Slow-starting Reds still manage to bag victory and a bonus
JERSEY were a bit like the weather on Saturday, hot and cold. Hot only for short-short bursts out of the breeze and shade; but mostly spluttering for form on a day of cold tricky winds and an obdurate Richmond side.
It was their fifth win in a row, with a four-try bonus point to boot – but the performance was not top drawer. A bit churlish? ... perhaps – October has been a sensational month for the Reds. Such is the problem of setting exceptionally high standards as Harvey Biljon’s men continue their best ever Championship start in terms of points won and scored. And the home side’s four tries again oozed quality.
A hardy crowd of just under 1,500 came to see an in-form Reds outfit limber up for next weekend’s big clash with London Irish . . . but it seems if that was also the mindset of some of the XV that went on to start the day so sluggishly.
The kick-off, delayed for 30 minutes due to the late arrival of Richmond’s kit, found the visitors in top gear, while Jersey struggled to engage the clutch . . . and any sportsman will tell you it’s difficult to shrug off a slow start.
Richmond, with one of the heaviest-looking packs seen at St Peter in a while, took full advantage and led 14-0 after 11 minutes thanks to close range surges from No 8 Jake Parker and lock-forward Myles Scott both just to the right of the posts as you look down to the scoreboard end.
This was not in the script at all, but if Jersey lacked a little in application, their character is never in question and they steadied before setting up a short, but ever-so sharp, revival. A tried and trusted penalty line-out move was started and finished by hooker Nick Selway at the back of a determined maul in the Bowl Corner. Brett Herron read the wind superbly to earn the extra two points.
A few passes had already been overcooked and opportunities squandered, but Jersey were now looking like the side who had scored 168 points in the previous four games – and another try was coming.
It was a cracker, with good movement across the park on the clubhouse side made deadly with a tremendous piece of handling from centre Kock Marx giving returning winger Jason Worrall the chance to steam forward and play in Calum Waters; the always eager No 9 galloped to the posts. Herron clipped over the conversion to level the scores and the crowd waited for the onslaught to continue.
But although just under a quarter of the half remained the hot spell fizzled out though winger Leroy Van Dam was doing his level best to raise the temperature.
Richmond were doing a good job of slowing down play (and not always within the laws according to the home coaches afterwards) and Jersey looked to have been reined in again.
But after a long period of being shackled – and the result definitely in the balance – the Reds cut loose again for an electric spell to cheer the coldest of home fans, who are always eager to warm their hands on the boards.
With the bench being steadily emptied (with half-backs Aaron Penberthy and Will Homer now calling the shots) Jersey struck from a scrum, when Namibia No 8 Janco Venter picked up from the back and found a big gap; drawing the opposition he then fed the charging Homer who gleefully dotted down in the Scoreboard Corner.
Penberthy kicked a challenging conversion – and Jersey were flying again.
Victory – and what had seemed an unlikely bonus point – was soon delivered with more strong attacking play from left to right, where replacement hooker Maddison, a former flanker and ‘a back at heart’ athletically kept the ball in play to feed Marx who was soon doing a good impression of a steam train as he headed for the posts.
Yet, at 28-14 and still plenty of time to add lustre to the, surely, certain win, Jersey allowed inaccuracies here and there to allow Richmond back into the picture.
The character, however, was still there in abundance and although a marathon of penalties and scrums ensuing near the Jersey line led to a seemingly inevitable penalty try, enough time had been eaten up to earn the win.
It is worth reflecting, however, on just how far this club has come for them to feel less than ecstatic about a professional second-tier bonus-point victory over one of the world’s most famous clubs . . . and to be going into this Saturday’s match seeking a THIRD victory over the famous London Irish. Not too shabby, eh?