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Playing their final Premiership Rugby Cup game of the season away to London Scottish, under a bright floodlit glow at the Richmond Athletic Ground (the RAG) the Cornish Pirates comfortably won this Round 5 fixture in Pool C of the competition.
Defeat for home side saw them finish their campaign at the foot of the Pool C table, with the Pirates two places above them in third. ‘Scottish’ had lost 47-10 away to Exeter Chiefs in their Round 4 match, whilst the Pirates had unfortunately gone without a scheduled home game following the news that Jersey Reds had ceased trading.
In the injured absence of John Stevens, full-back Kyle Moyle skippered the Cornish Pirates at the RAG, with the starting XV showing several changes from the one that featured in the 64-17 win at Cambridge last time out. In the backs, centre Joe Elderkin returned to make what was his 49th appearance for the Pirates, and Matt McNab moved out to the wing. Former Jersey ‘Red’ Tom Pittman was named at fly-half. As for the pack, hooker Morgan Nelson, prop Marlen Walker, and lock Steele Barker were given starting roles, along with flanker Will Gibson and fit again number 8 Ben Grubb.
The Pirates were quick to make their mark at scrum time and, with territorial advantage soon acquired, through the efforts of such as Matt McNab, Ben Grubb, and Jack Andrew, and with scrum half Alex Schwarz directing matters, it was flanker Harry Dugmore who scored the game’s opening try. From the right of the posts, Tom Pittman slotted the conversion.
Soon after the restart wing Will Trewin made an intercept, and although tap tackled by home centre Will Simonds a threat of a second try was not only maintained but also delivered through centre Ioan Evans – his first in Pirates’ colours. Pittman once again added the extras.
The Pirates were in dominant mode and, following good play once again from Trewin, and from skipper Kyle Moyle, it was Trewin who impressively notched up his fifth try in the Premiership Rugby Cup this season.
For London Scottish, lock forward Brian Tuilagi, a nephew of Manu and son of former Leicester Tigers and Samoa legend Freddie, looked to provide some physicality to the exiles game, as did prop Graham Geldenhuys, whilst in the backs their experienced scrum half Stephen Kerins, a former Ealing Trailfinders and Munster player, also strived to provide a little spark.
The Cornish side was clearly keen to notch up a four try bonus point before the break. Poor handling, however, disrupted their flow, and it appeared if London Scottish would actually score next. Wing Noah Ferdinand and full back Will Talbot-Davies threatened in tandem, but a knock-on dashed hopes and halftime soon arrived shortly with the Pirates holding a 19-0 lead.
Solid play from visitors saw them score two very well worked driving maul tries before the hour mark, with hooker Morgan Nelson registering both and Pittman also converting each. Then, into the last quarter of the game, the home team at last got points on the board with an excellent try scored by former Wasps’ wingman Luke Mehson. It was his fourth against the Pirates this year after having scored a hat-trick at the RAG in the league back in March. Fly-half Elliott Haydon was also on target with the conversion attempt.
Keeping the scoreboard ticking over, the powerful McNab scored two unconverted tries for the Pirates, there was a converted score for London Scottish replacement William Panday and, following a final try of the evening scored by Pirates’ replacement Hugh Bokenham, his first for the club, Pittman’s fifth conversion brought up the 50 points mark.
After a seriously poor record away to London Scottish during the past decade plus, it has only been in the last two seasons that the Pirates had turned things around to record victories, with this latest result making it a pleasing third away win on the trot.
Commenting at the end this game, Cornish Pirates’ joint head coach Gavin Cattle said:
“Our aim was to focus on our performance, and I have said to the lads that their energy and effort was great, although in the first half I think we were making emotional decisions rather than the picture in front of us, so we missed a couple of opportunities.
“Scottish had made many changes, it was very loose and, overall, we would have liked to see a little more cohesion and accuracy. However, as I said, the energy was right, although we know it was not a true reflection of what London Scottish can offer and can expect a different and much tougher challenge when we face them in the league.”
London Scottish: 15 Will Talbot-Davies 14 Noah Ferdinand 13 Billy Wara (22 William Panday, 51) 12 Will Simonds (23 Harry Sheppard, 57; 9 Stephen Kerins, 65) 11 Luke Mehson 10 Elliot Haydon 9 Stephen Kerins (21 Jonny Law, 52); 1 George Cave 2 Garin Lloyd (16 Toby Tyson, 71) 3 Rhys Charalambous (18 Ashley Challenger, 52) 4 Brian Tuilagi 5 Graham Geldenhuys 6 Bailey Ransom (captain; 19 Kade Bird, 57) 7 Ioan Rhys Davies 8 Silas Pill (20 John Ireland, 09; 8 Silas Pill, 14).
Replacement (not used): 17 Will Prior
Cornish Pirates: 15 Kyle Moyle (captain) 14 Will Trewin (23 Dan John, 63) 13 Ioan Evans (22 Tom Georgiou, 57) 12 Joe Elderkin 11 Matt McNab 10 Tom Pittman 9 Alex Schwarz (21 Ruaridh Dawson, 52); 1 Jack Andrew (17 Jacob Morris, 54) 2 Morgan Nelson (16 Rhys Williams, 57) 3 Marlen Walker (18 Matt Johnson, 40) 4 Josh Williams (19 Hugh Bokenham, 40) 5 Steele Barker 6 Harry Dugmore 7 Will Gibson 8 Ben Grubb (20 Alex Everett, 40).
London Scottish – tries: Luke Mehson (61) William Panday (76); cons: Elliott Haydon (62, 77).
Cornish Pirates – tries: Harry Dugmore (08) Ioan Evans (11) Will Trewin (18) Morgan Nelson (44, 56) Matt McNab (67, 73), Hugh Bokenham (78); cons: Tom Pittman (09, 13, 45, 57, 80).
Referee: Simon Harding
Assistants: James Clarke & Gareth Holsgrove
(The two sides will meet again in less than a fortnight, when on Friday 20th October the 2023/24 Championship league season will get underway with the Cornish Pirates this time to host London Scottish at the Mennaye Field. The kick-off under lights is at 7.30pm)