Rugby:Jersey off the mark, but still mis-firing

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But coach Dai Burton was still not a happy man.

We didn’t play to our strengths until midway through the first half,’ he said.

‘We took too long searching for a pattern.

And the penalty count was 18 against us and three against them.’If they’d had a kicker of Jon Swift’s calibre, we would have lost this game.

They had three kicks at goal from 40 yards out from four penalties conceded in the last ten minutes and could have won.

Too much indiscipline; our decision making was poor.’There would be other complaints against a Jersey side which has an excellent pack, but an erratic set of threes, although Burton’s main frustration seems to be that if ever all 15 players worked together as a team, they would be in the top half of the division, looking for promotion.As it is, they were hanging on towards the end, making it hard for themselves by poor kicking or by trying to run the ball out from their own 22.And yet there is so much to praise in a Jersey team which, potentially, is one of the best sides in this league.’Forward-wise we were on top and once we’d found a pattern we started to assert authority up front; we should have scored more points in the first 40 minutes,’ said Burton.Instead, they were 10-3 down at half-time, having exchanged penalties and having fallen foul of a London Irish try when their No 8, Aaron McGarry, took a short pass from veteran fly-half Sean Walsh which split the defence as he romped in under the posts from 20 yards.

Five minutes had gone and Walsh converted to make it 7-0.By midway through the half, however, Jersey’s pack was in the ascendancy, although any advantage they had was nullified time and again by referee Paul Crouch’s strange interpretation of the laws.

On 30 minutes prop Jon Brennan was given ten minutes in the sin bin for over-vigorous rucking.

In his absence Irish extended their lead to 10-0 with a penalty by Walsh.The Islanders were not daunted and forwards and backs combined in a 40-yard drive to the opposition 22 metre-line before Swift took three points when the ball was cynically killed at a ruck.The score was 10-3 at half-time.At the start of the second half, despite playing into the breeze, Jersey played a rolling, mauling game, and within five minutes it paid off.

After Paul Nayar and Swift neatly combined for the Jersey stand-off to put through a deft little grubber that could have led to a try, an Irish kick from defence was run back by full-back Mark White where good forward support and re-cycling produced the ball for White himself to crash over to the right of the posts.

Swift’s conversion made it 10-10.From the re-start, with 20 minutes remaining, Jersey took possession and put in a long clearance kick, only for the speedy Irish right winger, Kieron Little, to catch, chip over the defensive line, regather and outpace the cover for a try.

Walsh converted and it was 17-10.Kenny Moore replaced the injured Marcus Nobes at this stage and maintained the dominance in the set scrums.

A burst from inside centre Steve O’Brien from the halfway line saw Ian Henderson link with James Milner who was chopped into touch five metres out by a neck tackle which, amazingly, did not see the culprit put in the bin.

From a succession of attacking scrums Jersey built up the momentum and, from an Irish line-out, Jersey applied a blitz defence which led to Swift catching a mid-fielder in possession.

The ball went to ground allowing the Jersey stand-off to dribble over from two yards out.

After an excellent kick the same player converted to make it 17-17.Jersey’s pack were still in control but the home team, with wind advantage, kept putting play into the visitors’ half.

They also had those long-range penalty attempts and, on the stroke of time, seemed to have scored before the referee adjudged that the ball was held up and blew for time.

So, against a decent, but middling side, Jersey came away with a point and a 17-17 draw.’Once again it was a strange game,’ said Burton.

‘That will be one of the easiest packs we play against this year, but we make it hard for ourselves.’There are some superb athletes in this side, with the likes of Henderson and Allo, but it isn’t a team that gels.’One point from six suggests that Jersey could be looking for survival, not promotion, when Christmas comes, although Burton believes the best is yet to come.Jersey RFC: J Brennan, M Nobes (K Moore), D Brennan, R Quirk, D McAlister, I Henderson, P Dean, J Allo, P Nayar, J Swift, C Butler, S O’Brien, A Helmholt-Kneisel, J Milner, M White.

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