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Despite ahead of this contest achieving bonus point wins in all four Championship Cup games played in Pool C, the Cornish Pirates felt pre-match that they needed to go up another notch in Round 5, and boy they did just that!
Impressively scoring eight tries in the match, with one pool fixture still to play, they breezed past the 50 points mark to comfortably qualify for the semi-finals of the competition.
The two teams had met just twice previously, with both games played this season at Caldy’s Paton Field ground. The Pirates won 26-7 in the Cup last November, before in December snow they lost 15-14 in the league.
There were four personnel changes in the Pirates starting XV from the one that ran out against Richmond the previous week. In the backs centre Shae Tucker and wing AJ Cant were named, whilst in the pack both prop Hayden King and flanker Jarrard Hayler were about to make their first competitive match starts for the team this season.
In once again fine conditions at the Mennaye Field, after the ‘Ravers’ from Caldy kicked off playing towards Newlyn events were quick to transpire against them. They firstly lost the services through injury of wing Tom Fletcher and then leaked the game’s opening score when Pirates’ lock forward Josh Williams scampered over the line between the Penzance posts. For the previous week’s man of the match, it was also his first try scored in Pirates’ colours, with fly-half Harry Bazalgette then adding the extra two points as he did when approaching midway through the first half prop Hayden King scored from close range.
Caldy showed glimpses of their capabilities through the ball carrying of prop Jack Parker and flanker Tom Parry, and on the half hour mark the visitors managed a score of their own. Former Doncaster Knights hooker Ted Stagg’s throw found second-row jumper Tom Sanders at line-out time, and from the resulting driving maul it was Stagg who then applied the necessary pressure for a try scored at the Newlyn gate corner. Replacement Lewis Barker was luckless with his conversion attempt.
Overall the Pirates were though dominating exchanges with skipper John Stevens, playing this week at number 8, outstanding. They would also conjure up a super unconverted try just before halftime to give them a 19-5 lead at the break. Instigated by full-back Will Trewin, and with centre Shae Tucker well involved, the ball was worked to centre Joe Elderkin who had the pace and determination to score at the clubhouse corner.
Clearly keen to secure a four-try bonus point at the start of the second period, hooker Morgan Nelson duly delivered for the home side, with Bazalgette also slotting his conversion attempt.
A winning outcome for the Pirates already appeared certaint, with replacements introduced as the half wore on. Players and supporters alike were enjoying this display, with one slick passage of play ending with flanker Jarrard Hayler taking to the air when diving over the line at pace to also register his first try for the club.
Into the last quarter yet more entertaining rugby was played as the Pirates scored three more tries, which were all well converted by replacement Carwyn Penny. Replacement hooker Will Crane crossed for the first, busy man of the match wing AJ Cant scored another, and finally, after lending support to another fine run from Cant, it was replacement scrum-half Ali Stacey who had the delight to place the ball down at the Newlyn posts. For the young Newlyner, it was a rightly a proud moment.
So, for the Pirates, a semi-final place at present scheduled to be played on the weekend 6th May, is theirs, and with one more pool round of games to be played – the Pirates are away to Ampthill next Saturday ( the 18th February) – there must also be a good chance to secure a home tie. Watch this space!
Speaking at the end of Saturday’s encounter, Cornish Pirates’ joint head coach Gavin Cattle commented:
“Today our energy levels were right up there, as was our execution. It was also satisfying to witness some of what we have been focusing on come to fruition.
“It was good too to see a good balance in our game, with both backs and forwards performing well, and although it was at one point on a bit of a teething edge when they scored, we played very well in the second half, and you could see the team grow in confidence as we kept our foot on the gas to finish strongly.
“Obviously we are pleased to secure a semi-final spot, and although we expect a tough game away to Ampthill next Saturday, it would naturally be great for the club if a home semi was ultimately achieved.”