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Playing this 1st Leg home encounter in the quarter-final of the Championship Cup, at the end of an entertaining game the Cornish Pirates sneaked this win thanks to replacement Arwel Robson’s conversion of a try scored by flanker Matt Bolwell.
Matches between the Pirates and the Blues are often high-scoring affairs, and in front of a small than usual crowd this one did not disappoint.
Selection for the Pirates saw Carwyn Penny return to the side at full-back, whilst AJ Cant and Tommy Wyatt were named on the wings, with club captain Nicolas De Battista and Rory Parata forming the centre pairing.
After an emotional Tom Channon led the Pirates onto the field for what was his last game before retirement, it was the visitors who would score first, courtesy of an easy penalty kick that was fired between the Newlyn posts by fly-half Will Maisey.
Channon, however, shortly after had due cause for celebration when, from a driving line-out at the scoreboard corner, it was he who emerged a happy try-scorer – it his seventeenth at the end of what for him has been an incredible final season. Fly-half Harry Bazalgette added the extra two points.
Approaching midway through the first half, after securing possession near halfway the Pirates extended their lead when skipper De Battista ran a final leg to the line for a converted score.
There was no time to rest on laurels, however, as shortly after the restart the Blues pressed strongly close to the Pirates line. Two former Pirates in their side, namely skipper and wing forward Joe Atkinson and scrum-half Alex Day, were busy men about, with the latter directing matters before second-row forward Jordan Onojaife crashed over the line for a converted try.
Teams can never take games against Bedford Blues for granted, noting too that for their long serving Director of Rugby, former Wales international Mike Rayer, it was the 40th something time that he had prepared his team for fixtures against the Cornish Pirates.
A positive for the Pirates was that their line-out was at this stage functioning soundly, with young lock Cory Teague providing clean ball. Indeed, the smooth format worked well and led to a next Pirates score, with man of the match scrum-half Ruaridh Dawson ultimately providing a clever flip pass to try-scorer Wyatt. Bazalgette once again added the extras.
In the build to half-time the visitors once again showed the threat they posed, which was of no surprise considering that their selection was littered with members of the Northampton Saints squad, including Cornish centre Joel Matavesi.
Come half-time the threat posed became a reality, as converted tries scored by Day and by wing Matt Worley gave the impressive Bedford team a 24-21 lead.
Six minutes into the second period the Blues went further ahead, this time thanks to a try scored by prop Joey Conway. Maisey again added the extras and then landed two successful penalty kicks to open a 16 points gap. The second kick followed Pirates flanker Matt Bolwell being shown ‘yellow’ by referee Mr. Walbaum.
If the home crowd needed something to perk them up, and supporters clearly did, then it was thankfully soon about to happen.
A try at the Newlyn gate corner from replacement hooker Syd Blackmore helped start a resurgence, followed by dash down the right by flanker Will Gibson which further raised morale. Clearly a prescription had been issued that was beginning to not only work but to also give hope, and when fly-half Arwel Robson chip-kicked out of hand it was the unlikely form of prop Sam Rodman who gathered the ball like the very best of outfield cricketers. He then passed inside to supporting full-back Carwyn Penny who scored to the left of the Newlyn posts.
There was now just six points in it, so a converted score could deliver a comeback win. The crowd dared to dream, and again there was a clinical aspect to how that was to be achieved. With less than two minutes on the clock, Robson firstly posted a penalty kick award deep to the old Western National corner. From there the line-out was won, a maul developed and advanced, and Bolwell suddenly found space to score under the Newlyn posts. Robson still had to add the conversion to deliver victory, which he duly did.
So, the Pirates take the narrowest advantage into the 2nd Leg of the quarter-final to be played at Bedford’s Goldington Road next Saturday (ko 3pm), where much of the same is likely on the cards.
Speaking after this at times hectic contest, Cornish Pirates’ joint head coach Gavin Cattle commented:
“I was shaking my head at half-time how we were losing, because we had a commanding lead and then gave a couple of tries away.
“Bedford then scored at the start of the second half, kicked a couple of penalties and looked comfortable in a game that was weird at times and difficult to describe to be honest.
“Both teams made errors, and there were good things as well. We outscored them try-wise but in the context overall of the quarter-final it is only halftime and there is everything still to play for.”
“We would like to take more than a one-point lead into next week, but it’s a one-off game again in a competition that is strange to get your head around.
“A little bit of emotion was perhaps lacking today, but that should be raised when we go up to packed Goldington Road next Saturday.”