A BIG statement early in an enthralling campaign, it certainly was. Season defining in the Championship title battle, it hopefully was not – for Jersey Reds at least.
That is what Harvey Biljon feels after seeing his side came up short against defending league champions Ealing Trailfinders in the Championship Cup on Saturday, by 22 points to 13.
After leading at half time, two tries conceded from two set-pieces proved the difference at Vallis Way – and denied Jersey a chance of getting an early edge over the West Londoners.
It ends the Islanders’ nine-game unbeaten run since the start of the competitive season and sees Ealing take control at the top of Pool A, but Jersey remain in a knock-out place by virtue of being the highest-scoring second-placed team across the three groups.
Biljon, Reds’ director of rugby, cut a measured figure after the game, with there being a number of positives.
He said: ‘I was asked earlier in the week, when everyone was getting caught up in the excitement of the game, and I said win or lose, this game won’t define our season and what it will mean for this group is we will take key moments from it and make sure we’re better the next time we’re in that situation.
‘We can learn more from this than our wins and we’ve got to make sure we can get it right when it counts. There were one or two moments where we just missed out on it but we’ve got to go away and train to execute under pressure.
‘It was what we expected in terms of two good teams going at it.
‘There were a couple of big moments where we needed to make sure we can improve and get better. Whether that’s exiting out of our half or making sure we make that pressure count for a little bit more to get the score.
‘We were encouraged at half time, but while we tried, we didn’t focus on what the next 40 minutes would look like, and that’s the bit I’m referring to when we talk about big moments. We didn’t execute through those first 15 minutes of the second half and then it was a battle back because Ealing are a quality outfit.’
Biljon believes it highlights what they will be focusing on over the coming weeks, adding: ‘What we’ll be working on most is controlling and executing our skill at the crucial time. All the little things, like making sure our kicks to touch are where we want them to be, various little things that make a difference.
‘Coming up against Ealing and their defence of the rolling maul is what it’s like at the next level and everything around that, how we deal and learn from that is key.’
Jersey’s defence was particularly strong in the first half and just before the break they shut the door firmly on several opportunities.
But they could not score in the second-half, slipping away in a similar manner to the home clash against Doncaster a month ago, only this time it lost them the game.
‘There were two or three moments there where we’ve got to play, let the pass go or we’ve got to capitalize on the field position,’ Biljon explained.
‘Ealing will admit that at line-out time we put them under pressure and at scrum-time too, and both packs had a good battle.’
Looking at individual performances, second-row forward James Scott was a stand-out before being replaced at half-time due to injury, while Reds’ scrum-half James Mitchell and openside Lewis Wynne also shone.
Harvey added: ‘There we’re a fair few good performances. Look at the front row, Ben Woollett at wing, all those guys stepped up and there we’re positives across the board.’