Jersey Reds – 14/11/2015

22Jersey Reds

22Doncaster Knights

2:30 pm · November 14, 2015

Jersey 22 Knights 22.

The Knights kicked off their 2015/16 British and Irish Cup campaign with a hard fought 22-22 draw away on the Island of Jersey. In what was very much a game of two halves the Knights held a commanding 22-5 half time lead before succumbing to a much improved Jersey outfit in the second half. The hosts had a late opportunity to win it but fly half Brendan Cope produced a rare miss with an 80th minute penalty meaning his side had to settle for a draw.

Director of Rugby Clive Griffiths and the Knights playing staff took the opportunity to exercise some different combinations for this round one cup clash, with a number of changes to the match day twenty-two. Several players got an opportunity to impress with five Knights making their first competitive starts of the campaign and they took absolutely no time to find their rhythm with Tyson Lewis going over with only a couple of minutes on the clock. Fly half Dec Cusack coolly switched play in midfield before some nice handling from flanker Will Owen put the ball in Tyson’s hands and the winger produced an impressive finish to register the game’s first score.

After the initial shock the hosts came into the game and gained territory through their ball-carrying talents; number eight Nick Haining and centre Tua Otto both made telling carries but the Knights defense held firm. Doncaster looked the better of the two teams in the opening exchanges and after establishing good territory following a succession of penalties they were in again. Alex Shaw took a quick tap in the home 22m and in the following phase Jim Wigglesworth cut back inside to hand on to Will Owen who linked up nicely again with Tyson Lewis to put the winger away in the corner. Cusack made no mistake this time and the Knights lead 0-12 with under 20 minutes played.

The Knights added a third score moments later after Mat Clark produced a moment of individual brilliance. Playing on the wing, Clark demonstrated scintillating pace and power to break from deep in his own half and outstrip a number of would be tacklers, tip-toeing the sideline before, deftly, chipping forward. On his competitive debut, Jim Wigglesworth was on hand to collect the bouncing ball and fight his way over the try line. Cusack converted to make it a seven point score to extend the Knights lead to 0-19.

Just as the Knights looked like they might run away with it the hosts produced a swift response. Tua Otto continued to be a problem for the Doncaster defence and produced another imposing run from the restart; the centre burst deep into the Knights half before releasing wing Tom Howe who crossed more or less untouched. The conversion from Brendan Cope dropped wide but Jersey were off the mark.

Neither side were really able to stamp an authority on the closing stages of the opening half. The Knights regularly produced good, go forward, ball from their line out; due in no small part to the aerial agility of second row Glen Young and Jersey enjoyed a similar advantage at the scrum. No guilt edged opportunities were created so when the Knights won a penalty in kickable range Cusack was quick to signal for three points. The fly half made no mistake and on the stroke of half time Doncaster lead 5-22, a score line they would not improve on.

There was a strong wind blowing directly through the middle of the St Peter playing surface and Jersey returned for the second period with the breeze at their backs. Not only did the weather favour them in the second period but they seemed to reemerge with a purpose not present for much of the opening stanza and quickly made it count.

From the restart, a good kick and chase forced a turnover out of the Knights and the home pack generated impressive front foot ball with some speed and committed work at the breakdown. This saw Jersey make their way into the Doncaster red zone very quickly and as the home crowd loudened the ball was put wide to winger Ross Adair who accelerated his way into the corner with Cope converting, 12-22.

The hosts made two changes to the front row at half time with prop Danny Herriot and hooker Nick Selway entering the field of play however it did not affect the powerful home scrum and the hosts were able to reap a number of scrum penalties. A few minutes later replacement loose head Sam Lockwood joined the party and his first telling contribution of the match resulted in a score. The powerful prop showed a surprising turn of pace to make his way downfield past several Knights defenders before handing on to Howe. The winger continued the move forward before releasing Nick Haining and the barnstorming number eight would not be stopped from short range. Cope’s successful conversion meant there was just three points separating the two sides as the game entered it’s final quarter.

The momentum was clearly with the home side and with the game in the balance both sets of coaching staff began to make use of their bench. The Knights made wholesale changes in the front row but it would not halt Jersey’s scrum dominance and it was following a further scrum penalty that the hosts pulled level on 64 minutes, Cope on target once more.

In what was a very tight and tense end to the game the game the Knights seems to be getting a little unlucky with a number of the refereeing decisions and Jersey piled the pressure on. The Knights defence would not bend and made a countless turnovers in their own 22m to alleviate the danger but it only ever seemed to be temporarily.

The game creeped towards the 80th minute with Jersey, backed by a vocal home crowd, searching for the match winning score and with the final play of the match it seemed as though they might have it. Another scrum penalty meant that Brendan Cope had a penalty kick to win it; around 40m out, centre field and with a strong wind behind him. Luckily for the Knights Cope saved his worst till last and struck the effort wide and with that referee Fergus Kirby blew the final whistle.

In the end the Knights will have been delighted to leave with two points especially at what is a notoriously difficult venue to visit. Next week the Knights return to Castle Park as the British and Irish Cup quest continues versus Connacht Eagles.

Match Statistics

Jersey Xv; 15) Aaron Penberthy, 14) Tom Howe, 13) Fautua Otto (Mark Cooke 55’), 12) Lewis Robling, 11) Ross Adair, 10) Brendan Cope, 9) Sami Fisilau (Jack Moates 59’), 1) Ignacio Lancuba (Sam Lockwood 52’), 2) Martin Garcia-Veiga (Nick Selway 40’), 3) Oliver Tomaszczyk (Danny Herriott 40’), 4) Uili Kolo’ofa’I, 5) Will Rowlands , 6) Alex Rae (capt), 7) James Freeman (Gary Graham 71’), 8) Nick Haining

Replacements; 16) Sam Lockwood, 17) Nick Selway, 18) Danny Herriott, 19 Tommy Spinks, 20) Gary Graham, 21) Jack Moates, 22) Mark Cooke.

Tries; Howe 24’, Adair 42’, Haining 60’

Conv; Cope 42’, 60’

Pens; Cope 64’

Knights starting XV; 15) Jim Wigglesworth, 14) Mat Clark, 13) Andy Bulumakau, 12) Ollie Bryant, 11) Tyson Lewis, 10) Dec Cusack (Sam Olver 55’), 9) Brad Field, 1) Jack Bergmanas (Joe Sproston 63’), 2) Vili Veikoso (Ted Stagg 68’), 3) WillGriff John (Jake Armstrong 63’), 4) Tyler Hotson 5) Glen Young, 6) Matt Challinor © (Latu Makaafi 64’), 7) Will Owen, 8) Alex Shaw.

Replacements; 16) Ted Stagg, 17) Joe Sproston, 18) Jake Armstrong, 19) Jon Phelan, 20) Latu Makaafi, 21) Sam Olver, 22) Sam Edgerley.

Tries; Lewis 2’, 19’, Wigglesworth 24’

Conv; Cusack 19’, 24’

Pens; Cusack 38’

Referee: Fergus Kirby

Attendance: 1,772

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