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Nottingham 13 Cornish Pirates 24

RFU Championship Round 1
Sunday 6th September 2009

Phil Westren's Match Report

Depleted Pirates Defy The Odds

Travelling to Nottingham for their opening game in the new RFU 'Championship' there were many about who would have given the Pirates little chance of victory.

Yes, they had impressed in their two pre-season 'friendlies', but this was the real thing, a truly meaningful encounter against a team the Pirates had lost to in their last five meetings.

Also, added to the equation was the almost cruel fact that 11 members of the Cornish Pirates squad were unavailable for selection, which resulted in certain individuals having to play out of position and a call-up for backs coach Harvey Biljon to take a place on the bench.

That the Cornish side ultimately won this encounter speaks volumes for the efforts being made by high performance manager Chris Stirling and his coaching colleagues, and to the players who are responding to a fresh routine that has clearly been demanding, but has also offered all involved just reward.

It's early days, but the future looks bright.

Things appeared not to bode well for the visitors when the home side opened the scoring at Meadow Lane with a try scored in the eighth minute by Leicester loanee wing Jack Cobden, which was converted by full-back Dave Jackson.

However, all but from the restart the Pirates were themselves given an opportunity to open their account, and they did when fly-half Jonny Bentley, on a day perfect for kicking, comfortably slotted a penalty on offer.

On the quarter of an hour mark as the Pirates piled pressure on their opponents by playing a high tempo game, Nottingham gave a second penalty away, enabling Bentley to punish them once more.

Laurie mcglone

Although short of perfection, there was still an organisation about the Pirates on-field effort, the result of sound work on the training ground being duly applied, and with a good level of discipline.

For the Merry Men of Nottingham, a giant lookalike Robin Hood in the shape of lock Ian Nimmo provided quite a physical presence. Pressure mounted on the Pirates, but with relief then provided thanks to a determined break out by full-back Wes Davies.

A penalty from Jackson extended Nottingham's lead after Bentley was just wide of the posts with a long range effort, as they put the Pirates under the cosh for a spell. Davies made one all-important tackle, but another effort from No. 8 Blair Cowan could go down as the 'hit' of the season, as he not only stopped the advancing hulk of Nimmo in his tracks, but also drove him back several yards for good measure.

Jackson, who has been an inspirational points machine for Nottingham, looked to get away as a try-scoring opportunity looked on, but young wing Richard Bright, who was making his first start for the Pirates in a league match, defended the danger admirably.

Mounting a final assault to the Nottingham line in the dying seconds of the half, good work from skipper Gavin Cattle, Cowan and prop Alan Paver set a position where Nottingham succumbed again to the pressure. Awarded a penalty just inside Nottingham's '22', Bentley duly stepped forward to fire the ball between the posts to make it 10-9 at the break.

Gavin Cattle

The game to date had been really well contested, there a feeling that a fascinating second forty was in prospect.

Nottingham's outstanding flanker Luke Sherriff failed to reappear for the second period, which might have been deemed good news, but better was to follow after Davies posted a touch kick close to Nottingham's line.

Showing their competitive edge the Pirates proceeded to disrupt their opponents at line-out time, and Cowan secured the ball to score an unconverted try that gave the Cornish team the lead for a first time in the match.

The 'Green & Whites' looked to hit back immediately, but their handling let them down at the crucial moment, and they then suffered added woe when Bentley kicked his fourth penalty of the game following the yellow carding of replacement Phil Eggleshaw.

Glenn Delaney, Nottingham's respected Director of Rugby, introduced new signing and former England centre Ben Johnston to proceedings, as home hopes were further raised when fellow centre Greig Tonks successfully struck a penalty attempt clean and straight from just inside the Pirates half.

The hosts were delighted to be back in touch, but the Pirates then put together passages of play that underlined their developing superiority.

Wing Aisea Havili chased a kick ahead to good effect, Bentley went close to scoring a try, and then the icing was put on the cake when from a scrum five metres to the left of the posts, man-of-the-match Cowan took the ball off the back and nonchalantly brushed aside a couple of would be tacklers to cross for his second try of the afternoon. Bentley added the conversion.

Blair Cowan try

Control into the last quarter was the order off the day, and even with replacements made the Pirates maintained their focus.

The commitment expected was again there to see, plus the fitness levels.

All in the pack had done well, with Cowan, flanker Chris Morgan and prop Rudi Brits assertive, whilst in the backs Cattle and Bentley controlled events, Mark Ireland looked impressive, and Davies was assured.

At the end it was a result to defy the odds, but it worth reiterating once more that what manifested itself on the field of play had indeed clearly mirrored the effort thus witnessed on the training paddock.

David Jackson, Jack Cobden, Rohaan Nirmalendran (B. Johnston 49), Greig Tonks, Tim Streather (A. Savage 59)
Tim Taylor, Tim Usasz (S. Harrison 73), Dan Hemingway, Luke Sherriff (P. Eggleshaw h/t), Craig Hammond (capt),
Nic Rouse, Ian Nimmo, Petrus Du Plessis, Tom Youngs, Neil Fowkes (B. Buxton 59).

Cornish Pirates
Wes Davies, Richard Bright, Nick Jackson (R. Jones 70), Mark Ireland, Aisea Havili
Jonny Bentley, Gavin Cattle (capt), Blair Cowan, Tyrone Holmes (S. Betty 73), Chris Morgan
Laurie McGlone, Luke Collins, Rudi Brits (R. Storer 77), Dave Ward, Alan Paver (P. Andrew 61).


Try: Cobden
Con: Jackson
Pens: Jackson, Tonks

Cornish Pirates
Tries: Cowan 2
Con: Bentley
Pens: Bentley 4

Referee: Lyr Apgeraint Roberts (RFU)

Attendance: 1,230