Championship champions! Jersey Reds win the league title

Championship champions! Jersey Reds win the league title
Jersey Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon will celebrate 10 years with the Reds next season

This was special. Really special. Like, right up there as one of the best sporting success stories Jersey has ever seen special. There were more than a few emotional teary eyes at St Peter, and there'll certainly be more than a few sore heads tomorrow, after Jersey Reds lifted the Championship trophy.

Heading into the final day of the league campaign in the knowledge that any win over Ampthill would be enough to secure the title, the Reds weren't about to let this one slip through their fingers. Roared on by a crowd of around 3,000, tries from Eoghan Clarke, Tomi Lewis, Will Brown, Huw Owen, Brendan Owen, James Hadfield and Adam Nicol were enough to kick-start the party, helping the hosts to a 43-15 victory. It looks straight-forward but they were made to work for it.

In April 2012, while working for the BBC, I wrote an article entitled "the rise and rise of an island side". It chronicled Jersey's run of four promotions in five seasons up through the rugby pyramid to the Championship. Just seven years earlier the islanders had been plying their trade in London South West Division Three. The rise to the second tier had been rapid, but what next?

Prospects of a further promotion looked slim, particularly with the Premiership's strict ground capacity criteria, so what was the big aim now? To start with, it was survival. Relegation battles in 2013 and 2014 followed, the latter of which saw a great escape on the final day of the campaign, climbing off the foot of the table with a high-pressured win at Bedford. But, bit-by-bit in the years to follow the Reds got a foothold at this level, improving year-on-year, place-by-place, to remarkably become title challengers earlier than even the chairman Mark Morgan expected.

The two-horse race with Ealing Trailfinders this season has been an enthralling one. Those who watched the Reds beat Ealing 19-13 last weekend will remember that atmosphere for some time. The victory set up this final day theatre - the Reds knowing a win over mid-table Ampthill would be enough for a first piece of silverware in more than a decade, with Ealing away at Doncaster Knights hoping for a slip up in the Channel Islands.

Jersey Reds have not lost a home league match since February 2022.

There was to be no slip up. Harvey Biljon's side were behind after 90 seconds, though, when Ampthill scrum half Lewis Finlay spotted a gap in the Jersey line and darted through to open the scoring. It certainly reinforced the message, straight up, that Jersey were in a real game here. Wakey-wakey.

Ampthill, led by former Reds forward Charlie Beckett on his last outing for the club, battled valiantly throughout but were 24-10 behind at the break. The hosts dominated possession and territory. First-half tries from hooker Clarke and winger Lewis, both from close range, were added to by a lovely score from Brown in the corner, and then Huw Owen's try on the stroke of half time to wrap up the bonus point.

As news filtered through that Ealing had secured a 35-14 win at Doncaster Knights it further focussed the minds and gave clarity to Biljon's men. A straight-forward equation - a win was required to see the title heading to the Channel Islands.

Second-half scores from Brendan Owen and replacement front-rows Hadfield and Nicol were enough. More than enough. The Reds finish the season on a stunning 100 points with just one league loss against their name, putting them two points clear of second-placed Ealing.

When Jersey won promotion to this level in 2012, their most-recent trophy before today, I was on air on BBC Radio Jersey. I bellowed down the mic, "Crack open the Champers, it's the Championship for little old Jersey". Not so "little" now, are they? Maybe just one more glass off champers before bed though...

Jersey Reds: Brendan Owen, Tomi Lewis, Alex McHenry, Dan Barnes, Will Brown, Russell Bennett, James Elliott, Huw Owen, Eoghan Clarke, Stevie Longwell, Sean O’Connor, Macauley Cook, Max Argyle, Lewis Wynne (c), James Dun. Replacements: James Hadfield, Sam Grahamslaw, Adam Nicol, James Scott, Alun Lawrence; James Mitchell, Jordan Holgate, Ben Woollett.

Ampthill: Tom Bacon, Conor Rankin, Tom Hitchcock, Gwyn Parks, Alex Harmes, Tom Hardwick, Lewis Finlay, Sam Crean, Matt Gallagher, Aleki Lutui, Charlie Beckett (c), Harry Wilson, Fyn Brown, Josh Smart, Morgan Strong. Replacements: Syd Blackmore, Jevaughn Warren, Dom Hardman, Cai Devine, Paddy Ryan, Gavin Williams, Josh Bragman, Josh Skelcey.

Attendance: 2,767

Star Player: Huw Owen (Jersey Reds)

Referee: Mike Hudson