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Having early in October emerged comfortable 42-7 winners away to Nottingham Rugby in the Championship Cup, playing again under Friday night floodlights at Nottingham’s ‘The Bay’ ground the Cornish Pirates were victorious once more, but this time in the Greene King IPA Championship.
Speedy winger Alex O’Meara notched up an impressive four tries for the Pirates in that Cup match fixture, however in the league a much tougher contest was expected, both sides having won two and lost one in their opening games in the competition.
Selected in the Cornish Pirates starting XV to make their first Greene King IPA Championship appearances of the season were centre Rory Parata and scrum-half Jean-Baptist Bruzulier, whilst overall the side showed several changes from the team that faced Newcastle Falcons last time out, including quick returns from injury for hooker Tom Cowan-Dickie and flanker Will Wilson.
On a damp old evening that duly enhanced the glitter of the floodlights, the Pirates started in positive mode, their play earning a second minute penalty kick opportunity that was well slotted by fly-half Javier Rojas Alvarez.
Soon after the restart it was the turn of the ‘Green & Whites’ to in turn apply a little pressure, the reward of a penalty leading to their Irish-born number ‘10’ Shane O’Leary, who is also a Canadian international, levelling matters.
As the Pirates now looked for a positive response, a fine run from flanker Matt Bolwell perhaps deserved a better outcome. The Pirates went close to scoring the game’s opening try, however after their advance was thwarted it was Nottingham who would be first to register a five-points score. O’Leary’s kick from hand found the clutches of wing Kyran Bungaroo whose off-load to his skipper Sean Scanlon enabled the full-back to score an unconverted try wide out on the left.
A Rojas Alvarez penalty reduced the deficit with his second successful strike and, thanks to his quick thinking soon after, the Pirates gained territory from where they were awarded what would prove a beneficial five metres scrum. Gifted the chance of a potential score, No. 8 Tom Duncan was keen/is always keen (!) to take advantage, and he did, his converted try seeing the Pirates regain the lead.
As the clocked ticked towards half-time a penalty from O’Leary firstly brought the home team within two points, and then, just seconds before the whistle, the Pirates appeared unlucky not to have driven over for a score. For the moment, it was not to be, but they at least led 13-11.
The Pirates would have perhaps felt frustrated that a couple of potential scoring opportunities were missed in the first period, so what would the second forty bring? Well, denied a try right on half-time, when an opportunity to score from a catch and drive soon materialised, it was a chance well taken. Hooker Cowan-Dickie’s throw was gathered by lock Fa’atiga Lemalu, and from the resulting drive Duncan scored his second converted try. Back in Cornwall, his sponsors the Newlyn Steak Club, probably celebrated by raising a glass of red.
Entering the last quarter, another quick score would raise hopes that the Pirates could register a bonus-point-providing fourth try. However, with injury breaks and replacements being made the flow of the game was disrupted, and on this wet night it somehow looked unlikely.
Nottingham showed extra energy and hunger to stay in the game, and after O’Leary kicked another penalty, for Pirates supporters the 14-20 scoreline ensured a nervy final few minutes.
The Green & Whites, with their side showing several changes from the team that represented them in the Cup, were proving difficult opponents, so when a third penalty from Rojas Alvarez opened up an important nine points gap, there was a feeling of welcome relief.
Again, Nottingham refused to buckle, testing the Pirates defence late in the half through a succession of penalty awards. With a yellow card looking inevitable, one shown to Pirates’ skipper Brett Beukeboom, though in remaining time his side commendably denied Nottingham not just a further score but also a losing bonus point.
Pleased overall with the result, at the end of the game Cornish Pirates’ Director of Rugby Chris Stirling commented:
For us, against good opposition and in difficult conditions it was a very good outcome away from home.
We showed a lot of character to defuse a late surge from Nottingham, to not only deny them a possible win but also a bonus point.
We can now turn our attention to Ampthill, with the opportunity to enjoy having ample time to prepare.