Hartpury gave as good as they got for large parts of this entertaining Championship Cup match at the Stade Santander International.
The scores were neck and neck for an hour, before two tries in four minutes at the beginning of the final quarter were enough to secure both the result and the bonus point for the Reds.
The opening 10 minutes belonged to Hartpury, who started with a good energy. However, their efforts were undermined by a lineout that misfired badly during this period, an affliction that was to re-surface at various points throughout the game.
Nathan Chamberlain (pictured, below, LNC Images) provided some reward for their early labours with a well-struck penalty, before the hosts began to establish themselves in the match.
As the half progressed it was the Gloucestershire side who found themselves having to defend harder and deeper. This they did well, particularly against the Jersey drive and with good line speed in midfield.
The half hour was almost up before the Reds eventually found a way through. Playing a penalty advantage, full-back Auguy Slowik’s well-executed grubber fell perfectly for former Hartpury student, Alex Morgan. Brendan Cope’s conversion was on target.
Four minutes later Slowik was the beneficiary, as a powerful run from young Jersey winger Brendan Owen tore a hole in the visiting defence. Shrugging off some questionable Hartpury tackling, his 50-metre run angled infield towards the posts, before an unselfish off-load put the Reds’ full-back over.
Hartpury were still playing with confidence and, after Chamberlain had slotted a long-range penalty to narrow the gap, they created a good try of their own as half-time approached.
Turn-over ball provided the opportunity in the middle of the pitch and fly-half Chamberlain – a late replacement for Joshua Bragman who failed a Friday fitness test – made good ground on the right.
When he was brought down, the ball was quickly recycled for Seb Nagle-Taylor to drive on. A further phase saw the defence stretched to breaking point and centre Joe Margetts was able to step inside his marker and run around behind the posts.
Chamberlain’s kick made it 14-13 at the interval.
The second half started well for the Reds. Again Morgan on-hand was to inflict some damage on his former team-mates, as his pace took him toward the right-had corner. With the cover cutting off his route the line, his inside ball was perfect for Jersey skipper, Josh Bainbridge, who was in support.
Hartpury were quick to respond, with the third quarter being, arguably, their best spell of the match.
In the 47th minute a clever line-out, thrown short to the front man, initiated an attack down the touch-line that eventually brought a penalty, which Chamberlain drilled towards the corner. The initial drive was held up but a series of good carries infield took Hartpury closer to the Jersey posts.
With Reds’ defending resolutely, Hartpury needed to keep working and, when the ball was moved back towards the narrow side, flanker Aaron Hinkley (pictured, top, LNC Images) was on hand to bundle over in the corner.
Chamberlain’s touch-line conversion was a beauty and it was back to a single point, at 21-20.
A penalty close to the try line brought an attacking line-out for Jersey on the hour. Hartpury did well to hold the initial drive but the hosts were not to be denied. Reds moved the ball in-field and, when they worked it back to the left touch-line, hooker Jack MacFarlane was lurking in the wide channel to go over. Cope, not to be outdone by Chamberlain, also landed a beauty from wide out.
By this stage Jersey were getting most of the calls from referee Alex Thomas and were fortunate not be ruled offside when Owen chased a box kick on the hour. Instead, Hartpury were penalised and, finally, the Reds’ lineout drive did its job, MacFarlane again getting the congratulations.
The closing fifteen minutes were breathless, with Hartpury having to become increasingly adventurous in their search for points. In end neither side could add to their tally, despite Jersey going close on more than one occasion.
The result confirms that Jersey will progress to the Championship Cup quarter finals and that Hartpury will not. Next week Hartpury face Doncaster in their final pool game before travelling to Cornish Pirates, in the league, for the last game of 2019.
Jersey Reds: Slowik (Try 31), Morgan (Try 27), Newey, Iona, Owen, Cope (Cons 28, 32, 42, 61), Jones; Wayland, MacFarlane (Tries 60, 64), Atalifo, Beckett, Hallam-Eames, Upfield, Bainbridge (Try 41), Argyle. Bench: Dolly, Godfrey, Alexis, Bartle, Joyce, Homer, Penberthy, Van Dam.
Hartpury: Wilcox, Morris, Reeves, Margetts (Try 39), Goatley, Chamberlain (Cons 40, 48 Pens 8, 37), Cochrane; Merrey, Cutting, Challenger, Jubb, Safe, Hinkley (Try 47), Clementson, Nagle-Taylor. Bench: Crane, Murphy, Gibson, Qera, Everard, Preece, Carter, Henry.
Referee: Alex Thomas