‘Bizarre’ goodbyes at St Peter

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The director of rugby remains adamant his squad could have retained their position in the upper echelons of the Championship had the final weeks of the 2019/20 campaign not been cancelled by the RFU. The governing body scrapped all remaining rugby from the second-tier down following the coronavirus outbreak in the UK, while keeping the Premiership open for business and on course for resumption in July.

Jersey ended up settling for seventh after league tables were decided on a points-per-game basis – their lowest finish in five years. However, their remaining fixtures offered Biljon strong hope of improvement. The Reds were due to host Ampthill, Hartpury and Bedford at home and travel away to Nottingham, London Scottish, Cornish Pirates, Yorkshire Carnegie and Coventry.

‘If you look at the nine games we had left, with no disrespect to the other teams, I think we had already played the toughest games we were going to play all season,’ he said. ‘Like the Ealings and the Newcastles home and away.

‘I was really looking forward to the back end of the season and I was pretty confident we’d have remained a top-four team, with the makeup of who we had left to play. That was disappointing, and then there’s also us wanting to say goodbye to players in the right way. Everyone would have wanted to say goodbye with their team-mates and supporters out on the field, celebrating everything they have achieved over the last few years with them. Not having the opportunity to do that, or hold our end-of-season awards dinner … it’s a bit bizarre.’

Asked who he would have chosen for coach’s player of the season, Biljon replied: ‘I thought Will Homer was up there. Josh Bainbridge would have been up there, Rory Bartle would have been up there … there were a few who stood out.’

Around half of the professional squad have already ‘signed off’ with the Reds, despite their contracts not officially expiring until the end of June. Biljon says many will now have made contact with their new clubs, although he added that Covid-19-related uncertainty and furloughing have slowed the progress of at least one outbound player.

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