Timely scores utlimate undoing in Channel Islands
Cardinals struck out on their inaugral 'international' losing 26-10 to Jersey Athletic 2xv.
Pioneering where an Esher 1xv has yet to visit (hopefully thats next season in the Championship!) the squad met in Gatwick South Terminal at early dawn for the first flight out.
Injuries and unavailability of first choice Cardinals offered opportunities for a number of 3xv Development squad players to step up, and they showed no fear as the game kicked off in a mixed bag of sun, sleet, rain (horizontal and vertical) and sun again (oh and wind!).
A ferocious first few minutes had Cardinals sitting back defending deep in their 22 as they struggled to get ball such was the intent of Jersey to get the first score, but, after a fine exit, Esher found themselves more in control, the pack dominating the scrum all afternoon, and from an ensuing, multiphased pick and drive game, eventually brought the first (unconverted) score on 9 mins to Captain Richard Smart wide to the left hand side of the posts.
Following the restart, an Esher lineout was awarded 10m from its own line. A spark of inventiveness from centre Jamie See cued up fly half Freddie Strange and fellow centre Rhys Howells to move the attack wide. Howells deceptive turn of pace exploited a soft inside shoulder from the covering midfield defence and he accelerated 30m before pushing the flat outside pass to fullback Georges Berthonneau whose direct run was never going to be stopped for the second try in 2 minutes. So something of a shell shock to the vociferous home crowd of over 300 including Jersey's full time 1xv, wathcing after their final training run.
Jersey then patiently worked a long period of possesion and were eventually rewarded when the scrumhalf sniping outside guard, found a chink in the ruck defence midway through the first half.5-10.
Tails now up, a second jersey try soon followed despite desparate cover defence almost saving the day, and Jersey nudging ahead with a wide out conversion 12-10.
A minor altercation minutes later saw both sides reduced to 14 for the final passage of the first half and it was down the underdefended blindside that Jersey found their third score bang on the 40th minute. Coverted and leaving Esher with no time to respond, the half drew to a close 19-10.
With the weather conditions changing by the minute and the game certainly well within reach, a renewed vigour from Esher threatened early on and despite the heavy pitch, early start and inexperience of some at this level, the confidence grew visibly. But in fact no one scored... for 39 and a half minutes, when, with the cruelest of blows and Esher going all guns to get within a losing bonus point, a turned over ball and a slipped tackle midfield saw the final act - a 4th bonus point try for Jersey and a desparately disappointed Esher squad out on their feet.
Two critically timed scores were ultimately the dagger in the heart.
Jersey proved themselves a difficult a determined opposition who it must be remembered face the same travel challenges every 2nd week throughout the season.
Despite the result, the whole day was a great experience.
The hospitality from Jersey was outstanding. Everyone catered for, a great lunch for 200 while watching the "other" international, Captains speeches, Champagne awarded for the Men of the match and a shuttle to and from the airport.
Special thanks goes out to Coach Dai Burton, Chairman Chris Scott and Organiser extraordinaire Kate Innes for all the build up logisitcs and in making us so welcome.
We hope our return match at Molesey Road in March will be just as entertaining.
1. Pellet, 2. Ives, 3. Coutts, 4. Perks, 5. Bristow (Dev), 6. Campell, 7. Cooper (Dev), 8. Smart (C), 9. MacManus, 10, Strange, 11 Olima, 12 See, 13. Howells, 14. Curtis, 15. Berthonneau
16 Daws (Dev) (for Pellet, 20min), 17 Baffour (for Curtis, 50min) 18 Udoma (for See, 50min), 19. Druce (Dev) (for Berthonneau, 40min), Davolls (Dev) (for MacManus 60 min)
Tries: Smart, Berthonneau
MoM (Esher) Matt Perks, Tommy Turner (Jersey)