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Athletic topple Shield leaders

Rugby | Published:

JERSEY REDS ATHLETIC claimed another impressive scalp over the weekend, beating table-topping Cambridge 2nds 19-15 at St Peter.

Euan Spencer carries forward for Jersey Athletic Picture: RON FELTON (23395135)

Attritional, undoubtedly, but not without some excellent play as a young Reds side stuck to task for a deserved victory against a side beaten only twice previously this season.

Jersey had to come from behind twice to secure another famous victory to rank alongside their win away to powerful Ampthill the week before. That they did it with a penalty try against a pack that had a substantial height and weight advantage underlines the excellent technical work that is going into Athletic’s training sessions.

Playing on a heavy Pitch 2 (though it did stand up well considering the number of scrums that were required as the cold, wet weather made ball-handling extremely difficult), Cambridge made an impressive start and deserved to take the lead when lock-forward Matt Waring ended a spell of heavy pressure by powering under the posts from close range. Stand-off Rob Povey clipped over the conversion and it was already clear only a gargantuan effort would prevent Cambridge moving further clear at the top of the Shield Premiership.

It was good response, if one not rewarded until after the half hour when heavy pressure from the pack drove Cambridge deep into their 22. Swift handling out to the left released winger Henry Frost, returning to Athletic action in recent weeks, who beat two would-be tacklers to dive over the line. A decent effort from Simon Johnson failed to bring the scores level, but things were definitely looking up.

Cambridge showed their desire, determination and practicality when asking Povey to kick a penalty from the half-way, which he did, via the post. Great kick and one which gave the visitors a 10-5 half-time lead. But with the elements more in Jersey’s favour hopes were high that they could overturn that on the restart.

Lively scrum-half Liam Rhodes pulled the sides level with a surge for the line after a forwards lineout routine piled pressure on Cambridge in the right-hand corner. Johnson kicked Jersey into a two-point lead and things looked exceedingly good.

But Cambridge don’t top the table without good reason and although they struggled to mount sustained pressure they were more than capable of taking advantage of any errors Jersey might make.

Jersey, unfortunately, did make a big error – and typically of the nature of sport it came from a player having an otherwise excellent game. Adam Spencer, putting in a strong shift in defence and attack, and carrying successfully on several occasions, passed the ball out towards his left near the half-way line, but his floated pass was intercepted gratefully by fellow No 12 Ollie Petrides who roared down the line to regain the lead for Cambridge, 15-12.

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Jersey camped in the visitors’ half for the rest of the match, but the points would not come as valiant defence, metres from their line kept their noses in front.

The scrum and maul were Jersey’s big weapons, but still the visitors held on, showing great desire.

But eventually the pressure had to tell and the front row were leaping high after yet another scrum near the posts brought seven points from a penalty try.

There was still time for Cambridge to threaten to overturn Athletic’s four-point advantage – but this was to be a deserved win for coach Myles Landick’s boys in their last game of the year.

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Landick reflected: ‘It’s a shame the break has come now – that’s two excellent wins in a row.

‘Hats off to the forwards. We’re not the biggest pack, but we are good technically and work really hard at the scrum and maul. But the backs also did so well today and it’s great to have shared responsibility.

‘I’ve got to give a special mention to prop Ewan Davies – he’s come on leaps and bounds this season. But once again it was great teamwork that paid off today.

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