Fred Burdon’s scything run to the try-line through Jersey’s defence proved the killer score for Leeds in a tight game.
The Carnegie centre’s try, converted by Jonny Bentley, was the only score of the second half and proved enough to turn a two-point deficit at half-time into a winning margin, keeping the Yorkshiremen well-placed in the battle for the Championship play-offs.
Alex Lozowski’s penalty had given his team an early lead; Jersey replied in kind through Aaron Penberthy, but then Leeds pressed forward and when the ball was worked wide, Jon Clarke raced through a gap in Jersey’s defence to score.
Carnegie were pleased to see some dry bright conditions and a firm Jersey surface, in contrast to two muddy visits to the largest Channel island last season, but were unable to impose themselves on the game, frustrated by some tenacious defence and a high number of handling errors.
The two fly-halves traded penalty kicks but then Jersey took the lead, establishing a platform through the forwards and then working the ball wide for full-back Jack Burroughs to crash over for the try, converted by Penberthy.
Both sides could have further tries before the break, but Rob Vickerman’s effort was chalked off for a forward pass and Jersey’s Tongan number 8 Latu Makaafi couldn’t hold on to a pass from team-mate Drew Locke.
Leeds wasted little time in ringing the changes, with six replacements during the first 15 minutes of the second half.
One of the new boys, fly-half Bentley, had a straightforward chance to recapture the lead for his side but hooked a penalty chance wide, and strong runs by Ollie Goss and replacement prop Ben Harris failed to bring any points.
The Jersey defence had been strong, but Carnegie refused to panic and built another attacking platform, enabling James Doherty to feed Burdon for a powerful run through Jersey’s midfield to the line. Jersey refused to back down and pressed forward, roared on by a passionate home crowd of just over 2,000, but the visiting defence held firm.
The referee turned down Jersey claims for a try, ruling that there had been an accidental offside in the build-up. One final turnover enabled Leeds to run the clock down and then kick the ball dead to end the game.
“What I was pleased about is that we found a way to win,” said Carnegie head coach James Lowes.
“We had one decent chance and we took it.
“That and the defence at the end were positives that we’ll take away from the game – the boys showed great character.”
Jersey: Burroughs, Pointer (Bishop 19), Locke, McCrea, Foster, Penberthy, Griffiths (Dudley 69); McCarthy, Taione, Brennan (Selway 55), Campbell (Markham 57), Voss, Rae (capt), Hodson, Makaafi (Buckle 69). Replacements (not used): Felton, Fidler.
Leeds Carnegie: Goss, Vickerman, Clarke, Burdon, Doherty D (Holmes 45), Lozowski (Bentley 50), Doherty J; Imiolek (Harris 47), Graham (Nilsen 47), Tussac, Hannay, Smith (Casson 47), Sisi (Walker 55), Rowan (capt), Burrows. Replacements (not used): Hooper.
Referee: M Fox.