Jersey Reds 32 – Hartpury University 17

A strong final quarter was not enough to rescue anything from a match in which Hartpury had only occasionally burst into life previously, by which time the Jersey Reds comfortably had five points in the bank to cement their place among the Championship leaders.

Courtesy Sue Armes Photography

As always, there was no lack of effort from this hard-working and well-knitted squad, but the lack of composure at key moments and, in particular, the concession of numerous penalties, meant that odds were always stacked against them.

With an efficient and effective lineout drive, Jersey are always likely to punish such profligacy and the fact that three of their five tries came in such a manner tells its own story.

It was likely to be a difficult day, with the players having to assemble in the early hours of the morning to make the journey to the island, although the early signs were good.  A strong opening defensive set, featuring dominant tackles from the likes of Ciaran Knight, set a good early tone and a penalty at the first scrum also promised better things to come.

The first half was tight affair.  Despite a strong breeze at their back – which Hartpury never made full use of – the visitors were on the back foot for much of the half.

On the occasions when they did work their way into the home 22, Hartpury lacked the patience and craft to prise open the Reds defence, although James Williams had given them the lead with a well-struck early penalty.

Reds got on the scoreboard with their first driven try after 24 minutes – TJ Harris the scorer as he was in all three instances – and repeated the dose on the stroke of half-time as Hartpury’s discipline again deserted them.

Hartpury’s first contribution of the second half was to give up yet another penalty in midfield and, following Leeming’s touch-finder to the 22, the line-out was again the source of their undoing. 10-3 became 17-3 when centre Dan Barnes stepped past some ineffective first-up tackling before making his way to the line.  

No doubt Hartpury had been expecting the drive, and they weren’t disappointed when Harris completed his treble quarter of an hour later.  Minutes later, former Hartpury student and fly half extended the Jersey lead with a 3-pointer.

It was into the final quarter before Hartpury started to attack with some real intent and, when they did, they started to look a much better side.

Cameron Jordan, having another good game both in the set-piece and the loose, deserved his try when he powered his way across in the 65th minute and Hartpury were close again, a few minutes later, when replacement Josh Gray was very unlucky to have been adjudged ‘held up’ when he looked to have finished one of the best attacking moves of the day.

It was Jersey – reduced to 14 by some repeated infringements of their own – who were on the back foot now, although they did have a further say through the impressive Ryan Olowafela, who was inside his own half when he received the ball but had the pace to get outside the Hartpury cover before putting the try on a plate for replacement Brendan Owen.

The game was well and truly over at 32-10, but Hartpury’s late flourish continued until the final whistle and they ended proceedings with the try of the match.

It started with a tap and go from the excellent Ben Foley deep in his own 22, with Harry Short and Dale Lemon both handling in support. Fed by replacement scrum-half, Matty Jones, Williams was then the victim of a high tackle but the advantage was played, with Jono Benz-Salomon running powerfully down the middle, to pick up another 20 metres. Quick ball again allowed Charlie Foley to feed Jordan, before the other replacement prop, Olly Adkins carried the ball into Reds’ 22, before giving a good offload to Jones.

His final pass was to Gray, who was compensated for his earlier disappointment with a finish from 15 metres.   

Losing at Jersey, who will be among the top three or four in the final table, is no disgrace for Hartpury, although the players will be aware that a lot of the very good things that they are currently doing in games are being undermined by mistakes which invite opposition pressure.

The boys will have another chance to put things right when we welcome Doncaster Knights, who have made a decent start to sit 4th in the current table, three points and three places above Hartpury.  The match at the Alpas will kick off at 1.30pm on Saturday, 20th November, allowing supporters to watch England vs. South Africa later in the afternoon.

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