Saturday 8th April 2017
Greene King IPA Championship Rd 21
The RAG - Richmond Athletic Ground
Phil Westren's Report
Playing their penultimate league game in this season’s Greene King IPA Championship, there was ultimate disappointment for the Pirates at a gloriously sunny Richmond Athletic Ground – on two fronts. Firstly, they suffered a second defeat of the season against a spirited Richmond team, whilst the defeat also dashed any hopes of making the play-offs.
For what was clearly an important game, a large gathering of travelling supporters, boosted my many exiles, made their presence heard well before the kick-off. As for the Cornish Pirates selection, there was just one change in the starting XV from the one that featured in the 34-17 points win against Doncaster Knights last time out, as a fit again Tom Channon returned at hooker in place of the injured Jack Innard.
The start for the Pirates more than matched the bright conditions, a now trademark run and pass from prop Marlen Walker setting up a try scored by wing Max Bodilly in just the second minute. Fly-half Laurence May added the conversion as he did to a second try of the match scored by Kyle Moyle. Having scored two tries in the match against Donny, this was another super finish where the wingman’s speed and impressive footwork delivered.
It was a case of so far, so good - in fact very good, however, after a steady build up of pressure the home side hit back midway through the first period with a try scored by prop Timmy Walford. Full-back Rob Kirby, who was making his 100th appearance for Richmond, slotted the conversion.
The Pirates were quick to react, and attacking down the left it was a pass from May ‘L’ that led to a try scored by his namesake, full-back Toby.
Thoughts of securing a bonus point before the break seemed realistic, but it was not to be. Indeed, a second try for Richmond, scored by centre Ronnie McLean-Dents, seemingly gave the home side added confidence. They were certainly playing with a sudden spring in their step, so it was considered wise that the Pirates looked to stunt home ambition with two penalty opportunities that arose. May was on target with both, which would give the Pirates a 27-14 half-time lead. However, just before the break they were also reduced to 14 men after scrum-half Alex Day was sin-binned for a ‘technical’ offence.
For the Pirates, a sound start to the second half was called for. Sadly, it was anything but. An immediate error gifted Richmond the initiative, and they were in a mood to take advantage. Wing Jono Woodward stretched to score a converted try wide on the right, and before Day’s return it got better for the home team as hooker Ross Grimstone’s converted score gave them not just a bonus point but also the lead.
The game had turned on its head as the Pirates continued to simply make too many unaccustomed errors, although hope was resurrected when they hit back to regain the lead on about the hour mark. Channon found the safe hands of lock Brett Beukeboom at a line-out, and No. 8 Tom Duncan carried well into midfield. Centre Tom Hendrickson and Bodilly maintained the momentum, and when the ball was moved left it was Beukeboom, lurking on the touchline, who galloped over in the corner.
As the game drew to a conclusion, despite the Pirates holding a 32-28 lead this was still quite clearly a contest that could go either way, and ultimate disappointment was confirmed with just two minutes left on the clock. A charged down kick led to lock Chris Davies scoring a converted try at the posts, and the home side duly held on for a win that they not only deserved but also took them above Rotherham Titans at the foot of the league table.
For the Pirates this result did not define their season. It was of course disappointing to lose, but theirs is a team that is developing and has performed so well on occasions during 2016/17. Much has given encouragement and they will be ultra keen to give a good account of themselves at home against Bedford Blues next Saturday, which will be their last game of the season.
Speaking following the defeat to Richmond, joint coach Alan Paver was reflective, saying: “The result was naturally disappointing and frustrating, as unusually some of our fundamental play broke down in areas of our game that are normally rock solid.
“Having given up our lead we scrambled our way back into the game and following their yellow card in the last quarter the thought and hope was that we would close the game out, but it wasn’t meant to be. Richmond deserved their win and we are left wondering what if?
“Yes, it’s disappointing but this match did not define our season as overall we can reflect on an outstanding campaign. People wrote us off so to be a top six side so early in our development as coaches and as a squad is very pleasing, and we will grow stronger together.”
15 Rob Kirby, 14 Jordan Simpson-Hefft, 13 Cameron Mitchell, 12 Ronnie McLean-Dents (Freddie Gabbitass 78), 11 Jono Woodward, 10 Rory Damant, 9 Sam Stuart
1 Timmy Walford (Jeremy Cunnew 50), 2 Ross Grimstone (Richard Townsend 59)
3 Rupert Harden (Joe Tarrant 65), 4 Chris Davies, 5 Matt Corker (c)
6 Adam Peters (Tom Sargeant 74), 7 Jack Allcock
8 Harry Edwards (Tyler Hotson 78).
Replacement (not used): Jamie Gibbs.
Yellow card: Edwards.
15 Toby May, 14 Kyle Moyle (Alex O’Meara 66), 13 Tom Hendrickson
12 Nicolas De Battista (Will Cargill 79), 11 Max Bodilly, 10 Laurence May
9 Alex Day; 1 Marlen Walker, 2 Tom Channon, 3 Paul Andrew (Jack Andrew 59)
4 Chris Morgan (c), 5 Brett Beukeboom (Josh Caulfield 59)
6 Jake Parker (John Stevens 66), 7 Dan Lee, 8 Tom Duncan.
Replacements (not used): Luke Chapman, Jack Arnott.
Yellow card: Day.
Tries: Walford, McLean-Dents, Woodward, Grimstone, Davies
Conversions: Kirby (5).
Tries: Bodilly, Moyle, Toby May, Beukeboom
Conversions: Laurence May (3)
Penalties: Laurence May (2).
Referee: John Meredith (RFU).