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For their penultimate game of the season, and their final away match, the Cornish Pirates travelled to Bedford Blues on Saturday where with another impressively spirited performance they made it six league wins on the trot. It was an occasion that also proved especially memorable for No. 8 Tom Duncan, who for the second year running scored a hat-trick against the Blues.
On a warm and sunny afternoon at Goldington Road, this Round 21 fixture in the Greene King IPA Championship – a 3rd versus 4th clash – always had the potential to be a thoroughly entertaining and high-scoring affair, and so it proved. Remembering too that the Pirates also won 24-17 on home soil in December, as an added bonus it provided a satisfying double.
The Pirates opened the scoring all but from the start of this game, when following a penalty award, and then a catch and drive, it was Duncan who recorded the first of his three tries. Cargill was also on target with the conversion.
Bedford Blues strived for an immediate response, with their back three comprising full-back Rich Lane and wingers Howard Packman and Dean Adamson providing the threat expected. A first home score would soon materialise, but it was a try scored by scrum-half Jordan Burns following an excellent counter-attack by Blues’ skipper Michael Le Bourgeois Fly-half Will Hooley converted.
Duncan crossed for his second unconverted try on the quarter of an hour mark, but it was that man Burns again who two minutes later levelled matters, with Hooley’s successful conversion then making it 14-12.
After wing Alex O’Meara was yellow-carded, the Pirates had to play one short for 10 minutes, and it enabled the Blues to extend their lead during the period when England Sevens player Packman scored his team’s third converted try.
The pre-match hype was living up to its billing, but it now important that the Pirates scored next. They did, in fact with two more first half tries. Duncan firstly completed his hat-trick – a feat he had achieved in the corresponding fixture at the Mennaye Field 12 months earlier – and with a minute left on the clock it was full-back Moyle who scored the team’s bonus-point-providing fourth try. Cargill also added the extra four points available, for the scoreline to read 21-26 at the interval.
The Pirates kicked off the second forty playing up the slope and they soon struck again. Ebullient hooker Dan Frost was to the fore, and with wing Matt Evans, scrum-half Alex Day and Moyle in support it was then skipper Nicolas De Battista who scored, adding to his hat-trick performance the previous week. Cargill was luckless with his conversion attempt, however in the context of this game, in relation to its final outcome he five minutes later struck a fine penalty effort from near 40 metres out.
It was now Bedford’s turn to respond and keeping in touch they managed just that when the pacey Burns recorded his own personal hat-trick with an unconverted score.
There was still half hour to play and surely yet more points to witness in this already high-scoring encounter. ‘Surely’? No, actually, but the game remained enthralling nonetheless.
If Cargill’s previously mentioned penalty was important, then a terrific cover tackle effort by O’Meara was also significant, displaying alongside others the determination shown by the Pirates to keep their defence strong.
Nearing the end of this game the Blues were awarded a series of penalties close to the Pirates line. With eight points separating the sides they needed to score twice and initially opted for try-scoring attempts. However, in the final seconds they wisely chose for a kick at goal, that would at least deliver them a second bonus point. Replacement fly-half Harry Sheppard duly obliged, to also bringi to an end another thrillingly entertaining contest between the two sides.
Speaking after the game, Cornish Pirates’ co-coach Gavin Cattle said:
After securing our bonus point before half-time and having also leaked a few scores ourselves, we spoke at half-time for a need to be determined defensively in the second half, and we were.
Overall I was really proud of how the boys applied themselves and adjusted their tactics and it was a mature performance.