Athletic stutter to victory

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Another home Shield premier division victory for Jersey’s leading amateur team . . . but not a performance they will take much pleasure from.

Facing a hard-working, but strictly limited Cinderford side, who carried little attacking threat other than the boot of stand-off Ben Wraithe, this fixture was ready made for a try-laden flourish before the main dish of the day was served at St Peter in the form of the B&I Cup semi-final. But while that match had a superb performance and awful result, Athletic did the opposite . . . gaining revenge for an away defeat, but probably turning in one of their worst home shows for seasons.

They were still worth the win, in fairness – three tries to none tells the tale, yet the consistently high standards they set at home failed to travel the short distance from Stade Santander to Les Quennevais.

Head coach Myles Landick summed it up in one word: ‘Frustrating.’

With the Siam Cup now looming large in Guernsey at the start of next month, the chance to put hands up for a starting place was largely wasted, though lack of effort was not the problem.

Added Landick: ‘We had a really good week’s preparation for this game. It was fantastic. I don’t know if it was a change of scenery or what else … but it was poor.

‘We pulled through and won it after, how shall I say, they received the biggest ‘talking to’ I’ve given all season. That worked for a bit, but generally we didn’t do our phases, we didn’t look after the ball, we even started bickering between ourselves.

‘The positives are that we came away with a win. We would have liked five points, but had to make do with four. Cinderford are a dogged team, but we thought we could have kicked on and put up a decent score today.

‘Focus now turns to a massive game against Ampthill this Saturday.’

Athletic could hardly have had a better start to the game, with full-back Scott McClurg crossing the visitors’ line in the opening exchanges. But no consistent pressure was built up and Cinderford soon reduced the lead to two points with the first of Wraithe’s three successful penalty kicks. Unsuallly for Shield teams, Cinderford were keen to go for the posts no matter how far out the chance was.

Athletic, unfortunately, continued to give them the opportunity with indiscipline and Wraithe kicked the Gloucester boys into a 6-5 lead – and that was soon followed by two sin-binnings for the home pack, lock Ed Howgate, already on a warning, was deemed offside; then flanker Alex Budd talked himself into an enforced ten-minute break.

Cinderford’s Wraithe stretched their lead following the last misdemeanor, but after turning around 5-9 down, Athletic did improve.

Slick work from Simon Johnson, McClurg and centre Nathan Rogers resulted in a lineout maul on the far left, with flanker Tim Corson touching down to give Athletic a one-point lead.

Landick brought his bench into play and Athletic looked a little livier for a short while, with Johnson stretching the home lead with a penalty on 65 minutes. But the only glimpse of Athletic at their best was soon to come, with Johnson and Rogers again impressive in setting up George Willmott for a rampaging run through the Cinderford defence where he scored to the left of the posts.

Athletic will need much more of the latter to thrive this weekend against Ampthill – and Guernsey the following week.

Jersey Reds Athletic 18

Tries: McClurg 2; Corson 51; Willmott 70

Pen: Johnson 69

Cinderford A 9

Pens: Wraithe 5, 28, 38

Athletic: Chris Pople, Anthony Pitcher, Ewan Davies, Harrison Berresford, Ed Howgate, Alex Budd, Tim Corson, George Willmott; Liam Rhodes, Simon Johnson; Dom Henstridge, Adam Spencer, Nathan Rogers, Dan Lezala, Scott McClurg. Replacements: George Thomas, David Felton, Richard Vetier, Euan Spencer, Max Harrington, Will Falle.

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