Athletic hold on after scoring six

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HEAD coach Myles Landick has recentred his focus on a top-four finish in Raging Bull Shield Division I after his Jersey Reds Athletic held on for their fifth win in eight games, beating Bishop Stortford Blues 36-31 in Hertfordshire.

The Island’s top amateurs – and two Reds professionals – gave the Blues the straight arm on Saturday as they batted away a fightback from one of the league’s bottom sides.

Prop Jake Bates scored twice in a six-try show, which maintained their momentum towards the top half of the table.

Athletic began 2022 in eighth – 12 points adrift of the top four with four games in hand.

‘We only have three games in the next eight weeks but after that we have a lot of home games,’ said Landick. ‘We will be targeting those home games as wins.

‘We’re good enough to be finishing in the top four, 100%. If you can go to Guernsey, a National Two side, and beat them, you’ve got to back yourselves to put points on the board against the teams in our league. But we do have a lot of tough teams still coming to Jersey, like Rosslyn Park and Ealing academy [Brunel University].’

Athletic were put to work defensively in the opening exchanges at Bishop’s Stortford, as their hosts set up shop inside the visitors’ 22. The Caesareans matched their rivals, though, and opened the scoring at the other end through professional Max Ayling, following an offload out wide, five metres from the line.

Fellow first-team recruit Will Lane doubled Jersey’s lead, to 10-0, following a favourable bounce of the ball from Nathan Rogers’ chip over the defence, and captain Tim Corson soon added his name to the scoresheet with what Landick described as a ‘freakish’ try.

‘It wasn’t a pretty score,’ he said. ‘The ball was ripped from Tom Wilson on the tryline and it flew up in the air. Luckily for us Tim caught it first and went over.’

Bates bagged a brace before the break, with one touchdown coming from a lineout maul which began outside Bishop’s 22, but from 29-5 up Athletic’s knees wobbled.

They scored again in the second period, with Harrison Berresford offloading for Andrew Pitcher to score from close range, but the Blues registered four tries of their own to cut the deficit to just five points.

‘We had an extremely good first half,’ Landick added. ‘We wanted to push on and put our foot down after that but we’ve been struggling a lot of the time in the second half this season. I don’t know if it’s conditioning or mindset.

‘But, when it did come to the nitty-gritty, with one score in it, we turned it on again and played some decent phases to see out the game.

‘It was pleasing to see it out, but we should never have been in that position.’

Landick’s men meet league leaders Richmond Vikings next, in London, on Saturday 5 February.

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