Saturday 1st October 2016
Greene King IPA Championship Rd 5
The RAG - Richmond Athletic Ground
Phil Westren's Report
Losing this contest by just a single point, in the process the Cornish Pirates also fell just short of preserving their previously unbeaten record this season. However, but for a poor start to this game – they were 15 points down in all but as many minutes – the outcome might well have been different.
Wearing their new yellow away kit, the Pirates ran out to a stirring applause lauded on them by enthusiastic travelling support. Conditions at the Richmond Athletic Ground were also just about perfect
With the traditional sound of bagpipes temporarily silenced, but with the roar of aeroplane engines ever constant on their flight path to Heathrow, this match kicked off in the autumn sunshine.
London Scottish opened the scoring when full-back Peter Lydon, who was celebrating his 60th appearance for the exiles club, comfortably slotted a penalty goal.
From the restart, the Scots were soon on the front foot again, with powerful wing Jason Harries blitzing a line into the Pirates ‘22’. They looked inspirational and dominant at the start of this game, and following a skilled off-load from scrum-half Jamie Stevenson to Wales 7s ace Harries, a pass found prop Grants Shiells in support, who showed an impressive clean pair of heels as he sprinted in for a try at the scoreboard corner. Lydon was unable to add the extras.
8-nil down was not the best start for the Pirates, but matters quickly got even worse as a lethal attack by the home side saw back-rowers Ally Miller and Joe Atkinson in combo, and ending with former Pirate ‘Atko’ scoring a converted try near the posts.
The Pirates needed to respond, and quickly, which they did thanks to a well-struck penalty kicked by fly-half Will Cargill. Thus far had certainly given a severe test of their early season credentials, and they needed the three points to provide encouragement.
Proceeding to acquire territorial advantage, the Pirates applied extra pressure on their hosts. A penalty awarded from a dominant scrum saw them set a position from where they made a number of surges, only to be foiled by a destructive tackle made by Harries.
For the Pirates wing Matt Evans was giving it his all with any opportunity that came his way, but there was then a further setback when lock Josh Caulfield had to depart proceedings because of injury.
Skipper Tom Duncan strived to inspire his team and went close to scoring, as the options taken were to go for catch and drives in the hope of delivering a try. Frustratingly, as it worked out, too many errors were made and chances to acquire further important points before the break were dashed.
So, credit to London Scottish and there no excuse for the Pirates who had been gifted opportunities to get back into this match. It was likely time for a few chosen words at half-time in a hope that cutting the error count and perhaps taking other options could lead to improved fortune in the second half.
With rain in the air to start the second period, and a rainbow providing a splashed arc of colour, one thing all but certain was that the Pirates needed to create the next score. Hopes were high when they took play immediately to the scoreboard corner, but the home side managed to hold off the threat and were soon applying extreme pressure at the other end of the field.
London Scottish were in confident mode, opting to score from scrums, rather than kicks at goal, in a bid to extend their lead. With Pirates under the cosh, a yellow card looked inevitable, and following a series of scrums one was eventually shown to prop Paul Andrew.
Down to 14 men, it looked a little gloomy, but when London Scottish chose to move the ball left it was wing Kyle Moyle who suddenly intercepted and ran all but the length of the field to score. Cargill converted to make it 15-10 and the Pirates, despite being one short in personnel, were at a swoop re-energised.
A penalty kicked by fly-half Harry Sheppard opened up an eight points gap for the home side, but playing with fresh vigour the admirable response and fitness shown by the Pirates got them back into this game.
Lock Brett Beukeboom drove and stretched out an arm to score the Cornish Pirates second try, and Laurence May, fresh to proceedings as replacement for Cargill, kicked the conversion. The 18-17 scoreline confirmed that the outcome of this particular contest was now in the balance.
The home crowd had been silenced, and all about wondered what the final minutes of the game would bring. The answer, as we now know, was still further excitement – and tension.
A converted try scored by hooker David Cherry made it 25-17, but once again the Pirates showed their determination to not only strive for a bonus point but to also endeavour to still snatch victory.
Keeping the ball alive, when taking it close to the line it was the strength of centre Nicolas De Battista that took him over for his first five-pointer in the Championship. May once again converted and a thrilling final few seconds were guaranteed.
Heightened decibel levels resounded about the ‘RAG’, but the Pirates just ran out of time, to suffer their first loss of the season.
Speaking straight after the game, co-Coach Gavin Cattle said:
“Our start was obviously disappointing and there were areas of our game that didn’t function as we would have liked, but credit too to London Scottish.
“It was pleasing to witness the character we ultimately showed through grit and determination, and our fitness was also once again impressive.”
“These are early days, as we know, and we won’t judge ourselves on one loss.”
Co-Coach Alan Paver also commented:
“We got ourselves into a position to win the match but didn’t perform to the best of our ability.
“The guys are bitterly disappointed, as they have high expectations of themselves, but we must we realistic because we knew that at some stage we would be beaten, and we were, by a very good side.”
15 Peter Lydon (Patrick Kelly 49), 14 Ale Coombes, 13 Robbie Ferguson, 12 Thomas Galbraith, 11 Jason Harries, 10 Harry Sheppard, 9 Jamie Stevenson; 1 Grant Shiells (Jonathan Harris 68), 2 David Cherry, 3 Dan Koroi (Ewan McQuillin h/t), 4 Rory Bartle (capt), 5 Neale Patrick (Dominic McGeekie 68), 6 Danny Kenny, 7 Joe Atkinson, 8 Ally Miller.
Replacements (not used): Cameron Fenton, Ed Hoadley, Craig Holland.
15 Toby May, 14 Kyle Moyle, 13 Alex Dancer, 12 Nicolas De Battista
11 Matt Evans, 10 Will Cargill (Laurence May 61), 9 Alex Day (Mike Pope 70)
1 Paul Andrew (Marlen Walker 58), 2 Rob Elloway (Jack Innard 60)
3 Jack Andrew (Tyler Gendall 60), 4 Josh Caulfield (Sam Simmonds 33)
5 Brett Beukeboom, 6 Jake Parker, 7 Alex Cheesman,
8 Tom Duncan (capt, Dan Lee 65).
Yellow card: Paul Andrew
Tries: Shiells, Atkinson, Cherry
Cons: Lydon, Sheppard
Pens: Lydon, Sheppard.
Tries: Moyle, Beukeboom, De Battista
Cons: Cargill, L. May (2)
Referee: Simon Harding (RFU)