It was an early start on Saturday morning for the Highlanders, with a 6am meet at Gatwick Airport for the short flight to Jersey.
Having returned to the summit of the table, after a victory at home against Ampthill & District 2s weeks beforehand, the Highlanders were looking to continue their positive run on the road away at Jersey Athletic.
However, the weather conditions were not so positive. With howling winds and torrential rain from the moment the boys stepped off the plane, it was clearly going to be a game where whoever played the conditions correctly and won the territory battle, that would determine the winner.
The Scots started the brighter of the two teams with the majority of both territory and possession. A couple of linebreaks and a run down the blindside from openside flanker, Alec Corcoran helped Scottish camp in the Jersey half for the first 10 minutes. The Jersey defence held strong however and weathered the proverbial storm from the Scots, who couldn’t convert their pressure into points and left scoreless.
The game then swung the other way. Jersey spent the next 30 minutes of the first half camped inside the Scottish 22. It was at this point that the first half began to unravel for the Highlanders.
After a period of sustained pressure, key play maker and fly half, Basil Strang went off injured with a torn Hamstring. Moments later Fullback, Tom Firth was stretchered from the field with a serious neck injury. Finally after several stoppages in play the game gathered some continuity and the Jersey pack began to build some momentum.
Under pressure the Highlanders gave away several consecutive penalties, eventually resulting in Tighthead, Ewan McQuillin being sent to the sin bin after being offside.
The deadlock was finally broken 5 minutes from the end of the half when a Jersey driving maul bundled over the line. Just before the end of the first half Jersey replicated their first try, once again using their extra man to push a driving maul over the Scottish line. A successful conversion left the score at the end of the first half 12-0 to Jersey Athletic.
The second half started much the same as the first half started, with the Scots in control and in the Jersey half. This time however, the Scots converted pressure into points. After a scintillating break from Centre, Connor Hayhow, and some tactical kicks from his centre partner Joe Luca Smith the Highlanders forced Jersey back onto their own line. For the supporters on the sidelines it was déjà vu of the first half, this time it was Scottish’s turn to capitalise on some forward dominance in the scrum.
McQuillin was making up for his earlier yellow card by dominating the Jersey Loosehead and sending the Reds’ scrum into reverse somewhat redeeming himself, when the Jersey pack saw their Loosehead sent to the bin. Scottish forced the scrum over the line and a successful conversion from Joe Luca Smith made the scores 12-7.
Unfortunately that would be the only score of the game for the Scots. With somewhat of a 20 minute stalemate the Highlanders found themselves chasing the game, however some fantastic tactical kicking from the Jersey fly half lead to another score for Athletic. The conversion was unsuccessful taking the score to 17-7.
With 2 minutes left on the clock the Jersey fly half kicked a penalty to take the score to 20-7 and secure a certain victory for the home side.
Jersey Athletic must be applauded, they took control of the terrible conditions and astutely kicked to the corners using the blowing wind at Stade Santander International.
With 2 games in hand over table leaders Old Elthamians, the Scottish boys will be looking to bounce back and secure 2 vital wins to return to the top of the table.
Written by Josh Barton (1st XV Scrum Half)