Reds win battle of the packs, but Hartpury deserve their consolation
JERSEY REDS started their festive season on a joyous note with an important Championship victory over Hartpury College at Stade Santander on Friday night.
The tight 18-14 victory, in the first fixture of the second-half of the season, made it a double over the division's new boys, who fielded two Jersey-born players, hooker Luke Stratford and late replacement back Harry Cochrane.
Jersey led for most of this physical, forwards-dominated, encounter, but the amount of territory Hartpury enjoyed made it anything but a comfortable night, despite the second of the Reds' two tries, from full-back Jason Worrall, putting them 18-7 up with just over 12 minutes left on the clock.
A late try from centre Luke Eves, converted by James Williams, gave the visitors a deserved losing bonus point consolation.
Jersey had led at half time after a concerted pack effort in the Scoreboard Corner was eventually forced over by hooker Nick Selway, now in a rich scoring vein. Jersey stand-off Brendan Cope, later moved to centre, kicked an excellent conversion.
Cope landed a simple penalty just after the break to extend Jersey's lead to ten points, but Hartpury centre Nick Carpenter won a kick chase to touch down to the right of the posts after a penalty line-out move in the Scoreboard Corner. Williams reduced the deficit to just three with the conversion and the match was in the balance deep into the final quarter, when another Cope penalty – and a sin-binning for Hartpury replacement Joe Mullis – put Jersey 13-7 up.
A tremendous kick down the left touchline, from centre Mark Best, which gave the galloping Worrall the chance to collect and slide over in the Bowl Corner, seemed to have put the result to bed at 18-7, but the Students' late score made for an uncomfortable finale.
The four points gleaned from victory keeps Jersey in ninth placed, but just five points off six-placed Cornish Pirates, who are their next opponents on New Year's Eve.
In the other game of the evening, Pirates were thrashed 56-19 away to runaway leaders Bristol, who opened up a 13-point gap on second-placed Ealing, who play later this weekend.
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