Fairhurst attempts to charge down

Reports 07/08

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Doncaster Knights 12 Cornish Pirates 16

Saturday November 10th 2007
Report Phil Westren

Match Pictures

A determined display by the Cornish Pirates, one that demanded a bucketful of grit and effort if they were to win away against Doncaster, was duly rewarded as their defence held firm and fly-half Gareth Steenson slotted two unanswered penalties in the last quarter of the game to record a superb victory.

It was the second weekend running that the Cornish side had journeyed 'up north', expecting a tough welcome from the 'Knights' at the ambitious Yorkshire team's Castle Park fortress.

Doncaster, second-placed in the league, were also unbeaten at home this season, their only defeat in this campaign a 39-17 loss away to Northampton Saints.

The Pirates beat Doncaster three times last year, all matches closely fought affairs, and none more so than the EDF Energy National Trophy quarter-final away tie early in March. Incentive for Doncaster? yes, and anticipation that the home team would be fully focused for revenge.

With three of the Pirates midfield players ruled out because of injury, it was perhaps no surprise that new signing Vunga Lilo, one of Tonga's heroes in the recent Rugby World, quickly found himself drafted into the side for the trip to Yorkshire, taking the outside centre berth alongside Nick Buckley.

As for other changes from the one that started against Sedgley Park the previous Saturday, Ed Fairhurst returned at scrum half in place of Richard Bolt, and Chris Cracknell started on the open-side flank as Iva Motusaga - ever-present these past couple of months - dropped to the bench.

The Pirates were dealt a double blow when flanker Chris Cracknell had to leave the field injured to be replaced by Motusaga, and then Woodrow narrowed the deficit to just one point with his second penalty of the match.

Approaching half-time - after Doncaster spilled a clear try-scoring opportunity - Steenson made amends for one penalty attempt that he had missed just minutes earlier by making no mistake when his chance came again, his strike giving the Pirates a 10-6 lead at the interval.

Nathan KempWhen play resumed it was not long before the home side nudged themselves ahead with two further penalties kicked by Woodrow, the pressure on the Pirates mounting still further when Motusaga was yellow-carded. Now was the test, with just fourteen men operating at a vital stage of the game, it was essential that they dug deep to a man.

Cowley playing on the flank, made another powerful burst setting the position from which his team was awarded a penalty successfully struckby Steenson to regain the lead, albeit by just one point

Defence was the key, one outstanding tackle by replacement hooker Nathan Kemp - a muncher of an effort that former England back-rower Micky Skinner would have been proud of - epitomising the need.

Gareth Steenson

The final minutes, with referee Nick Williams replaced by Chris Sharp after pulling a hamstring, were frantic and tense, but the Pirates held on, a third penalty from Steenson in injury-time sealing a victory that many might have felt was beyond the team's grasp.

Head coach Jim McKay was delighted with his team's effort, commenting; "The boys played with loads of determination, they raised the bar with their superb commitment and our defence was outstanding in the last quarter."

Cornish Pirates:
O. Thomas, J. Moore, V. Lilo (R. McAtee 63), N. Buckley, A. Koko (B. Tuohy 53), G. Steenson, E. Fairhurst
M. Evans, C. Cracknell (I. Motusaga), T. Cowley (capt), H. Senekal, J. Beardshaw (B. Cumming 49)
D. Seal, R. Elloway (N. Kemp 49), P. Cook (A. Paver 77).

Replacements (not used) - R. Bolt.

Scorers:-

Cornish Pirates -
Tries: Fairhurst
Con: Steenson
Pens: Steenson 3

Doncaster:
A. Carter, W. Davies, J. Bishop, T. Luke, D. Van Vuuren, M. Woodrow, B. Jones, G. Wilson (capt)
S. Grainger, C. Planchant, G. Kenworthy, S. Tomes (B. Griffiths 65), N. Tau (J. Rawson 65), S. Boden, S. Bunting (T. Davies 6-8, 56).

Replacements (not used) - R. List, B. Hunt, M. Soden.

Scorers:-
Doncaster
pens: Woodrow 4

Referee: Nick Williams (Chris Sharp)

Attendance: 1298

Jan RendallRod CowardTerry DrewLeicester PiratesDoncaster Mascot - Pirates fans