Leeds (H) 22.12.1222/12/2012
Jersey 20 Leeds Carnegie 17
by Tom Innes
Ben Harvey paid tribute to the character of his Jersey side as they produced a thrilling second-half comeback to defeat Leeds on a paddyfield of a pitch.
Jersey had trailed 3-10 at the break and their prospects looked bleak early in the second period, but two tries in six minutes around the hour mark turned the match on its head and proved enough for a crucial league win.
"It was a massive win for us - we have some great characters in our squad and that was what got us home today," Harvey said. "The conditions may have been a leveller in that they stopped Leeds using their pace, but the pitch also nullified our scrum to an extent.
"Of course the pitch was wet, but it was playable and definitely not dangerous - we've all played in conditions like that and you just have to try and adapt."
Jersey's pack made a powerful start to the game, forcing a series of reset scrums that culminated in a penalty, Mike Le Bourgeois slotting the kick. The fly-half missed an opportunity to double his side lead soon afterwards, and instead Leeds were level through Joe Ford's penalty.
When Jersey's Ashley Maggs attempted to control a kick through with his foot, the attempt went forward and was handled by his offside colleague Nicky Griffiths. This gave Leeds a penalty, and they attacked to great effect: first Jersey's Graham Bell was sin-binned for illegally stopping a series of powerful forward drives, and then the visitors spun quick ball wide from a scrum and David Doherty crossed against his former club. Ford's conversion was brilliantly judged, but his side couldn't register any further points with the extra man on the field and stayed seven clear at the break.
The second half began with Leeds monopolising territory and possession but, crucially, failing to score. Ford hooked a penalty attempt and the visiting players celebrated a 'try', but the ball was ruled to have been held up and eventually Jersey raised the siege.
A superb burst through midfield by Guy Thompson created room for Max Stelling to claim Jersey's opening try, and the home side's next serious attack, sparked by Ed Dawson and Dave Markham's run, the Leeds' pack had no answer to Jersey's power and conceded a penalty try.
When Jersey stretched their lead to 20-10 thanks to a second penalty from Le Bourgeois, the contest seemed to have been won, but this theory was shot down by Leeds' replacement wing Matt Clark, who launched an electric cross-field burst near half-way and then veered towards the corner before finding Doherty with a perfectly-timed scoring pass.
There was still time for a winning score but one promising effort ended in a handling error and Jersey held firm.
Leeds' Head Coach Diccon Edwards said: "I thought my players' attitude was outstanding, but we just lacked the clinical edge to stretch our lead at key times - we should have scored early in the second half and it would have been hard for Jersey to come back from that."
Harvey paid tribute to the St Peter crowd: "It was a fantastic turn-out, I didn't think we'd have that many and they made a huge difference, at the end you could really sense them getting behind the team, and it was great to deliver for them."
Jersey: Bryce, Maggs, Stelling, Bishop, Dawson, Le Bourgeois, Griffiths; McCarthy (Barrington 65), Felton (Clare 55), Brennan (Gethings 66), Hannay (capt) (Anderson 67), Markham, Bell, Lang (Nihill 61), Thompson. Replacements (not used): O'Brien, Sanders.
Leeds: McColl, Goss, Georgiou, Burdon, Doherty D, Ford (Clark 65), Doherty J (Hampson 72); Lockwood (Imiolek 67), Nilsen (Graham 57), Tussac (Hooper 65), Green, Barrow (Smith 75), Baldwin (Walker 62), Rowan (capt), Burrows.
Referee: Ross Campbell
Man-of-the-match: Graham Bell (Jersey)
Tries: Stelling 57, Penalty Try 63
Conversions: Le Bourgeois 57, 63
Penalties: Le Bourgeois 8, 73
Tries: Doherty 29, 75
Conversions: Ford 29, McColl 75
Penalties: Ford 22