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Reds kick off massive last month of league campaign

31/03/2023

Jersey Reds will wrap up their Championship season with a stretch of five crucial games that begins when Nottingham visit the Island this Saturday.

The Reds will be keen to maintain the momentum that has seen them forge a nine-game unbeaten run through the first quarter of 2023. Defeat was last experienced against Ealing Trailfinders on Christmas Eve, and the Londoners now have a six-point lead over their rivals at the top of the table, albeit having played a game more.

The Jersey game-in-hand will be staged in Doncaster on Easter Saturday, but ahead of that the Reds know they must beat Nottingham to stay in touch with the leaders. Although the visitors are eight places lower in the table, their hosts will know that any complacency is liable to be punished.

Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon is keen to have virtually all fit members of his 40-man match-hardened and ready for duty during the run-in, and as a result just five players remain in situ in the starting XV from the line-up which began the 0-64 win at Richmond last Saturday.

After coming on together from the bench as a front-row ‘bomb-squad’ against Richmond, Sam Grahamslaw, James Hadfield and Adam Nicol will start this weekend. Tom Everard holds his place in the second row, and will be partnered by James Scott.

The other ‘survivor’ in the pack is number 8 Alun Lawrence, who will skipper the side in the absence of Lewis Wynne, with Josh Gray and James Dun packing down on the flanks.

The three starters retaining their places in the back line are midfield duo Charlie Powell and Jordan Holgate, plus wing Will Brown, who claimed two of his side’s 10 tries at the RAG. Ryan Hutler gets a chance as the other wing, with Tomi Lewis at full-back, and there’s a reunion at half-back for Russell Bennett and James Mitchell.

All eight replacements were starters last Saturday and will be itching to make an impact when they are introduced from the bench.

The two sides will meet for the 20th time in a Championship encounter; the series so far has featured 13 Jersey wins, five by Nottingham and a 19-all draw at the Bay in December 2017.

The two sides met for the first time in 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 Dan Barnes, Ryan 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, Eoghan 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.

Each side’s final pool match in the Champ Cup finished 31-10 to the Reds at the Stade in February. It was just 7-0 as the first half entered its final minute, but Barnes claimed a crucial second try for the hosts, and James Hadfield and Will Brown struck within four minutes of the restart to put their side out of reach.

A new player has been drafted into the wider Reds’ squad for the closing weeks of the season. 21-year-old scrum-half Luke Davies arrives from Wales having formerly been part of the Academy set-up with the Scarlets region. Davies will provide cover for the number 9 shirt in the absence of Toby Venner, who has sustained an injury, and Jonny Law, who recently left the Island.

A full weekend’s rugby on the Island will also see Jersey RFC Women take on Hove on Sunday, with kick-off at 1.30pm.

 

Jersey Reds squad v Nottingham (H) – 2022/23 RFU Championship, game 18/22, Stade Santander International, Saturday April 1st, k-o 3pm

Backs (15-9)
Tomi Lewis; Ryan Hutler, Charlie Powell, Jordan Holgate, Will Brown; Russell Bennett, James Mitchell.
Forwards (1-8)
Sam Grahamslaw, James Hadfield, Adam Nicol, Tom Everard, James Scott, James Dun, Josh Gray, Alun Lawrence.

Replacements (16-23)
Eoghan Clarke, Huw Owen, Stevie Longwell, Sean O’Connor, Max Argyle; James Elliott, Dan Barnes, Ben Woollett.

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