Reds still riding high
JERSEY REDS may have lost overall top billing to London Irish in the race for Championship Cup rankings, but they are still in the driving seat for home draws in the quarter and semi-finals.
Despite their narrow defeat at home to Ealing spirits will remain high, particularly as the 20-16 set-back in Saturday’s often atrocious conditions at Stade Santander still leaves them on top of Pool 2. The losing bonus point garnered puts them level on points with Ealing, but still comfortably ahead on tries scored (26 to 21). An automatic home quarter-final is likely to be achieved if they take maximum points away to London Scottish on Saturday.
Victory over Ealing would have stretched the Reds’ winning run at tier two level to a record 11 games and virtually secured a top-two overall ranking in the competition. The latter would lead to the opportunity of two home games to reach an inaugural final.
So the clash with the Scots, who edged out Jersey in the league early in the season, is now crucial. With Ealing facing Richmond it would be a surprise if they did not achieve a bonus-point victory, so Jersey must match them to attain maximum advantage in the knockout stages.
Saturday’s two-tries to one loss – a game of fine margins decided by the visitors’ impressive resilience against a driving wind in the second half – was obviously a disappointment to head coach Harvey Biljon, but he was far from down in terms of the performance, saying: ‘Tough day, really tough conditions. I think we will probably be disappointed in the way we managed the game in the second half – we probably should have taken more out of it.
‘We did well in the first ten minutes, but I think we then fell into the trap of thinking that the wind would do the job for us instead of working to gain the territory to then go and win the game.
‘Overall I’m not disappointed with the boys’ attitude and effort – just disappointed with losing the game.’
Biljon was keen to give Ealing credit too: ‘If you look at the way they carried and fronted-up in the second half you have to say they have some front-line footballers there. Give them full credit.
‘We put ourselves under pressure at the start with poor decision-making, but we worked ourselves back into the game well by half-time. We just needed to get ahead then close the game out.
‘We had a plan, first-half and second-half, regarding kicking. At times we got it right – and at times we clearly didn’t.
‘What it does mean is that we must go into the Scottish game really focused. We’ve got to get things right and make sure we maximise our opportunity to get a home quarter-final.’
With the clubs meeting again in the last league match of the year on 22 December – the winner entering 2019 in second place in the Championship table – Saturday’s clash might have been expected to give a good indication of the teams’ relative merits. But the weather, with a howling and swirling wind coming down the pitch from the car park end, rendered that far less meaningful. Said Biljon: ‘Without that wind it would become a far better contest and we could have threatened [them] more.’
Ealing coach Ben Ward was delighted with men’s efforts, particularly in the second half. ‘I think we did to Jersey what they did to us at our place. It was a real arm-wrestle. I didn’t think it was enough of a lead at half time (17-10), but it was a hard game to score points in and Jersey perhaps didn’t, until their replacements came on, kick themselves into our territory enough.
‘I think Jersey will still top the group, leaving us to chase fourth spot and the final home quarter-final. We could end up meeting in the cup again – and we’ve got that big league game in a couple of weeks, too.’
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