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Having last beaten London Scottish at the Richmond Athletic Ground back in September 2011, the Cornish Pirates travelled with a purpose to reverse that losing trend. Sadly, however, under the Friday night floodlights at the ‘RAG’ the effort fell a little way short of not just hope, but also likely expectation.
As per the Pirates, their hosts have also had their injury woes, but their selection was still a strong one. Indeed, there was a feeling pre-match that their 11th place in the league position could be deemed misleading, the personnel at their disposal providing an indicator that they could not be taken lightly. They also had two former Cornish Pirates in the shapes of wing Craig Holland and flanker Joe Atkinson who reported raring to go.
The Cornish Pirates welcomed back from injury centre Nicolas De Battista, who also led the team. His inclusion in place of Nicolas Coronel was one of just two changes from the side that started against Hartpury RFC just five days earlier, the other being at tight-head prop where Christian Judge replaced Jack Andrew. Also signed back on loan with the Pirates was Redruth back-rower Chris Fuca, who took a seat on the bench.
Playing conditions for this Round 9 encounter in the Championship were just about perfect, and applying early pressure the Pirates were rewarded with two kick-at-goal penalty opportunities that were both comfortably slotted by fly-half Will Cargill.
So far, so good, but the Exiles side then settled and soon hit back with two quick-hit tries. Holland scored the first against his former opponents, followed then by one from ex England 7s man Matt Williams who followed a chip ahead and used his pace to cross in the corner. Fly-half Jake Sharp, a player/coach at London Scottish, was luckless with both conversion attempts.
It was felt pre-match that the home side had a dangerous looking back line, with a former Bristol Rugby try-scoring favourite, Ben Mosses, leading Scottish for the first time.
A fully competitive spell followed, with it appearing into the second quarter of the match that the Pirates were getting back on track. Tries scored by flankers Alex Cheesman and Rupert Cooper – London Scottish lost the services of Namibian international lock Tjiuee Uanivi to the sin bin in between – were both converted by Cargill, and the Pirates suddenly held a 10 points advantage.
Heading towards the break, real encouragement had been provided both the team and their enthusiastic supporters, but then, after Uanivi’s immediate reappearance, it was the turn of Atkinson to inflict damage on former comrades when scoring an unconverted try from a line-out. The half-time whistle then followed, with the scoreline reading 15-20.
If at this stage the outcome of this one was still too close to predict, just 10 minutes into the second period painted a different picture, as the hosts regained the lead. Four minutes in, full-back Charlie Ingall scored a converted try, and then, after Pirates wingman Alex O’Meara was yellow-carded, there was a second in the match for ‘Atko’. Clinical at line-out time was not for the first time the potent ingredient and Sharp once again added the extra two points.
During O’Meara’s temporary absence there was credit that the Pirates not only held firm but also added an extra three points to their tally, thanks to a third penalty successfully kicked by Cargill. A now trademark bullocking run from lock Josh Caulfield also raised spirits When London Scottish eased the pressure, it was a lively and experienced performer in former Wales 7s man Alex Walker to the forefront, with good support also from his namesake, home club captain Chris Walker.
Into the last quarter, when a Sharp penalty opened up a nine points gap there was a fear that the Pirates could well be denied a losing bonus point. Thankfully that wasn’t the case, as in the last minute replacement Laurence May kicked a penalty for the final score to read 32-26. For London Scottish it was their first Championship victory since their Round 1 win against Yorkshire Carnegie at the start of September, and it was well deserved
As for the Pirates their four-game winning sequence, two in the Cup and two in the Championship, had come to a halt on a night when there was inevitable disappointment at the ‘RAG’, where they will reconvene again next weekend, hoping to return to winning ways against Richmond.
Speaking after the game against ‘Scottish, coach Gavin Cattle said:
We got off to a very good start and displayed plenty of energy, but ultimately our set piece fell short, our transition from attack into defence wasn’t as sharp as it has been and there were defensive errors that we will have to address this week. Our discipline also let us down to at times let them back into the game, however credit to London Scottish who looked dangerous with ball in hand and are blessed with a number of experienced players
Looking ahead to the Richmond game, Alan also commented:
For this coming week we’ll have to get back on the bike and prepare for what we expect to be a really tough battle against one of the most dogged teams in the league. Richmond possess a never-say-die-attitude so we will have to up our game, especially in that contact area.