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Reds resist Raiders to reclaim Siam crown

Rugby | Published:

GUERNSEY’S top rugby players may not wish to dwell on Saturday’s Siam Cup loss, but they can at least take pride in the fact that they contributed to an absolute cracker.

Apakuki Ma'afu holds the ball aloft to celebrate with fans after crossing the try-line at St Peter – taking Jersey Reds beyond the reach of Guernsey Raiders Picture: JON GUEGAN (24641003)

Following a four-game whitewash in 2018, and a first loss in the showpiece in almost a decade, this was to be Jersey’s year overall as they secured three of the four inter-insular titles on offer with the help of Johnson and Johnson – Simon and George – Liam Rhodes and Apakuki Ma’afu.

Luke Sayer, Anthony Armstrong and Elia Morisio all crossed for the visitors as over 3,000 fans flocked to St Peter, although their scores ultimately proved little more than a consolation in a 29-19 defeat.

What a day for Myles Landick and Co.

Last week, Guernsey chairman Charles McHugh persisted with his view that Jersey paid Nick Selway and Uili Kolo’ofa’i £2,500 apiece to appear in last year’s fixture, and on Friday he added further criticism following Aaron Penberthy’s inclusion in a Siam squad for the third time.

The fly-half’s four seasons in Jersey have indeed been split by a two-year stint at Ealing, but Caesarean selectors stuck to their guns and Penberthy helped fire his island to glory while fellow professional Apakuki Ma’afu welcomed the Raiders to Stade Santander with a handful of trademark bone crunchers. You could almost see the fear in the eyes of Sayer and Owen Thomas in the first half as the Tongan prepared to turn them into pancakes.

Penberthy sent a long penalty attempt wide by a foot during an opening 15 minutes largely spent between the two 22-metre lines. The 30 Channel Islanders were equally matched, although the Sarnians did pose a threat with two promising lineout mauls before making the most of a gap on Jersey’s right to take the lead. As home winger Mark Boarer lay stricken with a suspected fractured elbow, Raiders loaded up on the left to take advantage and sent Sayer over unchallenged.

Thomas hooked the conversion horrendously wide.

The try was nothing less than Guernsey deserved, but their superiority lasted all of four minutes. With Simon Johnson on for hospital-bound Boarer, the replacement scored with his first touch of the ball – leaping above Sayer to claim Penberthy’s cross-field punt before grounding in the Pavillion corner. The Jerseyman could barely contain his excitement at making an immediate mark in the season finale.

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Handling on both sides left much to be desired throughout, despite the dry conditions, but Selway’s grasp was steady in the build up to Jersey’s second try and some quick-thinking released man of the match Willmott. The number eight received his captain’s over-head offload 30m out and showed a commendable dose of unselfishness with a short pass to Rhodes for 12-5.

Penberthy split the posts for the second time, before pushing the margin out to 12 points with a monster penalty from 54m.

Jersey had enjoyed playing with the wind at their backs. Guernsey were about to follow suit.

A 60-metre intercepted try – following Penberthy’s loose chuck left – left Armstrong cheering with his colleagues on 44 minutes, and although Ma’afu took matters into his own hands to register Jersey’s third after a green lineout overthrow, the men in red were then forced to defend under their own posts for 13 long minutes.

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Guernsey were two scores behind but only one touchdown from potentially flipping the game on its head. The belief was there and their play was patient – phase after phase after phase up front – but Jersey’s defensive unit, without the sin-binned Penberthy, showed a level of grit, determination and accuracy that were a credit to Landick’s influence.

Three times the attack was held up under the posts ... Guernsey just could not get the ball grounded.

Typically, a minute after the Sarnian assault ceased – effectively ending the contest – the home side put the game beyond doubt through replacement prop George Johnson, from close range.

There was still time for Morisio to slice through on the left and give the travelling fans a late smile, but the hosts’ celebrations had already begun.

Earlier in the day at St Peter, Jersey regained both 2nd team honours, for the Fallaize Cup (20-17) and the veterans’ bragging rights for the Nash Cup (24-15). Guernsey Ladies, however, held on to their trophy.

Full report and reaction in Monday's JEP.

Jason Fox

By Jason Fox
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