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Arriving at Round 7 in this season’s RFU Championship, the second-placed Cornish Pirates had high hopes of recording their third bonus point win on the trot, but it was not to be. However, a much sought-after victory was at least secured.
Almost incredibly, the Pirates had not won an away game versus London Scottish since September 2011, so they clearly had every incentive to win, with it expected their cause would inevitably be helped against London Scottish side which lay at the foot of the RFU Championship league table, and without a ‘W’ to their name.
The Pirates made several changes to their starting XV from the one that ran out at the Mennaye Field against Coventry the previous weekend. With full-back Carwyn Penny and wing Tommy Wyatt having picked up injuries, AJ Cant moved from wing to full-back, Callum Sirker returned to action in the 11 shirt, and a try-scoring replacement against ‘Cov, Alex O’Meara, slotted in at 14 to complete the back three. One other change in the backs saw Alex Schwarz handed a starting role at scrum half.
As for the forwards, Tom Channon returned to the starting line-up at hooker, Cory Teague partnered Danny Cutmore in the second row, and Caleb Montgomery was selected at blindside flanker. For Cory and Caleb it was their first Championship match starts for the Pirates. Finally, for this game Matt Bolwell moved from 6 to 7, and No. 8 Tom Duncan not for the first time wore the captain’s armband.
Among the replacements, having been injured in a pre-season friendly, fit again hooker Syd Blackmore was keen to make his first Championship appearance for the Pirates, whilst Marlen Walker and Sam Rodman were also welcomed back to fitness, the latter ready for his first league outing
in this campaign. Antonio Kiri Kiri, who enjoyed game time back in New Zealand during the close season, eagerly awaited his call off the bench.
One area where the home side have shown an ability to perform well this season has been at scrum time, and match underway at an early binding of the respective packs this was evident, with their experienced skipper and hooker Nick Selway, a former Jersey Reds performer, a likely influence.
In the opening quarter of this game the Pirates looked anything but settled, whilst London Scottish, welcoming back several players from injury and with scrum half Stephen Kerins making his debut on loan from Ealing Trailfinders, will have been delighted with their start, especially considering their 101-7 defeat suffered at Ealing last time out.
It was also no surprise that the first points of the game went the way of the home side, sharp play by Kerins leading to a try scored by his halfback partner Dan Nutton, who was unable to add the extras.
Scrum penalties mounting against the Pirates was proving a concern, however from a line-out, and to the relief of travelling supporters, space was created for Sirker to first draw the scores level and the Pirates then take a lead thanks to fly-half Arwel Robson’s successful conversion.
Approaching half-time the Pirates held territorial advantage and probed for further points. Penalty awards were now suddenly going their way and taking drive opportunities close to the opposition line it was after London Scottish lost the services of flanker Morgan Dawes to the sin bin that hooker Tom Channon’s unconverted try gave the Pirates a 12-5 lead at the break.
Into the second half, with Kiri Kiri now introduced to proceedings the Pirates sought to extend their lead before Dawes’ return, but to no avail. They were certainly playing with added energy, though would again give penalties away that would enable London Scottish to reapply pressure. Indeed, with momentum gained a converted try scored at the posts by replacement Brian Tuilagi (son of Samoan legend Freddie) suddenly drew the scores level.
Entering the last quarter of the game was clearly going to be a test for both sides, and although Nutton missed a kickable penalty chance, it seemingly mattered not when wing Noah Ferdinand’s unconverted score put London Scottish back in front – but only briefly. Supporters were now on the edge of their seats, but with the Pirates contingent given plenty to cheer about all but from the restart when replacement centre Shae Tucker’s run and pass led to Sirker crossing for his second try of the afternoon, again converted by Robson, that saw the Pirates regain the lead.
As both sides sought a bonus point fourth try, the tension was mighty,
and when Nutton kicked a penalty to the corner the home side again dreamt of securing a first win of the season. Thankfully the Pirates thwarted the brave effort and were ultimately relieved just to hold out for a long-sought victory.
Speaking after the game, Cornish Pirates’ joint head coach Gavin Cattle commented:
“Credit to London Scottish who reacted well from suffering a demoralising defeat the previous weekend. Able to make some changes they scrummed well, controlled the tempo and their number ‘9’ was exceptional in the first half.
“For us, we were under pressure at times but persevered and there were a lot of learning moments in the game. Also, besides achieving that long sought after win it was pleasing that certain young squad members gained valuable game time and experience that always bodes well for the future.”