IN sport, if you’re only as good as the team you beat, then Jersey Reds sent a surefire statement to title rivals Ealing Trailfinders as they fought tooth and nail to secure a crucial win at Bedford.
Dubbed a must-win ‘cup final-like’ test, there was a real sense of relief as Harvey Biljon’s side mustered a 26-19 win during a second half full of hand-in-the-mouth moments.
As the sun beat down on Bedford’s historic Goldington Road stadium – often a bogey place for the Reds – a late try by vice-captain Macauley Cook set up an exciting summit clash against Championship leaders Ealing this coming Saturday, at St Peter.
Jersey also became only the second team this season, alongside Ealing, to win away at Bedford, and director of rugby Biljon was full of emotion and tears at the end.
After a wild 80-minute ride, he said: ‘There was a fair bit of anxiety in the group because we’ve been really focused on this game, we knew how dangerous Bedford are, and as we got closer to it during the week, the nerves built as that realisation dawned on us just how important this game was.
‘It was tight at half-time, it was tight at 60 minutes, but the way the team went about their business … it may have taken us until the 75th minute, but when we really needed to, we finished it off and produced a crucial bonus-point win. We came through it and I’m immensely proud of the players and our performance.’
On the manner of how Cook and several senior players stepped up against Bedford, Biljon said: ‘There were a fair few performances out there that we can be really proud of, and the impact of our bench was important.
‘Macca, after a few weeks off, coming straight back in and playing, he showed real class and that’s brilliant, and let’s not take away the emotion of the day, with Max Argyle’s milestone 150th appearance too.
‘Goldington Road has been some venue to play at for this club, this win is as big as our one in 2014, when we had to win to survive, so it really was a big old game.’
Jersey’s latest victory sets up a potential title-decider at home this weekend. With two rounds of the 22-game season to go, Ealing sit just one point ahead of the Islanders.
We’ll stick to the same process as all season,’ Biljon added. ‘If the guys perform, then it will take care of itself.’
Meanwhile, Jerseyman Michael Le Bourgeois, a player-coach at Bedford, said: ‘We’re pretty gutted. The sun came out, it was perfect weather for us, and we felt we had the opportunities.
‘Looking at Jersey Reds, you can see why they’ve been so strong this season. Their pressure forced us to become loose and make mistakes. They’ve come a long way since I came through the ranks there and left.
‘Everyone will be watching them go head-to-head with Ealing. I’ll struggle to remain neutral and it will be exciting for the whole Island.’