Jersey seal title and promotion with big win over Newbury Blues

Jersey seal title and promotion with big win over Newbury Blues
The win puts Jersey 17 points clear at the top of Regional 2 South Central

Jersey Rugby Club secured the title and celebrated promotion in style as Jack Macfarlane's hat-trick helped them to a 54-7 win over Newbury Blues at CoinShares Park.

Myles Landick's side went into the game with the confidence of having 17 wins from 18 in men's Regional 2 South Central behind them, and knowing a bonus-point victory would be enough to seal top spot with three games to spare.

But at 19-7 up, Jersey faced long spells either side of half time camped deep in their own 22. Concede then against a spirited Newbury and it might have been a different nerve-jangling story. The red defensive wall stayed strong though before a stunning last half hour which saw the hosts run away with the game.

The title and associated promotion ensure Jersey's rugby community ends the campaign with something to smile about after the cloud of professional side Jersey Reds going bust earlier in the season. Those dark days of Autumn 2023 were in direct contrast with the lighter, brighter mood around St Peter this afternoon as the island edges into Spring 2024.

Jersey Rugby Club have a points difference of +553 this season

With a good number of visiting supporters in a healthy attendance for tier six rugby, it was Jersey who started brightly in light drizzle, with Macfarlane crashing over from the back of a maul inside the opening four minutes. A carbon copy line-out move, almost as if an action replay of the first, saw the hooker claim his second and Landick's men were on their way.

When winger Nathan Rogers went over in the left corner to make it 19-0 it looked like the required bonus-point win would go on to be a formality. But the Blues, sat in 10th spot, showed excellent character to hit back through centre Oli Rhoads, who was quickest to collect a kick over the top and ran through to get his side on the scoresheet.

With the score at 19-7, the next points felt incredibly important. 19-14 at half time would have had Jersey fans rather concerned, and Newbury spent a long spell with multiple attacking scrums in the Jersey Bowl corner. But they could not breach the Jersey defence in their 10-minute periods on top either side of the interval, and the islanders took full advantage with a remarkably dominant spell of their own to close out the game.

Scrum-half Max Harrington went over thanks to his quick thinking from a penalty decision, clinching the bonus-point for the home side and getting the scoreboard moving again.

A sensational back-of-the-hand pass from the impressive Aaron Penberthy put wing Tom Bulfin in for Jersey's fifth try, with Penberthy then converting superbly from wide on the left to make it 33-7 with quarter of an hour to go. Replacement Sam Harvey finished an excellent move soon after as the hosts found another gear.

Jersey Rugby Club celebrate securing the league title
The win means it is back-to-back promotions for Jersey Rugby Club

The division's top try-scorer Macfarlane was the next to cross the line, going over from close range to complete his hat-trick, and make it 26 tries for him for the campaign.

Jersey average 49 points per league match this season, and they hit the half-century this time with the final phase of the contest, when full-back Charlie Hubert ran in for their eighth try to put the cherry on the cake. Penberthy added the extra two points for a winning margin that felt a little harsh on the visitors, but there could be no denying that the islanders absolutely deserved their win, their title and their promotion.

Jersey Women are also on the brink of promotion and could clinch their league title when they host Beckenham on 6 April.

Jersey Rugby Club: Charlie Hubert; Tom Bulfin, Scott Van Breda, Dom Mayo, Nathan Rogers; Aaron Penberthy, Max Harrington; Joe Ridgway, Jack Macfarlane, Tom Wilson; Euan Spencer, Jerry Sexton; Evan Whiston (c), Tom Tilstone, Tim Corson. Replacements: Ewan Davies, George Willmott, Sam Harvey.

Newbury Blues: Toby Thorne; Jacob Checksfield, Oli Rhoads, Ali Magee, Jamie Futcher; Dan Thorne (c), Euan Lindsy; Ben Hicks, Harry Waye-Branch, George Robinson-Slater; Alex du Sautoy, Ashley Doel; Jonny Lees, Dylan Stewart, Josh Winfield. Replacements: Robbie Drysdale, Duncan Craigen, Michael Klichowicz.