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Be honest now – who would have predicted with less than half an hour chalked off – that the Warriors would have been penned into their own half and gagging for Mr Richards to put whistle to lips?
You’re amongst friends. No-one would be as gauche, to casually ignore this wasn’t a ‘full fat’ Worcester squad on display – but – this was always going to be a sterner test than the Friday evening previous. Most certainly the required step up in time for next week’s Championship opener at home to Richmond.
Some may have wondered – as Warriors’ full back, Jamie Shillicock cantered over for his side’s fourth crossing of the Penzance End try line – did it have to be so much of a step up?! Pirates’ skipper for the day, Tom Kessell, may have wondered too, what on earth he’d signed up for – literally – as the returning scrum half recovered his sense of whereabouts on halfway. A clash of heads leaving him somewhat dazed in the lead up.
At this point it was all looking too easy for the visitors – as they basically stretched the Cornish defence as ruthlessly as the Pirates had done to the Navy eight days before. The Warriors’ pace, handling and speed of thought – all but handing the hosts their posteriors back to them – in a display that would have graced the Premiership. Let alone a pre season friendly on as mellow a September evening as any fan could have wished for.
Three tries from Hearle, Simpson & Forsyth in thirteen breathless minutes beforehand – added to twice by England U20’s fly half, Finn Smith – had the Pirates on the ropes. Surely?
Sane observers would have agreed. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom despite a 24 point deficit – and way too long left to go. The Pirates pack – at the very least – had laid down their physicality markers. Ask Pirate try scoring debutant a week before – Caleb Montgomery – who obviously feeling ‘obliged’ donning a …. blue shirt this week….came off worse to a ‘mystery’ Pirate forward. A tender shoulder ending his run out even before the scoring began.
As the half hour mark hove into view though – the tide began to turn. Little victories at first – but victories all the same. Decisions began to go their way. Scrum time was Pirates time. And collisions in defence saw a Pirate emerge with the ball. It all added up.
Suddenly the men in red began to back themselves. Admittedly it came at a price – as Josh Caulfield had to ‘enjoy’ an extended half time break for his troubles – after a set to with Warriors’ wingman, Jack Johnson. The former Hartpury guy also having to sit in the bin and consider his options.
Maybe this was the spark- the turning point? Well with a Worcester maul getting turned over and a Cornish 7 man scrum more than proving capable in quick succession. Anything now seemed possible. All that was needed was a score to underpin this new found confidence.
Ton up man, Alex O’Meara duly delivered with less than five remaining of the period. His interception on halfway – handed the speedster with an empty half to play with – and a try under the posts, to gift Arwel with the first of his two conversions.
Game on? You bet…
The second period was controlled by the hosts who set out the stall from the get go. And this despite any ‘disruption’ one would usually expect, when wholesale changes are made to give players valuable game time. If anything, the Pirates’ personnel swaps, were as seamless as you could wish for – and momentum duly built.
Early attacks made headway without reward – as Worcester’s defence countered anything the Pirates attempted. But now – this didn’t lead to threatening counters that had devastated the Pirates before. Something had to give. Enter stage right then – a Cornish backline who all played their part – in a crossfield move as swift and as precise – as anything their opponents had served up earlier. AJ Cant duly delivered in the Scoreboard Corner and – with still half an hour to play – the game was now finely balanced.
Centre, Shae Tucker, was now punching big holes in the midfield, which gave his colleagues more and more of a platform. Fitting then, that he should get that all important ‘next score’ under the Penzance posts, which with Harry Bazalgette adding two with ease – to set up a potential grandstand finish, with ten minutes still to play.
Chances came from the pressure now being exerted, as the Warriors’ defence now enduring stress levels that had earlier seemed unlikely. Composure however, at key moments, eluded the hosts however….but this surely will be addressed in the final week before the season proper begins.