Against Tottonians, a mediocre team of mediocre players, second from bottom of London-South West League Division III, they played so badly that they allowed the smallest player on the pitch – and a substitute at that – to score the winning try a minute into injury time.Once right winger Joe Jarvis had touched down, and after scrum-half Paul Goodall had converted from a wide angle out on the right, Dave Allen, the referee, blew his whistle and the game was over.Jersey left the pitch to a stunned silence.
Against all the odds, and leading 15-14, with five minutes to go, they had nearly stolen the game before Tottonians threw one last, hoofed clearance into the skies which Jarvis caught to run clear of a despairing tackle by Ross Allan to touch down.
Goodall converted and the visitors took the match 21-15.Not for the first time Jersey’s defence had been found wanting.
Not for the first time their threes had been terribly out of position.
Not for the first time Tottonians had found a way through.For sheer perseverance they deserved this win, but as coach Dai Burton said afterwards: ‘Full credit for Tottonians for scoring two good tries.
But they were a very ordinary side.
In all the years I’ve been up at the club I’ve never seen us play so badly.If I’d paid money to see this game I’d have demanded my money back.
If we can’t win games like this, we don’t deserve promotion.’He was almost apoplectic at the way his team had played the game.
Indiscipline – two players were sin-binned; poor tackling, poor positioning and appalling hesitancy in the threes meant that by half-time Jersey were rightly trailing, eight points down.And although they came back strongly in the second half, mainly through the efforts of their pack, the 200 spectators who know their rugby, realised that they were living in little pockets of inspiration.
There was no cohesion, no-one taking command, and, in the threes, only worry and uncertainty.’You cannot play as an individual in a 15-man game,’ was only one of the many comments Burton made afterwards.’We’ve known we’ve had a big game in us all season, and this was the one,’ is how Tottonians’ coach Bob Millard summed it all up.So which, of the two coaches, was nearest to the truth?Tottonians set the ball rolling after two minutes with a well-struck penalty.
After that, with 32 minutes played, Michael Dibden touched down for the visitors after the ball had been played along the threequarter line.With four minutes of the first half to come, Swift narrowed it to 8-3, with a penalty from inside the visitors’ 22.
But in terms of possession, Jersey should have been well up on Tottonians.However, only the pack were holding their own.
The threes looked like strangers to each other, and Tottonians, recognising this, were happy to let Jersey have the ball.
They were living off the crumbs of fumbled kicks, the dropped ball and indecisive running, so the half-time score reflected their coach’s comments as Goodall again increased the lead to 11-3 with a penalty for offside in front of the posts in the 41st minute.Thankfully, Jersey showed their real ability within three minutes of the restart when Bob Le Brocq passed the ball out from the right wing to Swift who in turn handed it on to Steve O’Brien who scored ten metres to the left of the posts.
It had been simply done, and Swift’s conversion, to make it 11-10, showed what basic, decent handling could do.However, by the 62nd minute Marcus Nobes and Roger Quirk had both been sin-binned, and Jersey were 14-10 behind following another Goodall penalty.Jersey were clinging on, not to a win, but a defeat, before Andy Allan and Danny McAllister carved an opening in the Tottonians’ defence to put in the latter for a try, made by the pack.And somehow, from being eight points behind Jersey were now in front and bossing the game.With the inclusion of Nick Mildenhall in the threes, they even began to look more like a 15-man unit, and in the last ten minutes were camped in the Tottonians’ half, twice seeing reasonable penalty chances drifting wide, before that final hoof, by the Tottonian’s stand-off, which was caught and run up field for Jarvis to score.On balance, Dai Burton’s analysis of the game was probably the most accurate.
Rarely over the last ten years has a Jersey team played so badly.
But Tottonians, who will struggle to survive in this division, had their day.
They deserved to win because Jersey deserved to be beaten.
Harsh words, perhaps – but then as Bob Millard might say: ‘every dog must have its day.’Jersey: Marcus Nobes, Bob Le Brocq, Jon Brennan, Roger Quirk, Danny McAlister, John Allo, Andy Allan, Ian Henderson, Paul Nayar, Phil Walker, Mark Le Mottee, Jon Swift (Nick Mildenhall), Steve O’Brien, Ross Allan, Mark White.Tottonians: Matt Searle (Paul Veryard), Miles Northover, Tom Pearson, Mike Green, James Angove, Mark Amey, Gareth Edwards, Jason Jones, Paul Goodall, Martin Goodall, Richard Buck, Lee Brading, Aaron Nelson, Michael Dibden (Joe Jarvis), Elliott Green.The match day was sponsored by Coutts