REPORT: Jersey Reds 27 Leinster ‘A’ 29
April 21, 2018 / Dave Mervyn
The Leinster ‘A’ team produced an astonishing comeback in Jersey to give themselves the chance of lifting the British & Irish Cup for the third time in next month’s final.
A partisan home crowd at the St. Peter ground were silenced as Noel McNamara’s young squad showed great resolve to battle back from 19 points down, scoring a breathtaking three tries in seven minutes. Ciaran Frawley held his nerve with the final kick of the game to land the match-winning conversion, five metres from the touchline.
“These boys might run out of time, but they’ll never be beaten,” said a proud McNamara whose charges will face Ealing Trailfinders in the decider (venue and date to be confirmed). “They’ve been under the cosh several times this season, and were up against it today.
“We knew we would have to dig in, and Jersey took a lot out of us at the scrum and suffocated our ambition to run the ball, but the boys were relaxed at half-time and never lost belief. It’s great to have a final to look forward to – it’ll be a game to relish.”
The first half was scoreless for 35 minutes, but the visiting forwards were battling to compete at the set piece, and this eventually took its toll with two Leinster ‘A’ players sent to the sin-bin in quick succession – Ed Byrne for preventing quick ball at a ruck and Vakh Abdaladze for a scrum infringement.
The next scrum was uncontested, but Jersey had a seven-to-five numerical advantage in the backs, which enabled Kieran Hardy to find Tom Pincus with a long pass for the opening try.
Leinster ‘A’ countered with a Frawley penalty, but Tongan international Apakuki Ma’afu won the restart and a few phases later he broke the line and Hardy crossed for a try with the final play of the half, which ended 14-3.
After a lengthy injury break early in the second period, with Ma’afu stretchered off with a neck injury, the Reds stretched their lead with two Brendan Cope penalties. Peadar Timmins got a try back for the visitors soon after a storming run through the middle by prop Peter Dooley, but there seemed little hope for the province when winger Jason Worrall crossed for Jersey’s third try, which was converted to make it 27-8.
A physical contest on a hot day took its toll and Leinster ‘A’ had the energy and nerve to battle back against a Reds side reduced to 14 men through a late injury to replacement scrum half Joel Dudley.
Frawley’s charge-down try sparked the comeback, then replacement scrum half Hugh O’Sullivan darted over, and finally, with no time left, a penalty to the corner led to a mauled try for another replacement, Will Connors, and Frawley’s dramatic last-gasp winner from the tee.
REFEREE: Ian Davies (WRU)
Ciaran Frawley; Adam Byrne, Gavin Mullin, Conor O'Brien, Tommy O'Brien; Cathal Marsh, Charlie Rock; Ed Byrne, Bryan Byrne (CAPTAIN), Vakh Abdaladze, Mick Kearney, Ian Nagle, Josh Murphy, Peadar Timmins, Caelan Doris.
REPLACEMENTS USED: Peter Dooley for Abdaladze (19 mins), Abdaladze for T O'Brien (29-40), Sean McNulty for Timmins (32-42), Tom Daly for Mullin (51), Jack Kelly for Marsh (55), Will Connors for Doris (56), Oisin Dowling for Nagle (58), Nagle for Dowling (61), Hugh O'Sullivan for Rock, McNulty for B Byrne (both 69).