Reds enjoy day in the sun with thrilling victory

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THE phrase ‘defining moment’ is tossed around in sport too frequently.

But, for Jersey Reds’ single point success over bogey side Ealing, the term falls short of doing them justice.

The Caesareans welcomed their rivals to St Peter for Championship Cup action, with the outfits separated by just a single point in RFU Championship table.

Ealing won the reverse fixture 43-22 on Christmas Eve, extending their winning run over Jersey to 11 games, prior to the host’s heroic efforts to end the streak by the slimmest of margins.

The Trailfinders were in the midst of a dip in form and it showed early. In all truth, both sides struggled to impose their will, with a cagey opening which highlighted the fixture’s importance.

However, the hosts drew first blood from a five-metre line-out which was secured, before an opening appeared for James Hadfield to cross the line midway through the first half.

The crowd perked up, and so did the Reds.

Moments later, Jersey benefitted from strong work in the maul, mixed with brilliant ball handling to find James Dun for a score near the posts.

The Islanders were oozing confidence, and inflicted further pain when Brendan Owen’s timely offload to Ben Woollett gave him room to run on the right.

The latter then fed Russell Bennett who returned the favour for Woollett to grab the score.

Jersey were purring. Ealing toiling.

Bennett added the extras as he did for both the tries that preceded.

Just as life looked all rosy for the hosts, a dubious yellow card for a deliberate knock-on sent Sean O’Connor to the sin bin, just before the break.

Ealing immediately punished the shorthanded side for a converted try to head in 21-7 down.

The Championship leaders continued to press after the break and began to show their class, as scrum half Craig Hampson parted the ‘Red Sea’ to score a converted try with a 30-metre run, five minutes into the half.

Jersey looked more comfortable once numerical parity was restored, but could not add any additional points after a prolonged spell in the Ealing 22, which led to prop James Gibbons receiving a yellow for accumulation.

The fouls continued, but much to the dismay of the Reds faithful, no additional yellow followed, nor a penalty try.

Ealing added three more by way of Craig Willis’ boot from a penalty, before winger Nathan Earle turned on the afterburners to score and hand his side their first lead of the contest, at 22-21.

Just as another opportunity looked like it had passed Jersey by, they rose from the ashes.

In fairytale fashion, replacement Charlie Powell, who was only named due to a warm-up injury to Jordan Holgate, began the move.

His burst through the middle was neatly offloaded to Woollett, who seemed to be everywhere for 80 minutes.

The latter ate up the best part of 50 metres before a couple of phases later, the gap opened up for Dan Barnes to score and send the crowd into delirium with seven minutes remaining.

Bennett again added the extras to make it four from four, which would prove pivotal.

The fly-half had the chance to ice the game moments later, but a challenging penalty effort dropped wide.

In a game that had it all, there was bound to be a twist.

The Trailfinders found a moment of genius as time expired to carve through the defence to reduce the deficit to one.

But Willis was unable to add the extra two from a tight angle, as the supporting locals breathed a cathartic sigh of relief.

Contextually, the win leaves Jersey just a single point behind Ealing in Pool A with matches against Hartpury (A) and Nottingham (H) still to go, starting with the former this weekend.

Just the one side from four advance to the semi-finals, with an additional spot granted to the best runner-up from across the three pools.

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