Hartpury won 10-7, but the Reds had a host of opportunities to take the game.
They started well, absorbing pressure from the visitors before kicking to find open turf and territory, and when captain Jerry Sexton bagged an opportunistic interception-score on five minutes it seemed the Reds were on their way to another rout.
Yet complacency, or just a lack of accuracy, plagued their performance, as a string of penalties at the breakdown allowed Hartpury to creep up the field, and they eventually had a lineout deep inside Red territory. The maul was set, and scored on ten minutes, captain Simon Linsell touching down. Fly-half Sam Leeming converted to level the scores.
Strong carries from Apakuki Ma’afu and Kyle Hatherell, in particular, stood out for the Reds, while Jersey boy and man of the match Harry Cochrane, playing scrum-half for the visitors, looked dangerous around the fringes.
Despite having all the possession in the first half, the Reds continued to make mistakes at key moments, be it knock-on, turnover or penalty. They had numerous opportunities to score, including several missed attacking lineouts, and were turned over three metres from the Hartpury line. The visitors, on the other hand, did not really offer anything in attack for the rest of the half, and were no doubt happy to go into the break level.
In the second-half things got worse for Jersey, as Ma’afu received a yellow card for a high tackle. Again Hartpury failed to mount an incisive assault on the Jersey line, and the Reds survived.
After the first half’s attacking issues, Brett Herron wisely opted to take a penalty shot, but it summed up Jersey’s day when his attempt rebounded off the post back into play.
James Newey was Jersey’s hero in the 57th minute, as Herron pulled up with an injury after sending a kick that did not make touch. The visitors returned the kick, and for a moment it looked as if no one was at home for the Reds with a trio of Hartpury players bearing down on the ball. Newey crossed the field from his wing, and expertly ushered his man out of play, allowing the ball to do the same.
The two sides traded disjointed attacks, but eventually Jersey won a penalty, and replacement fly-half Aaron Penberthy opted to take a shot. Again it was missed, and again Hartpury were let off.
It was pretty much a deadlock until the final minute, when Jersey conceded a penalty in front of their posts. Leeming scored and the pressure was on Jersey with one final attack. They won a penalty, but Jersey wanted to play for the win and stuck it in the corner.
In what was the cleanest lineout of the day for the Reds a maul was set before the ball was sent Mark Best’s way. He crashed forward followed by forwards Hatherell and Conor Joyce. The ball was sent wide and dynamic full-back Leroy Van Dam so nearly found a way through. It was quickly recycled and after three phases in midfield it was spun wide to the right where Newey, Best and Kock Marx had an overlap.
Agonisingly the ball escaped Newey’s grasp, and with the knock-on, the game was set for the visitors.
A famous win for Hartpury, a day to forget for the Reds.
Jersey Reds 1-15: Roy Godfrey (Morley 58), Charlie Maddison (Macfarlane 49), Lee-Roy Atalifo (Rodman 60), Jerry Sexton (c), Charlie Beckett (Hallam-Eames 68), Kyle Hatherell, Rory Bartle (Joyce 41), Janco Venter; Will Homer (Howley 49), Brett Herron (Penberthy 58); James Newey, Mark Best, Apakuki Ma’afu (YC 42), Koch Marx, Leroy Van Dam. Replacements: Harry Morley, Jack Macfarlane, Sam Rodman, Liam Hallam-Eames, Conor Joyce, Liam Howley, Aaron Penberthy.
Hartpury College 1-15: Dan Murphy, Will Tanner, Rupert Harden, Alex Craig, Simon linsell (c), Tom Dodd, Akapusi Qera, Sam Graham; Harry Cochrane, Sam Leeming; Tom Seabrook, Jack Tovey, Charlie Powell, Ben Foley, Mike Wilcox. Replacements: Luke Stratford, Des Merrey, Alex Gibson, Ehize Ezihode, Rob Langley, Charlie Chapman, Jack Reeves.