Guildford Rugby Club

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Jersey 22 -29 Guildford

Saturday 26th January 2024

What goes on tour goes on Facebook

Team: Zac Rodber; Ben Bushell, Ben Roberts, Ollie Millward (YC 58), Blair Norton; Liam Driscoll, Ieuan Jones; Jon Karimian, Jacob Jones, Alex Hankins (capt), Alex Burrill, Flynn Crean, Harrison Phillips, Joe Garner. Replacements: Lewis Gunn, Briarly Brown, Matt Poole 

Photo credit:  Jacquie Ranieri, Jersey RFC

Another new ground this season is St Peter in Jersey, where Guildford took on the amateur side for the first time in about 10 seasons. Previously both sides met when Jersey were on their way up the leagues before reaching the Championship.  Their former second team has been entered into the London and Southeast League structure and have had consecutive promotions in the last 4 seasons where they have been unbeaten for 36 games.  Since the demise of Jersey Reds there is only an amateur team on the island so there was a good crowd in attendance for this game.

Guildford showed a much changed side from the last outing against Newbury with several returning players including Zac Rodber and Liam Driscoll at fullback and fly half respectively and, after a long term injury, the welcome return of Matt Poole on the bench.  It was also Ben Bushell’s last game for a while as he heads off on a gap year, his versatility will be missed, happy travels Ben!

There was a large travelling party of Guildford supporters, including a strong group of Vets, who earlier that day lost a hard fought curtain raiser against Jersey Vets, possibly due to their investment in karaoke and beers the night before?  Several Gazelles also travelled to support the team, using the trip as a warmup for their game against Dartford on Sunday – and to mark the departure of Harmony Driver who is heading to Australia for a few months, happy travels Harmony!  This meant that the Guildford 1st XV were welcomed with much cheering as they ran out onto the pitch.

Jersey kicked off into the breeze on a very sunny but cold afternoon.  Guildford dealt with it well and had the better of the early exchanges, keeping the ball well and generated quick ball which was used well by the halfbacks with Liam Driscoll looking to move it wide whenever possible.  Guildford made some good yards from straight running and good footwork before contact.

From a penalty to Guildford the kick was put into the Jersey 22. The lineout was well executed, with Jacob Jones finding his man and the maul set up. Jersey aren’t able to hold the drive and Guildford march forward.  The ball is released to Ieuan Jones who heads for the corner, the defence just manages to stop him before he reaches the line, an offload inside to Joe Garner means Guildford cross for the first try of the day which is met by a stunned silence from the home crowd, but wild cheers from the Guildford travelling support. The conversion is missed, so after 7 minutes the score is 0 – 5.

Jersey try and respond with their first attacking phase, but after several drives from the forwards they were called back for a forward pass when trying to move the ball wide.  It was starting to become obvious that this current Jersey team were a very different side from when these two teams last met back in October at Broadwater when Jersey ran out 29 – 47 winners, they were lacking in pace, power and attacking threat.

It was evident the Guildford players could sense that the opposition were not as strong as they had anticipated.  They seemed to grow in confidence every time they had the ball, using footwork to get past the first defender and looking to offload to the supporting player making good yards in the process.  Good ball for the Guildford halfbacks meant they were able to control the game, Ieuan Jones putting in several hanging box kicks that enabled the chasing players to put the catcher under a lot of pressure, all of which contributed to his Man of the Match performance.

After the Jersey 6 was shown a yellow card by the referee, Guildford worked their way into the Jersey 22 and after some good lineout work and strong running in the centre, where Ollie Millward was doing some sterling work as a late replacement for Alex Jordan who was unwell, the ball was moved wide for Zac Rodber to run in unopposed for Guildford’s second try after 25 minutes.  The conversion was missed again and the score moved on to Jersey 0 – 10 Guildford.

From the restart we saw flashes of the Jersey side from earlier in the season, making it clear that there is still a lot for Guildford to do in this game. A turnover in the middle of the field sees the ball moved out to the impressive Rodber who made good ground down the left wing, passing the ball inside to Ieuan Jones who is tackled just short of the tryline.

After a period of pressure on the Jersey tryline and two goaline dropouts due to the ball being held up over the line a lovely darting, jinking run from Driscoll, reminiscent of Welsh fly half’s of old, results in him chipping ahead, regathering his kick and crossing over for Guildford’s third try of the day.  The conversion was good so after 33 minutes it was Jersey 0 – 17 Guildford.

Guildford’s confidence is now sky high, lots of pressure and clever kicking behind the defence causes all sorts of trouble at the back.  After some more good interplay between backs and forwards Ben Roberts touched down for Guildford’s fourth try and secured the bonus point.  Again the wind prevented a successful conversion but the score moved on to Jersey 0 – 22 Guildford.

Jersey were back to 15 as the yellow card was spent and Joe Garner had to leave the field with a calf injury, which we hope doesn’t keep him out for too long.  This fourth try prompts Jersey into action and they have their longest period of possession in the game.  After a lot of good work from the forwards, the ball is moved wide to the fullback who is in acres of space on the outside and runs over to open the Jersey scoring.  The conversion was missed, and the score was Jersey 5 – 22 Guildford.

Deep into injury time Jersey worked to create space on the outside and score in the opposite corner.  The conversion is missed, and the score moves on to Jersey 10 – 22 Guildford.  The referee blows his whistle for half time with Guildford deservedly ahead at the break.

Guildford kick off the second half and it isn’t long before Matt Poole makes an appearance which was good to see after his long layoff.  Guildford have the wind at their backs and they make good use of it to dominate the territory and keep Jersey pinned in their own 22.  Some good kicking from Ieuan, Liam and Zac keep the pressure on.

It is from a 50-22 from a massive kick by Zac Rodber that sets up the lineout and Guildford drive through the forwards setting up quick ball that enables Ieuan to dive over at a ruck just on the tryline to get Guildford’s 5th try.  After a delay getting the kicking tee on, Ieuan decides to drop kick the conversion which is successful, and the score is Jersey 10 – 29 Guildford after 10 minutes of the second half.

Guildford were starting to look comfortable but a succession of penalties and a yellow card for Ollie Millward was allowing Jersey back into the game and they worked another converted try, taking the score to Jersey 17 – 29 Guildford after 25 minutes played.

As is becoming something of a regular event, it was time for strange decision of the game. The Guildford restart went straight into touch, everyone in the ground thought that Jersey had opted for the scrum as the players converged on the centre spot.  The Jersey winger and fullback had a different idea and took a quick throw in. The winger set off down the touchline and scored an unconverted try to make the score Jersey 22 – 29 Guildford.  As to be expected, there was some discussion about this after the game.  Some of the players were of the opinion that the ball had been touched by someone in the crowd so a quick throw couldn’t be taken, and others claimed that Jersey had indicated that they wanted the scrum.  In either event the referee decided that the try was good, and that is all that matters.

The restart is kept infield this time and Guildford do well to keep a tight defence and play for territory meaning that Jersey will have to score from deep.  The tension in the ground is rising for the last 10 minutes of the game.  When Guildford are awarded a penalty in the Jersey 22, they opt for the shot at goal which would give them a little bit more room, but the attempt was missed.   Jersey look to move the ball, but it is knocked on and to the great relief of the Guildford players and supporters the referee blows the final whistle, final score Jersey 22 – 29 Guildford.

All in all, a very good display from Guildford on the road and even more impressive in ending the home team’s 36 game unbeaten run in their own backyard.  What is needed now is to take this confidence into next week’s game at home against Witney.  Last time out Guildford managed to squander a 21-5 half time lead and lose 26-24, they will be hoping for a much better showing this time out.

Mike Burden

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