Sunday 18th September 2016
Greene King IPA Championship Rd 3
Phil Westren's Report
Confirming a fine start to their 2016/17 Greene King IPA Championship campaign, having won one and drawn one in the opening two rounds, this second win of the season on the road continues to provide real encouragement. It also, impressively, moves the Cornish Pirates up to third in the league table.
Cornish Pirates’ man-of-the-match against the Trailfinders, club captain Chris Morgan, was rested this week, so No. 8 Tom Duncan took the skipper’s armband. Josh Caulfield, who is dual-registered with Exeter Chiefs, slotted into the second-row to partner Brett Beukeboom, whilst the starting XV showed four other changes. Named were scrum-half Stuart Townsend, flanker Sam Simmonds, hooker Tom Channon, and prop Paul Andrew, all of whom seven days earlier made an impact off the bench in the draw against Ealing Trailfinders.
In the sunshine at Nottingham’s Lady Bay ground, when an early opportunity to go for goal came the Pirates way, their sixth minute option was to instead kick to the corner. It proved a wise choice, as making it worthwhile the livewire Townsend made it over the line for the game’s opening try. Fly-half Will Cargill’s conversion attempt missed which, considering the rich vein of form he has been in, perhaps took everyone by surprise.
So, the Pirates had got off to a solid start, and it was soon to get even better, as following yardage made by Caulfield a penalty award saw Cargill step forward and this time make no mistake to fire the ball suitably through the posts.
Continuing in lively and confident mode, and with further momentum soon initiated by full-back Toby May, the Pirates set a position from where flanker Dan Lee scored off a driving maul. Cargill converted well and with less than a quarter of the game gone the Pirates were impressively 15-nil up.
The home side could be forgiven for likely feeling a little shell-shocked, although in the build to half-time they contested the game well and would eventually open their account. The Pirates had been dervish-like with their tackling, but after replacement Rob Elloway was sin-binned his opposition hooker TJ Harris scored a deserved try for the Green & Whites. Fly-half Lawrence Rayner was unable to add the extras, his effort sailing to the right of the posts.
Down to 14 men and having just leaked a score, the Pirates commendably hit back right away, as on the very stroke of half-time a try from skipper Duncan – his third in the three games (it would actually be four on the trot, if the ‘friendly’ against Northampton Saints is taken into account) – underlined a thus far positive performance. Cargill once again converted for the Pirates to hold lead 22-5 at the break.
On the resumption of play Nottingham kept possession for spell and would eventually make early second half dominance pay, a converted try scored by lock Ben Morris narrowing the points deficit to 10 points.
With the breeze picking up, Cargill was perhaps not surprisingly unlucky with one penalty strike, but then successful soon after when offered a much easier opportunity.
The Green & Whites lifted their performance going into the last quarter, with full-back Billy Robinson first going close to scoring, and replacement Josh Poullett then managing to do so. His try in the left corner left an important conversion for Rayner, which he did well to land, and with the scoreline now reading 19-25 the tension levels were at a stroke increased.
This game was expected to be tough, and close. However, the Pirates underlined so much of the good witnessed in their opening three games to finish this one strongly.
Replacement fly-half Laurence May, featuring in his first Championship game of the season, nailed a penalty to all but confirm victory, and an interception score by replacement wing Alex O’Meara then made it certain. May ‘L’ also slotted what was a bonus point providing fourth try, to at the final whistle record what was a truly excellent win.
Cornish Pirates co-coach Alan Paver had commented pre-match that “The boys are hungry, and keen to progress”, and on this showing they should continue to do just that.
Nottingham Rugby: 15 Billy Robinson, 14 James Stephenson, 13 Oli Evans, 12 Vili Hakalo, 11 Calum Hall (Sam Yawayawa 63), 10 Lawrence Rayner, 9 Murray McConnell (Darryl Veenendaal 51); 1 Tom West (Harry Morley 68), 2 TJ Harris (Ben Brownlie 70), 3 Tom Heard, 4 Tom Holmes (Josh Poullet 68), 5 Ben Morris, 6 Rob Langley, 7 Matt Everard (captain, Jordan Coghlan 51), 9 Shane Buckley.
Replacement (not used): Will Millett.
Cornish Pirates: 15 Toby May, 14 Kyle Moyle, 13 Alex Dancer (Alex O’Meara 63), 12 Nicolas De Battista, 11 Matt Evans, 10 Will Cargill (Laurence May 60), 9 Stuart Townsend (Alex Day 70); 1 Paul Andrew (Tyler Gendall 80), 2 Tom Channon (Rob Elloway 29-39, 68), 3 Tyler Gendall (Jack Andrew 53), 4 Josh Caulfield (Alex Cheesman 60), 5 Brett Beukeboom, 6 Dan Lee (Jake Parker 53), 7 Sam Simmonds (Josh Caulfield 76), 8 Tom Duncan (captain).
Yellow card: Elloway.
Nottingham Rugby – tries: Harris, Heard, Poullett; cons: Rayner (2).
Cornish Pirates – tries: Townsend, Lee, Duncan, O’Meara; cons: Cargill (2), May; pens: Cargill (2), May.
Referee: Steve Lee (RFU)