Jersey 45 Wharfedale 5
The lure of Jersey was seemingly irresistible. A 200-strong travelling Green army, some of them there for the week, were out in force – the largest-ever away contingent to descend on the Island, swelling the crowd to over 1,500 and astounding even a Club used to its holiday-status position and attraction.
Unfortunately, Jersey were equally irresistible on the field as Wharfedale’s first visit to the Channel Islands resulted in disappointingly comprehensive defeat, leaving the Greens uncomfortably propping up this ever more demanding table. If you need to get such disappointments out of your system then perhaps a few more away-days relaxing and sampling what other delights Jersey has to offer might be as good a way as any.
Jersey were in commanding charge throughout making early expert use of the windy conditions. They have had a tough week with a five-point deduction for player for breaching player eligibility rules and the sad news of a crippling car-crash injury to their prop James Ellershaw, so their bonus point win will certainly cheer their faithful.
Jersey had earned their promotion to National level the hard way – or at least the hard-edged way, gaining in the process a reputation for their half-backs drilling the corners and a powerful set of forwards doing the rest.
But missing one of the architects of such an approach in the aptly-named injured fly-half Broadfoot, the Islanders displayed an impressive mixture of, yes, hard-headed and hard-edged forward play but added non-stop pacey probing running expertly directed by half backs Mike Le Bourgeois and former Otley scrum half Dave McCormack.
Wharfedale with Will Bell starting at fly-half, Jordan Scott at last able to make his League debut on the right wing after his promising pre-reason showing, and Nick Taylor a late call-up at full-back paraded an unfamiliar look to the back line.
Well though the visitors defended – and in this respect they gave their gusty all – they were under relentless pressure and were on the back foot from the word go. Jersey were able to move continuous possession at speed and eventually deft three-quarter approach play found the inevitable gaps.
The Greens barely saw the ball for the first half hour by which time Jersey had run up 25 points with tries from Le Bourgeois, full-back Glenn Bryce and centre Donovan Sanders, with Le Bourgeois also adding two penalties and two conversions.
There was brief respite for the Greens when Simon Horsfall finished off a neat short-side break by prop Chris Steel to score in the corner but 15-5 was as close as Wharfedale were able to get.
Though the visitors hardly helped themselves by contriving to lose four line-outs in succession, admittedly to expert predatory opponents, in other respects they responded as resolutely as conditions allowed them.
But hampered, as Director of Rugby Michael Harrison emphasised, by a lack of primary possession, Wharfedale were unable to stem the flow even with a lessening wind advantage after the break or prevent further second-half scores. After shipping an early try, there was a brief period of calm when the Greens managed a bit of ball but never for long enough or in any true attacking position.
Prompted by fine probing play from McCormack, Bryce collected his second and impressive flanker Guy Thompson scored with winger-like speed before finally substitute flanker Kingsley Lang drove over. Le Bourgeois’ impressively sweet goal-kicking added a conversion and final penalty just before the end.
Wharfedale can gain some slim consolation from the fact that they have now already played all of the top sides, mostly away from the Avenue. Less happily they will rue to broken arm sustained by Steel.
But more primary set-piece possession is needed if they are to progress to winning ways back at home against fellow strugglers Cinderford. They are there at the bottom for the same reason as Wharfedale are, having played identical opposition – but they have run their opponents close in a way the Greens haven’t. Beefing up the front five with the backs supporting the set-piece effort and providing the platform for a back row assault from the loose is probably the short term option.
Wharfedale have suffered at the hands of some very good teams – none better in their blend of power and movement than Saturday’s side – and the top quality attractive cutting-edge rugby on offer has been well worth the spectators’ money. But Wharfedale’s moments of slackness and lack of authority have helped these sides on their way. The Greens do have in their own hands to turn things around. But it does need to happen quickly and next Saturday at home provides the chance as well as the challenge.
WHARFEDALE: N Taylor; S Jordan, D Hart, A Hodgson, S Horsfall; W Bell (T Barrett 46), P Woodhead (J Gough 56); C Steel (M Tampin 34), B Sowrey, N Dickinson (S Graham 46); R Brown (J Mason 60), R Rhodes; A Myers, D Solomi, R Baldwin (Capt)
JERSEY: G Bryce; A Maggs, J Copsey, D Sanders, B O’Brien; M Le Bourgeois, B McCormack; M Landick, C Clyde-Smith, J Brennan; N Hanney, J Br