley after a yellow card for a dangerous tackle. Sam Leeming launched a cross-kick and former Jersey player Harry Cochrane – an early replacement for the injured Jake Henry – was first to the loose ball to touch down.
A fine run by Koch Marx set up the supporting Calum Waters for the visitors’ second try, but then pressure from Hartpury saw two Jersey players yellow-carded within three minutes – Aaron Penberthy for a deliberate knock-on and skipper Jerry Sexton for dragging down a maul.
The home side looked to cash in, but lost a crucial attacking lineout and the Reds cleared and switched to attack. After good approach play from Leroy Van Dam, prop Leeroy Atalifo dived over acrobatically from close range, and then James Newey set up Waters, on a season-long loan to the Island side from Harlequins, for his second just before the break.
The Reds looked to showcase the attacking skills that have brought 22 tries in four successive victories, and added second-half tries through Newey and a brace from replacement Brett Herron, although Marx also butchered a score of his own as he lost the ball in diving over the line after an interception.
Hartpury may have been outgunned, but they carried on playing to the end in spite of finishing the game with 13 men due to injury, including serious-looking ankle damage to Rob Fuller soon after the back row man had come on. The injury prompted a lengthy delay, which concluded with four of Jersey’s replaced players stepping up as stretcher-bearers, a gesture appreciated by the crowd.
Fly-half Leeming was the last man to score when he crossed with five minutes to play, after which the match fizzled out somewhat, other than a third yellow card for the visitors, with Max Argyle punished for a late tackle.
Hartpury director of rugby John Barnes recognised the key turning point towards the end of the first half.
‘We should have scored against 13 men and squared it up, but they turned us over and went the length,’ he said. ‘Jersey are a very good side, well-drilled and physical, and it was hard to compete with them today.’
Just three points off the bottom of the Championship table, Barnes admitted there were challenging times ahead for his side, especially with 12th-placed Yorkshire Carnegie launching a recruitment drive for players to help in the battle against relegation.
‘We can’t control what other clubs do, and spending money like that’s not an option for us,’ he said. ‘It’s difficult with our programme of midweek university rugby and weekends in the Championship, and we don’t have a big squad, but we’ll need to bounce back from this.’
Reds’ head coach Harvey Biljon said: ‘We were in a difficult place in the second quarter, but we controlled the game well during that period and scored some great tries,’ he said. ‘There were also several missed opportunities and inevitably we’ll look at those and try to keep improving.’
Dan Murphy, Luke Stratford, Rupert Harden, Ehize Ehizode, Simon Linsell (capt), Rob Langley, Tom Pashley, Mat Gilbert; Richard Bolt, Sam Leeming; Jake Henry, Luke Eves, Tom Seabrook, Ben Foley (YC 12); Mike Wilcox.
Replacements: Harry Cochrane (for Henry, 11 mins), James Stephenson (Gilbert 49), Mike Flook (Murphy 55), Luke Cozens (Bolt 58), Joe Morris (Harden 62), Rob Fuller (Langley 64), Beck Cutting (Stratford 68).
Jersey Reds (1-15)
Harry Morley, Charlie Maddison, Leeroy Atalifo, Jerry Sexton (capt) (YC 31), Charlie Beckett, Max Argyle (YC 78), Jake Upfield, Janco Venter; Calum Waters, Aaron Penberthy (YC 29); Leroy Van Dam, Mark Best, James Newey, Koch Marx; Auguy Slowik.
Replacements: Sam Rodman (for Atalifo, 47 mins), Dave McKern (Beckett 51), Rory Bartle (Upfield 51), Will Homer (Waters 51), Brett Herron (Best 58), Nick Selway (Maddison 58), Cameron Holenstein (Morley 62).
REFEREE: George Selwood. Assistants: Phil Watters, Bill Burton
Half Time: 7-28
Leeming (Hartpury) 2 from 2; Penberthy (Jersey) 6 from 7; Newey (Jersey) 2 from 2
Tries: Cochrane 18, Leeming 74
Conversions: Leeming 18, 74
Tries: Maddison 7, Waters 20, 36, Atalifo 34, Newey 57, Herron 67, 70
Conversions: Penberthy 7, 20, 57, 67, 70, Newey 34, 36
Penalty: Penberthy 44