Welcome to our first home game of the new 2023/24 season. And what a way to kick things off, with twice Premiership champions and former European champions, Exeter Chiefs coming to play at The Stade!
This is round 3 of the newly reformatted Premiership Cup, in which Championship sides feature for the first time. Round 1 went well for us, chalking up a strong 0-43 win away to London Scottish. Then, last week in round 2, we made our first ever competitive trip to the iconic Bath Rugby ground, The Rec. What an exciting day it turned out to be! There was a boisterous crowd of almost 7,500 which failed to intimidate our boys who ran-out convincing 10-34 winners scoring 6 tries to 2 in the process.
The Reds aren’t the only Championship side making a good start to the competition. Ealing and Coventry have won 3 and drawn 1 of their first four games, all against Premiership opposition. What a great advert for rugby at this level!
Today’s match provides another exciting occasion for Reds’ fans and I am sure we will see then in great numbers for this big game. We welcome all Exeter Chiefs’ players, staff, directors and fans and hope you have a good time on the Island.
Here’s to a great game – come on you Reds!
Meet the opposition
As with Jersey, rugby traces its roots back to the 1870s, with Exeter RC founded in 1871 and playing their first match against St Luke’s College in 1873 – quite a long pre-season!
In 1905 the County Ground hosted the first match ever played by New Zealand in the Northern Hemisphere when the All Blacks – as they became known after that game – took on a Devon XV.
The club were placed in the Devon leagues when league rugby began in 1987, but climbed the ranks and reached the second tier of the English pyramid by 1997.
After a dozen seasons in the second tier, it was 13th time lucky for the Chiefs, as they became known from 1999. At the end of the 2009/10 season they reached the final of the RFU Championship promotion play-offs and defeated Bristol over two legs to reached the top flight.
Since 2006 the Chiefs have been based at Sandy Park on the outskirts of Exeter. The Reds played at the ground in September 2013 when the Championship held regional double-header weekends as part of a ‘bonus round’ experiment, which saw a loss to Plymouth Albion in the season-opening event.
Reaching the Premiership came at the end of the first full season as Head Coach for Rob Baxter, a former club captain with a decade-and-a-half’s service as a player. Now promoted to Director of Rugby, Baxter will reach 15 years’ tenure in charge in March 2024.
Exeter Chiefs didn’t take long to become an established force in the Premiership, and for six seasons starting in 2015/16 they finished either first or second in the regular season and also reached the Premiership Final. On three occasions they were defeated by Saracens, but in 2017 they defeated Wasps 23-20 to take their maiden title, and three years later they repeated the feat against the same opponents, winning 19-13.
The 2019/20 season was an amazing one for the club as they also lifted the European Champions Cup title by beating Racing 92 by 31-27 at Ashton Gate in Bristol.
Last season the Chiefs finished seventh in the final Gallagher Premiership table, but did have the consolation of lifting the Premiership Cup, edging out London Irish on try-count after a 25-all draw.
Former Jersey players to have made the move to the top-flight by joining Exeter Chiefs have included prop Harry Williams, who made more than 160 appearances for the club, plus 19 England caps, over eight seasons before moving to Montpellier this summer. Tongan hooker Elvis Taione made the move a couple of seasons later and is still playing just up the road in Taunton at the age of 40, while back-row forward James Freeman trod the same path.
The Chiefs sit alongside the Reds at the top of pool C of this season’s Premiership Rugby Cup after back-to-back wins: 38-13 at home to Cornish Pirates last weekend, and a 75-0 mismatch against a inexperienced Bristol Bears side in round one.
BATH RUGBY 10 JERSEY REDS 34
The Reds claimed a noteworthy scalp in their first-ever competitive encounter against top-flight opposition, scoring five second-half tries to finish well clear of a young Bath squad.
A crowd of more than 7,000 saw the home side take the lead mid-way through the first half of the Premiership Rugby Cup tie as full-back Sam Harris profited from an attack sparked by fly-half George Worboys that was followed by a kick ahead from Will Muir.
Max swaps the scrum for the office
Jersey Reds' Max Argyle is the club's longest serving player of its professional era, and Ogier is going beyond its sponsorship of the back row by helping the player prepare for life after rugby.
Ogier has supported Jersey Reds as a sponsor since 2015, and extended that backing to Max in 2019 in the form of individual player sponsorship. The 30-year-old loose forward is gearing up for his eighth season with the Reds, having made his milestone 150th appearance for the club in the 2022-23 season as he helped them win the RFU Championship, the second tier of men's English rugby, for the first time.
But due to the finite nature of professional sport, Max understandably has one eye on the future. He connected with Ogier partner Raulin Amy at a charity event that the firm was sponsoring, and Raulin arranged with the legal Corporate team for Max to take on a summer work experience placement.
"It's advisable to always keep one eye on life after your career ends," Max said. "Whilst I have always envisaged life beyond my rugby playing career, nothing can beat spending time in a place like Ogier and getting a feel for the work that goes on, meeting people and experiencing the office environment that has been created. Ogier's support has been invaluable."
Max found his time so productive that he is due to return to Ogier later this year to do work experience with the Dispute Resolution team.
"I have been very impressed by the professionalism, togetherness, and care that the team show for their work and each other – values that we share at Jersey Reds," he said. "The club is blessed to have a depth of corporate support on the island, which isn’t enjoyed elsewhere, with whom we can collaborate to try and prepare for professional life after rugby. Ogier has kindly sponsored me for several years now and I have always appreciated the support.
"Ogier has shown tremendous support towards the Jersey Reds, the wider Jersey Rugby Club and myself throughout my time at the club. It has had a direct positive impact on our on-field success. Ogier has played an important role as part of a wider corporate community, along with a number of committed and generous individuals on the island, which has enabled the Reds to win the English Rugby Championship this year. I believe these partnerships are unique to the island and the contribution cannot be understated.
"It has been a mutually beneficial partnership because a professional rugby player may end up with a chance to spend time at, or even join a firm like Ogier, but equally a firm like Ogier can gain access to a pool of hard working, self-starting and disciplined professional talent that can be hard to find on the island. The benefit of a tightly knit island like ours is that these sorts of partnerships can be readily formed and fruitful for both parties."
Reaching 150 appearances for the Reds, which came in a victory over Bedford in April, was a special moment for him and his family.
"To reach 150 appearances and become the most capped player in the club's professional era has been a pleasure," he said. "I feel proud to represent the club and the island that I love, and I'm grateful for the friends that I've made inside and outside of the club along the way."