AFTER more than four months without kicking a ball on home turf, Jersey Reds Athletic produced some stunning rugby to defeat their visitors from Reading.
The Rams were six places higher than the hosts before kick-off and contributed to a fine contest in tricky weather conditions, but ultimately had to be content with a try bonus point and some consolatory post-match refreshments.
Having last played at home on 30 October, with travel and Covid issues causing a lengthy mid-season break, it was not surprising the Reds made a fast start.
They quickly set up camp in their opponents’ half and sent Charlie Hubert across for a try in the corner.
Forward strength was allowing scope for the Jersey backs to attack, with debutant fly-half George Daniels sliding through a perfect grubber-kick for Joe Ratcliff to race onto and touch down.
The visitors’ first opportunity came via a penalty, kicked to the corner, only for the lineout to be lost. They were soon punished by the Reds, who advanced downfield and won a scrum. A strong drive saw a penalty signalled, and with advantage being played Daniels fed Dom Mayo, who slipped a scoring pass to Hubert to go over from close range.
Rams finished the half strongly, with a spell of pressure that brought a yellow card for Athletic’s George Willmott and ultimately a try by Alex Mannhardt in the corner from the last play.
Mannhardt struck again soon after the resumption, and shortly afterwards the visitors had reduced the gap to just two points. The Reds introduced Aaron Penberthy at full-back, but when he could not take a pass in midfield, the ball was hacked on by Ollie Moffitt and Will Janes scored next to the posts to make it 21-19.
Penberthy soon atoned for the earlier incident with a superb 60-metre touchfinder that gave his side an attacking lineout option from five metres out under the ’50-22’ law, with 1st XV hooker Jack Macfarlane steering the maul over the line for the bonus-point try.
The Reds were in no mood to allow their opponents back into the game a second time, and a pile-driving tackle from Euan Spencer set the tone as Rams kicked off. A subsequent penalty and ten-metre bonus for back-chat gave renewed momentum to the home side.
There were strong displays from many of the Reds squad, with powerful carrying from forwards Tom Wilson, Tim Corson, Macfarlane and Willmott and threats behind the pack, with Scott McClurg looking dangerous.
McClurg and Ben Alexander set up replacement Tom Bulfin for the fifth Athletic try from a flowing attacking move, but there was just time for the visitors to grab a fourth of their own as a rolling maul rumbled over.