Leeds Carnegie were left ruing their failure to seize the moment as Jersey rallied to claim victory on their muddy home patch.
Carnegie led 10-3 at the break and dominated the start of the second half, but the lack of points during this period left the door open for a Jersey side desperate to get off the bottom of the RFU Championship table.
“We didn’t take our chances at key times late in the first half and right after half-time,’ said head coach Diccon Edwards.
“Going 15-3 or 17-3 ahead would have been huge – we dominated but we didn’t score points and that is what has cost us this weekend.
“Jersey defended with real desperation and you could see what it meant to them.
“But to be fair to our players I thought they had an outstanding attitude, it was just that we lacked that clinical edge.”
Heavy overnight rain on an already saturated surface left the pitch at St Peter in a soggy state on the morning of the game.
However, the efforts of the groundstaff and an easing of weather conditions meant it was eventually ruled playable.
The visitors started uncertainly, losing their opening lineout and struggling to counter the Jersey scrummage, who earned the first penalty chance of the game, slotted by Mike Le Bourgeois.
The island side’s home-grown fly-half missed a second opportunity soon afterwards, but Carnegie were beginning to find their feet in attack.
Ryan Burrows’s charge into the Jersey 22 led to a straightforward penalty chance for Joe Ford to tie the scores.
Both sides were using a mixture of forward drives and tactical kicking to move upfield.
One Ford clearance fell at the feet of home winger Ashley Maggs, but a calamitous piece of ball control saw Maggs volley the ball forwards to an offside colleague. The penalty on half-way was kicked towards the corner, and lineout possession enabled the Carnegie pack to mount a sustained series of drives ended by illegal handling on the ground by Jersey’s Graham Bell, who was shown a yellow card.
The visitors used their extra man advantage well, quick hands to the left-wing from a scrum allowing David Doherty space to score against the club where he made 19 appearances in 2010-11. Ford converted with aplomb, but Jersey held out to the break without further damage.
The opening 15 minutes of the second half saw a monopoly of territory and possession for Carnegie.
Ford had an early penalty chance, but was not helped by conditions underfoot and hooked the kick wide. Jersey battled to repel a powerful rolling maul that reached the try-line at one stage, only for the referee to rule the ball was ‘held up’ in spite of celebrations in the Yorkshire camp.
Eventually raising the siege, the Islanders were level just before the hour when Guy Thompson sped through midfield and fed young loan signing from Worcester, Max Stelling, who finished in the corner.
Roared on by the vast majority in a 1,923 crowd, Jersey attacked again and, from a quickly-tapped penalty, Nicky Griffiths almost scored, with Burrows making a crucial tackle by the corner flag.
But Carnegie’s erratic lineout failed to deliver them clean possession, and Jersey seized the opportunity of an attacking scrum which buckled and led to a penalty try.
When the home side stretched their lead to 20-10 through Le Bourgeois’s penalty, there seemed no way back for Leeds.
However no one had told Matt Clark: the replacement wing embarked on a quicksilver run upfield, finding Doherty with a scoring pass for a try between the posts.
Home nerves were fraying, especially with Richard Barrington earning his team’s second yellow card, but Carnegie’s search for another score in the final five minutes was in vain.
Jersey director of rugby Ben Harvey praised the character of his side, who he said had delivered a “massive” win for the club.
Edwards said his young side would learn a lesson about how to play in awkward conditions, and focus on a positive start to 2013.
“We are excited about being back at Headingley (against Plymouth Albion on January 6) and playing on a new pitch that will allow us to deliver the sort of rugby we are capable of,” he said.
“This defeat is a bitter pill, but it will fuel our focus going into the new year – expect a big start.”
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.
Scorers – Tries: Stelling 57, Penalty Try 63; Conversions: Le Bourgeois 57, 63; Penalties: Le Bourgeois 8, 73
Leeds Carnegie: 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.
Scorers – Tries: Doherty 29, 75; Conversions: Ford 29; Penalties: Ford 22
Referee: Ross Campbell (RFU).