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Reds host Ravers as Champ charges back

03/03/2023

As if the return of league action this weekend after five weeks wasn’t an exciting enough prospect, Jersey Reds and Caldy have the added attraction of one of the season’s most eagerly-awaited fixtures.

The home side will roll out the Red carpet for the Ravers from the Wirral, who will be the first Championship club to make a maiden voyage to Jersey since Hartpury’s visit in December 2017 and look set to bring a sizeable and noisy contingent of supporters.

Although they have previously attended 'overseas' away games against Isle of Man sides, the Caldy hordes had heard Jersey offered an even higher calibre of tour experience and have been able to look forward to the trip since St George’s Day 2022. This was the date that the Ravers claimed the National 1 title with a crucial 13-9 win over north-west rivals Sale FC, and the delights of the Channel Islands came into sharper focus.

The visitors arrive as the form side in the Championship, having claimed a maximum 20 points from their four January outings to surge up to seventh in the table, one of the best starts to a second-tier season by a newly-promoted side in recent years.

While hoping their visitors will enjoy themselves off the pitch, the Reds main priority will be to maintain the league form that has seen them jostle with Ealing Trailfinders at the top end of the Championship table, with the Londoners currently just a single point ahead.

After a week off, the Reds have been able to shake off a few injury niggles and select a strong squad for the first match in an eight-game run-in, with four changes in the starting XV from the line-up that began the most recent league outing, a 25-34 win over Cornish Pirates at the Mennaye Field at the end of January.

Dan Barnes is selected at centre after some impressive performances during the February cup window and will partner Alex McHenry, while Tomi Lewis is selected at wing ahead of Will Brown and joins Ben Woollett. There’s no change at half-back, where James Elliott and Russell Bennett team up or at full-back, where Brendan Owen will be on duty.

The new faces in the forwards are hooker Eoghan Clarke, who partners Sam Grahamslaw and Stevie Longwell in the front row, and flanker Tim Grey, part of a new back row combination with James Dun and skipper Lewis Wynne. This leaves a reunion in the engine room for Macauley Cook and Sean O’Connor.

The Reds’ bench includes two players who made their debuts during February: scrum-half Toby Venner, back from long-term injury, and fly-half Ben Burnell, who arrived from Cardiff and played the second half of the cup win over Nottingham a fortnight ago.

Having followed a similar trajectory up the leagues, the two clubs both played in National 2 in 2010/11, with the Reds promoted from the south division while Caldy remained in N2 North for several seasons.

The first Reds/Ravers match-up took place at Paton Field in early October, and there was little to choose between the sides in a first half that featured two tries apiece and finished 12-10 to the hosts. But it was the visitors who stepped up after the break, scoring four more tries (including Sam Grahamslaw's, pictured below) to finish victors by 19-34.

Jersey Reds squad v Caldy (H) – 2022/23 RFU Championship, game 15/22, Stade Santander International, Saturday March 4th, k-o 3pm

Backs (15-9)
Brendan Owen; Ben Woollett, Alex McHenry, Dan Barnes, Tomi Lewis; Russell Bennett, James Mitchell.
Forwards (1-8)
Sam Grahamslaw, Eoghan Clarke, Stevie Longwell, Sean O’Connor, Macauley Cook, Tim Grey, Lewis Wynne (capt), James Dun.

Replacements (16-23)
James Hadfield, Greg McGrath, Adam Nicol, Tom Everard, Josh Gray; Toby Venner, Ben Burnell, Jordan Holgate.

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6 Apr 2024

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12 Oct 2023

THE WATERING HOLE

Why not come and chillout in the ‘Watering Hole’ before the game? A full-bar and food is available and you can enjoy some live music after the game.

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