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Ahead of a new rugby season, the button to restart rugby action at the Mennaye Field was pushed again on Saturday, when the Cornish Pirates extended a warm welcome to their cross-Tamar opponents fromPlymouth Albion.
Warm welcome, ‘yes’, but also a convincing win against nonetheless able and spirited opponents who, right to the very end, never let their heads drop.
The Cornish Pirates listed several of their new faces, including in the starting line-up fly-half Tom Pittman and centre Ioan Evans. Certain other summer arrivals were named on the bench, from where two Royal Navy players who have been training with the Pirates during the period, utility back Jordan Gott and hooker Rhys Williams, were keen to feature.
After the visitors kicked off the match off playing towards the Newlyn end of the ground, it was not long before Pirates’ full-back Kyle Moyle, who has returned to the club from Gloucester, showed his class. Indeed, it was his counter that led to the game’s opening score, which saw stalwart prop Jack Andrew crash over for an unconverted try at the clubhouse corner.
The Pirates were dominating play generally, and afforded a catch and drive opportunity at the scoreboard corner they would soon extend their lead. Hooker Morgan Nelson’s throw first found the safe hands of lock Cory Teague, and after retrieving possession it was Nelson himself who burrowed his way across the line for a try this time converted by Pittman.
Albion’s squad included several familiar faces who have spent time with the Pirates, namely skipper and scrum-half Jack Oulton, lock Brad Howe, and hooker Tom Cowan-Dickie, while wing Shea Cornish is a former youth section player. Oulton threatened to create a score out wide on the left, but when a stray pass resulted the Pirates worked their way up field from where a penalty try was awarded following a line-out on the right.
For the Devon side centre Seta Raumakita looked a potent performer in the tackle area, whilst their efforts to get points of their own on the scoreboard in the build to the break were foiled by a determined home outfit. There had also been several delays due to injuries before the whistle blew, with the Pirates holding a 19-0 halftime lead.
Solid work at scrum time led to the Pirates being awarded a second penalty try early in the second period, after which matters became just a little feisty – albeit only for a brief period.
When a next score came, it was great one to watch. Entering the Newlyn half, the Pirates were slick with their passing and, when the ball reached the hands of young wing Arthur Relton, he combined clever footwork and speed to find the space from where he accelerated to the line.
Two more tries followed for the Pirates, with both scored by replacement Matt McNab. Another replacement, Welsh fly-half Iwan Jenkins, also converted each.
The Pirates now had the 50 points mark in sight, but it was not to be, as in a spirited finish a spell of fine play concluded with Albion’s replacement centre Craig Duncan registering a deserved unconverted try that saw the match end 45-5.
Coach Ryan Lamb’s Devon side, who finished 5th in National One last season, are ambitious to make a ‘sooner rather than later’ return to Championship rugby, so despite the ultimate result the experience will have been welcomed. All in the far south westwish them well, as many will remember that former contests between the two sides provided intense rivalry, enjoyed both by players and supporters alike.
As for the Cornish Pirates, at the end of the match joint head coach Gavin Cattle said:
“There were various aspects of our performance that went well, including looking at new combinations. Yes, there were one or two set plays that we would have liked to execute better but call selection was good and our kicking in the first half was solid.
“Nobody would expect us to have been perfect but all in all the effort and attitude provided positives.”
“I thought that they were physical and got stuck in, so credit to Ryan Lamb and his side. Also, there was credit to the referee for the way he officiated in relation to the new tackle law, that Plymouth will be adhering to this season, and we had to for this match.”
Cornish Pirates: 15 Kyle Moyle 14 Arthur Relton13 Ioan Evans 12 Joe Elderkin 11 Will Trewin 10 Tom Pittman 9 Ruaridh Dawson; 1 Jack Andrew 2 Morgan Nelson 3 Marlen Walker 4 Cory Teague 5 Will Britton 6 Ben Grubb 7 Will Gibson 9 John Stevens (captain).
Replacements (all used): Rhys Williams, Leftheri Zigiriadis, Fin Richardson, Josh Williams, Harry Dugmore, Alex Schwarz, Iwan Jenkins, Dan John, Matt McNab, Frankie Nowell, Jordan Gott.
Plymouth Albion: 15 Tom Putt 14 Shea Cornish 13 Seta Raumakita 12 Archie Hill 11 Kyle Speare 10 Phil Jones 9 Jack Oulton (captain); 1 Ramaz Rukhadze 2 Tom Cowan-Dickie 3 Callum Davies 4 Dan Collier 5 Brad Howe 6 Angus Hodges 7 Torin Clarke 8 Sam Daly.
Replacements (all used): Harry Wilkinson, Jenson Boughton, Gabe Mead, Jack Wickham, Morgan Stone, Pita Ratukadru, Craig Duncan, Billy Orchard, Charlie Groves.
Cornish Pirates – tries: Matt McNab (2), Jack Andrew, Morgan Nelson, Arthur Relton, penalty tries (2); cons: Iwan Jenkins (2), Tom Pittman.
Plymouth Albion – try: 22 Craig Duncan.
Referee: Andy Wigley
‘Tribute’ Man of the Match: Will Britton.
(The two teams will face each other again in another pre-season ‘friendly’ next Saturday, but this time at Plymouth Albion’s Brickfields ground – ko 3pm)