‘Let’s kick Ealing into touch’

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A RALLYING call has been sent out from the home of Island rugby, ahead of arguably the most significant fixture in Jersey Reds’ history.

Harvey Biljon, the club’s director of rugby, says his players will need the backing of as many supporters as possible at St Peter tomorrow [2pm kick-off] as they attempt to leapfrog season-long leaders Ealing Trailfinders and take control of the Championship.

With just one week of the 2022/23 league season remaining, the clubs are separated by a single point in a title race that has attracted national interest.

No prize money is on offer for the champions and promotion from the second tier is not available to either side – due to strict, widely criticised regulations imposed on new Premiership teams by the RFU – but that does not detract from the desire to top the pile.

Everyone at Stade Santander craves a first piece of silverware since the club turned professional 11 years ago.

Biljon, who helped steer Jersey clear of relegation on the final day of 2013/14, said: ‘We’ve had fantastic support all season but if there’s ever an opportunity for our supporters to get behind the team, it’s this weekend.

‘To date, the biggest game I’ve probably had was Bedford away in 2014 and winning that, because had we not got that right we would never be in this position right now. There are other big games, like going to Bristol and beating Bristol [2018], and the B&I Cup final [2017] is up there, but I do think from a league position, and from a club-history perspective, this has got to be the standout fixture.

‘If we get this right … think where we were nine years ago, about to be relegated … I know we can’t get promoted because of the criteria but in essence we’re that close to bringing one of the leading club competitions in the world to Jersey, to our Island. [The Championship winners] should, rightfully, be at the top of the game.’

Ealing and Jersey have been playing a game of cat and mouse for the majority of the season but tomorrow’s contest is likely to be the Reds’ best chance to pounce. Victory will not hand the hosts the title – they must still beat Ampthill at home next weekend – but it will place the ball firmly in the Islanders’ court.

However, a heavy win for Ealing would hand them the title there and then.

‘The word is “pressure”,’ said Biljon. ‘We’ve had it over the last four or five weeks and it culminated last weekend [26-19 win at Bedford Blues]. It was 12-12 at half time and there was anxiety in the dressing room because we recognised the magnitude of the game. We just had to stick to what we’d been doing in training and it came through in the end, and that’s kind of where we need to be this weekend.

‘We must recognise that we don’t need to do anything special. What we need to do is be Jersey Reds; back and trust our training programme, our detail and everything we’ve worked on every single week. We must stick to that and not try to do something new.

‘We’ve started to find this season that we’re becoming a cup final for a lot of teams. They want to beat Jersey Reds and that’s a great place to be, but we have got to learn that everyone wants to lift their game against us. That’s maybe where Ealing have an edge on us, in terms of experience, because in the last two or three seasons they’ve been in these big games.’

He added: ‘There will be times in the game when things go our way – let’s hear the crowd. There will be times when it goes against us – we need them behind us then as well.’

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