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Playing the Cornish Pirates away, this win for Jersey Reds keeps them well and truly hot on the heels of league leaders Ealing Trailfinders who lost 22-19 at home to Coventry.
In good conditions at the Mennaye Field, the Pirates had been keen to ‘get back on the horse’ following their disappointing defeat away to Bedford Blues seven days earlier, However, although their performance was much improved it was receiving two yellow cards that for them proved ultimately costly.
Club captain John Stevens made a welcome return to action for this contest, as did fit again lock Will Britton. Joe Elderkin also pleasingly returned from injury, partnering Garyn Smith in the centre, and Carwyn Penny started at full-back. Alex Schwarzwas named at scrum half and, with both Tom Kessell and Ruaridh Dawson presently injured, Ali Stacey provided cover among the replacements. A former Pirates youth team member, who has represented Cornwall under 20s and Redruth, the talented young player presently plays for Cardiff Uni in BUCS Super Rugby and in the hard-nosed Welsh Championship league. Finally, keen for a call off the bench, another fit again returnee in the shape of centre Shae Tucker was about to make his 50thappearance for the club.
After the Pirates opened the scoring in just the second minute thanks to a well struck penalty kicked through the Newlyn posts by fly-half Arwel Robson, the Reds hit back with two clinically created tries scored by bulky South African born centre JordanHolgate.
The scores, despite fly-half Russell Bennett being luckless with his conversion attempts, silenced the home crowd, as by now Pirates supporters were already fully aware that not only was the visiting pack not short of ballast but they also possessed a slick and dangerous backline.
It was clear the Pirates needed another score to boost morale, and it was thankfully duly delivered approaching the half hour mark when centre Garyn Smith intercepted and ran forty metres to cross for a converted try at the Newlyn posts. Robson duly added the extras to his fellow Welshman’s maiden five pointer in Pirates’ colours, and he also then kicked another fine penalty to give the Cornish side a lead.
Hopes were high that the Pirates could arrive at the break in front, but they would then suffer a double whammy that would prove telling in the context of the game. Firstly, at the very end of the half they leaked a converted try scored by Jersey backrower Macauley Cook, and because of his actions in the build up a yellow card was shown to Pirates’ lock Will Britton.
13-17 suddenly painted a different picture, and it was one that got considerably worse in the opening minutes of the second period when tries from Jersey wing Will Brown and hooker James Hadfield, the latter of which was converted by Bennett, made it 13-29. Brown’s bonus point providing try was a particularly fine effort, as he rose to grasp the crosskicked ball before planting it down at the old Western National corner.
A converted try by Pirates’ scrum half Alex Schwarz kept the home side in touch, and there was still a glimmer of hope despite losing hooker Will Crane to the sin bin and after Brown had scored again. Indeed, following good play down the left by skipper John Stevens, replacement centre Shae Tucker and wing Tommy Wyatt, it was man of the match Wyatt whomade it over the line at the scoreboard corner for a superb try. There was still twelve minutes to go, but that was it points wise for the afternoon for the final score to read 34-25 in the Jersey team’s favour.
Speaking at the end of Saturday’s match, Cornish Pirates’ joint head coach Gavin Cattle commented:
“It was an improved performance from what we showed against Bedford last week, as we had to absorb a lot of pressure in that first half as Jersey are quite a powerful outfit.
“We are a developing team, with the endeavour there and there also areas of our game that have improved, including the scrum.
“The yellow cards obviously impacted on us and turned the game, but we were still in the fight.
“It was also good to welcome certain players back from injury, with our skipper John Stevens again showing his gift to the team which is his physicality,and his front on shots which he gives us week in and week out.
“Also, I thought our bench did well, with Will Gibson a ball of energy and Shae (Tucker), who has been unlucky with injury and illness this season and who has been a good impact player for us, pleasingly back in action for his 50th appearance.”