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Reds aim to finish the job and clinch cup KO spot

16/02/2023

Jersey Reds will look to fire their cup ambitions by reaching the semi-finals of the Championship Cup by defeating Nottingham under the Friday Night Lights at Stade Santander International.

Having reached the latter stages of either the British & Irish Cup or Championship Cup on each of their past six attempts, the Reds know that victory over the Archers would ensure progression to the last four as – at least – the best runner-up across the three pools.

As in this season’s league programme to date, the Reds have been breathing down the neck of Ealing Trailfinders in pool A and trail the Londoners by a point heading into the last round of matches, in which Ealing travel to Hartpury for another Friday night game.

After a narrow 28-27 win over Ealing and a hefty 7-47 success at Hartpury over the last two games, Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon makes five changes in personnel – and some positional switches - from the XV that began the match in Gloucestershire.

Having successfully returned from a 51-week injury lay-off to make his Reds’ debut from the bench against his former club last Friday, scrum-half Toby Venner will start this week, partnering Tom Pittman at half-back. The other changes in the backs see Will Brown come in to start at wing, as Tomi Lewis moves across to full-back following Brendan Owen’s injury at Hartpury. Wing Ryan Hutler, who like Lewis was on the score-sheet at Hartpury, retains his place alongside centre pairing Dan Barnes and Charlie Powell.

Three new faces come into the pack: prop Sam Grahamslaw and hooker Eoghan Clarke will start in the front row alongside Adam Nicol, while Tom Everard is promoted from the bench to second row after some useful impact from the bench at Hartpury, including his first try for the Reds.

Everard’s introduction as James Scott’s engine-room partner means Macauley Cook and Josh Gray step up their shirt numbers by one to 6 and 7 respectively. Cook will captain the side as skipper Lewis Wynne is rested, while James Dun – another try-scorer at Hartpury – retains the number 8 spot.

The Reds’ bench features a potential debut for new signing Ben Burnell, the young former Cardiff and Pontypridd fly-half who arrived in Jersey a fortnight ago.

Nottingham and the Reds met for the first time in a cup competition when the Reds made the trip to Lady Bay in November and came away winners by 12-38. The visitors made a fast start with tries by Barnes, Hutler and Russell Bennett within the opening quarter of an hour, and led 5-31 at the break, with just a single converted try for each side during the second period.

Five weeks later the league encounter at the Bay was a much closer affair, with nothing to choose between the sides at the break (10-10). Forward power was at the heart of the Jersey effort as they exerted greater pressure after the break, when TJ Harris completed a hat-trick, Clarke added another and then Jordan Holgate completed the job in a win by 22-31. Former Jersey wing Ryan Olowofela scored two of the home side’s three tries.

December’s contest was the 19th league encounter between the sides over the past 11 seasons, with the series featuring 13 Jersey wins, five by Nottingham and a 19-all draw at the Bay in December 2017.

After the Hartpury game, Jersey Reds will finish February with a weekend off before the resumption of the Greene King IPA Championship, which will see Caldy make their first visit to the Island on the opening weekend of March, and a return to the normal Saturday afternoon slot, with kick-off at 3pm.

 

Jersey Reds squad v Nottingham (H) – 2022/23 RFU Championship Cup Pool A, game 6/6, Stade Santander International, Friday February 17th, k-o 7.30pm (* = debut)

Backs (15-9)
Tomi Lewis; Ryan Hutler, Charlie Powell, Dan Barnes, Will Brown; Tom Pittman, Toby Venner.
Forwards (1-8)
Sam Grahamslaw, Eoghan Clarke, Adam Nicol, Tom Everard, James Scott, Macauley Cook (capt), Josh Gray, James Dun.

Replacements (16-23)
James Hadfield, Huw Owen, Stevie Longwell, Hallam Chapman, Tim Grey; James Elliott, Ben Burnell*, Alex McHenry.

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