A freezing cold Lady Bay was the stage for an intense battle on Friday night. Despite the loss and no bonus point, Nottingham can hold their heads high as they gave the still unbeaten Jersey Reds an extremely tough game.
It was the driving maul which proved to be the Achilles heal of an otherwise outstanding performance from the men in Green an White, as Jersey scored four of their five tries through that particular move.
Nottingham started the game as the stronger side. In the opening minute, the captain Josh Poullet found space to run on the right hand side. However, with the defence bearing down on him, he tried an offload which was mishandled, giving Jersey a scrum.
Just a couple of minutes later, Ryan Olowofela had space on the opposite wing inside the 22. He tried to chip it over the top of the defensive line and chase after it. However, he had put a little too much on the kick and the ball bounced over the dead ball line.
The home team eventually got off the mark when they were awarded a penalty right in front of the posts which Morgan Bunting slotted.
However, it didn’t take long for Jersey to respond. They quickly won a penalty of their own which they kicked to the corner. The driving maul from the lineout was of course the go to move, and TJ Harris pushed over the line for the first try of the game.
Nottingham kept coming though. Some nice physical play set up Javiah Pohe to chip over the top. Olowofela claimed it and waltzed over the line to give Nottingham the lead.
Craig Hammond’s men weren’t about to take their foot of the gas either. Another great attack was only ended when Bunting tried another cheeky chip over the top to David Williams, which unfortunately bounced out of play before the winger was able to get to it.
Despite Nottingham looking dangerous, Jersey were able to equalise, again through their hooker finishing off another driving maul. However, the conversion was shanked by Russell Bennett meaning the score was 10-10 going into halftime.
Jersey came out of the break lively, with Will Brown fresh off the bench dancing his way through the Nottingham defensive line to set up a Jersey attack. A few moments later and the Reds had a lineout which they, yet again, turned into a driving maul with Harris peeling off for his third try of the night.
Nottingham hit back though with a fantastic try. From the lineout at the halfway line, Javiah Pohe offloaded it to George Cox who broke through the defensive line. He was eventually caught, but Nottingham reset and got it out wide to Olowofela who finished it in the corner. Morgan Bunting couldn’t quite make the long kick so the Green and Whites still trailed by two.
However, with 15 minutes left, Jersey began to pull away. Once again with a driving maul which was this time finished off by Harris’ replacement, Eoghan Clarke.
Five minutes later, Brown did well to stay on his feet through a few Nottingham tackles to set up a great attacking opportunity for the visitors. Soon after, Jordan Holgate found a gap in the Nottingham defence and burst through it for the score, pretty much putting the game to bed.
Nottingham did get a try back, though. After a number of phases on the Jersey line with five minutes to go, David Williams found the gap and strolled through it for the try.
Chasing the bonus point try in the closing minutes, Sam Hollingsworth tried a risky crossfield kick deep in his own half, but it paid off. David Williams claimed it and broke away from the defence. He couldn’t quite get completely free though, so he attempted a grubber kick for Marcus Ramage to chase, but the recovering Jersey defenders cut it out and stopped any chance of a bonus point for the home side.
Despite two tough losses since the league returned, Nottingham still sit comfortably in the top half of the table as they head to Bedfordshire next weekend to take on Ampthill.