Jersey Reds deliver painful lesson to Hartpury College
A first-half wobble became a distant memory as Jersey Reds cruised to an emphatic victory over a Hartpury side who were overpowered and are facing a relegation battle.
As the visitors took the applause from a significant number of relatives and travelling support at the Gillman’s Ground after the final whistle, having scored seven tries, it was easy to forget the hole they’d found themselves in after half an hour.
Leading 7-14, the Reds – wearing their alternate blue strip – lost both Aaron Penberthy and Jerry Sexton to the sin-bin within three minutes, the former for a deliberate knock-on as he attempted an interception and the latter for dragging down a maul. Hartpury seemed set to make the most of playing against 13 men and level the scores, but that scenario wasn’t the one that unfolded.
First the Jersey lineout won their opponents’ lineout ball and scrum-half Calum Waters cleared from the dead-ball area, the ball bouncing off an opponent before finding touch. Energised by the escape, and adopting a ‘what-the-hell’ attitude to their reduced numbers, the Reds pressed forward and scored two tries in what remained of the half.
First man over was Leeroy Atalifo from close range, although the prop’s try owed more to acrobatics than power as he spotted an aerial route above the top of a ruck and dived over. Then centre James Newey set up the fourth try with a superb jinking run that culminated in a scoring pass to the supporting Waters, a second try for the lively scrum-half having earlier performed the same finishing job from Koch Marx’s run and pass; stand-in kicker Newey landed both conversions in Penberthy’s absence, and there was some clear blue water for the visitors as their duo returned from the naughty step and the half concluded.
With a bonus point already secured, it suited the visitors to drop the tempo a little after the resumption. This prompted Penberthy to twice kick for goal from penalties: the first effort came back off an upright and almost saw Leroy Van Dam score as he followed up; the second attempt sailed over and Harvey Biljon began to utilise his bench, with four replacements in action within 11 minutes of the second half.
The Reds were relaxed, confident and ready to turn on the style in front of the cameras which were streaming the game live to an online audience. Penberthy fielded a Hartpury kick on his own 22 and countered with a run and chip ahead. The bounce of the ball allowed him to tap the ball deftly to Will Homer, and replacements Sam Rodman and Rory Bartle transferred the ball to Marx, whose powerful run took him close to the try-line, from where he found Newey to complete the job.
Marx won’t recall his next possession quite as fondly – the South African intercepted and cantered 40 metres to the posts, but then lost control of the ball as he dived over.
The replacements were all playing their part, and Homer would have scored in the corner but for a fine covering tackle by Ben Foley. Then Brett Herron crossed twice soon after coming on, his first after Cameron Holenstein had punched a large hole in the home side’s wilting defence, and the second after a slick move began by Janco Venter’s electric break from his own 22 and taken on by Newey, who threw a scoring pass over his shoulder.
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.
Two former JRFC Mini & Junior products both had good games, with a solid 70 minutes of graft by Luke Stratford in the front row, and Harry Cochrane covering both wing and scrum-half after coming on as an early replacement, including a try when Sam Leeming launched a cross-kick that Penberthy couldn’t take and Cochrane pounced on. 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 card for the visitors with Max Argyle punished for a late tackle.
Hartpury (1-15): 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).