‘Vengeance’ for Athletic
JERSEY REDS Athletic extracted a hard-fought 24-19 victory in the Zoo Sports Shield against Bishop’s Stortford on Saturday – a side who had frustrated Jersey in their first match in September.
The Reds, evidently instructed to take the fight to their opponents at Stade Athletic, piled into the visitors with hard carries from the kick-off, with prop Ewan Davies and flanker George Willmott especially potent. Agonisingly, despite the earlier advantage, the visitors gained field position through a string of penalties.
Jersey defended well but slick hands from the visitors offered powerful winger Connor Austin a gap, and he took it at full tilt, scoring under the posts. Fly-half Dom Lilley converted.
Jersey – beaten 32-19 when the two sides met in September – responded with excellent phase play to take them inside Stortford’s territory again. They burrowed for yards before number 8 Tim Corson muscled over from close range in the 31st minute. Simon Johnson was accurate from the tee, levelling the scores.
The Blues applied pressure at the resumption, kicking deep to win a lineout on the home five-metre line. Despite the Reds smashing into the maul, and appearing to kill it twice, tight-head Steve Hearn barged over from a yard out. His score went unconverted.
Again the Reds replied, gaining a foothold from the boot of Johnson. Andrew Pitcher’s throw connected with jumper Euan Spencer, and a well-set maul offered Pitcher an opportunity from the tail. Johnson came agonisingly close to the lead from the tee, but it remained honours even at half-time.
Johnson picked up where he left off after the break, as another perfect kick to touch gave them another opportunity – Nathan Thomas went up for the catch and once more Pitcher struck to give the Reds the lead for the first time.
Jersey began to wrestle control of the contact, but mistakes cost them. Excellent breaks from Thomas and Willmott were hauled back by the referee, but the pressure told, and Jersey were soon in again as scrum-half Liam Rhodes sniped the fringe after excellent phase play from the pack. Johnson was faultless with the boot, and the lead was stretched to 24-12.
He was soon forced off with a shoulder injury, giving Finlay Laing a run out at wing while Adam Spencer took over at stand-off.
Stortford forced a nervous finish as replacement centre Brandon Bowden broke through to score under the posts, converted, but the fresh legs of Athletic – following a handful of changes – ultimately told, surviving sustained pressure at the death.
Head coach Myles Landick said: ‘You could tell we had had a break for Christmas for sure. I would say that the work rate and desire of our boys wasn’t where we wanted it to be, but five points from only one training session is something to be happy with. Still there is a lot of work to be done if we are to move on.
‘It’s nice to have a bit of vengeance, we lost to them by a decent amount of points [in September]. We knew our performance wasn’t up to par that day but we’ve got to keep improving to kick on.
‘We’ve got a couple of games against teams who are fairly low in the table, and I said to the guys we cannot beat top of the table sides and then lose to bottom. We need the maturity to do the job consistently.’
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