Unlike last year, however, when an under-strength Gunners’ side rarely competed in either the pack or the threes, Saturday’s game was always competitive and on more than one occasion, especially in the first 20 minutes of the second half, the visitors were dominant.
‘We’ve brought over a much stronger team than last year,’ said coach Dale Jefferies.
‘But Jersey are a well-drilled, organised side.
‘We’ve eight or nine new players in the squad, compared to last year, but Jersey fronted us up, physically.
They’re a much better team.’
Jersey captain Kern Yates echoed the thoughts of the Gunners’ coach when he said: ‘I really enjoyed it.
They (the Royal Artillery) were a big set of boys, which meant we really had to step up to the mark, physically.
So it was a big effort for us.
Everything seems to be rosy at the moment but what was most pleasing was to see younger players slotting into the team: 18-year-olds having to deal with guys who are older and bigger than they are.
‘We had a lot of young guys in.
I didn’t play in this game last year, through injury, but it’s always nice to win a piece of silverware.’
Having returned from combat duty in recent weeks, the Royal Artillery were almost up to full strength and, at times, could or should have scored, with heavyweight threequarter ‘Two-pack’ Tupou constantly being a threat in the threes as it usually took two or three players to bring him down.
However, in the first 20 minutes Jersey pressurised the Gunners into making the most simplest of errors and they deservedly went ahead in the seventh minute when a drive to the line saw prop Marcus Nobes take a return pass, on the blind side, to touch down close in to the left-hand corner.
After that, despite a few ill-disciplined kicks from Jon Swift at fly-half, the Jersey youngsters had their say.
Tom Faulkner on the wing, in his first full 1st team game, was proving a handful as was Ryan Morgan who, in the 33rd minute, chipped neatly over the full-back’s head on the left-hand side before racing through to pinch the ball and score.
A half-time scoreline of 10-0 to Jersey was everything the home side deserved.
The Gunners were trying to play a big, physical-hitting game, but Jersey were up for it.
Six minutes into the second half Jersey went further ahead following quick hands along the threes before full-back Christian Weald, almost – but not quite – was dragged back from touching down.
Jonathan Swift converted from wide out on the right.
So, at 17-0 to the good, Jersey seemed to be in control.
But as the Royal Artillery kept rotating their players, Jersey suddenly found that they were having to play catch-up rugby.
Even when they went 22-0 up following an impeccable scrum and drive, which saw Latu Maka’afi touch down ahead of captain Kern Yates, who was an inspirational captain on the day, the Gunners scored two tries in quick succession.
First Will Koro scored after Vi Masirewa had made the break; the try converted by Dave Blackburn.
Then, as Jersey were pressing, centre Steve O’Brien caught the ball behind his back only for it to be taken from him by Blackburn, on the right, who ran fully 45 yards before he passed it to No 12, Tupou, who scored.
Now seriously back in the game, the Gunners ran everything, from every position on the pitch, and squandered chances mainly because they didn’t release the ball quickly enough to the threes.
Finally, they were victims of their own downfall when they tried to run the ball from under their posts and were caught offside thereby allowing Jon Swift a penalty from ten yards out to make the final score 25-10.
In the last 15 minutes, all of the younger Jersey players came on.
They did well, too, for as coach Barry George said: ‘They (the Gunners) had a physical presence about them and towards the end they were throwing the ball around.
They had more Fijian boys back from Iraq and Afghanistan than I’d expected, but we fronted up our performance and all of the players can take pride in their performance.
‘By bringing younger players into the team means the regular 1st XV players know they now have to fight for their places.
‘A game like this can only strengthen the side.
It was a good, hard, physical game and one I’m delighted to win.
It wasn’t a league game, but the team showed character; they were playing for their pride.’
Every player in the squad was used and Jefferies reckons Jersey are good enough to go up – and to hold their place – in London, Division 1, next year.
Sandpiper CI squad (all players used): Christian Weald, Ryan Morgan, Jim Milner, Steve O’Brien, Tom Faulkner, Joathan Swift, Keiaho Bloomfield, Marcus Nobes, Peter O’Connor, Ross Kenwright, John Allo Ian Henderson, Talite Vaioleti, Latu Maka’afi, Kern Yates, Dan Curzons, Toby Clyde-Smith, David Felton, Joe Ellyatt, Dan Arthur, Sam Tuia, Mark Le Mott?e.