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Putting the disappointment of defeats in their previous two games, the Cornish Pirates bounced back to winning ways with this sought-after win away to the Green & Whites of Nottingham.
The kick-off was originally scheduled for 3.15pm, however because the funeral service for Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was to be held at 3pm, the starting time at a sun-bathed Lady Bay ground was brought forward to 1230.
Besides a one-minute silence ahead of the game, players and match officials once again wore black arm bands, as they had before the previous weekend’s matches.
There were several changes in the Cornish Pirates starting line-up for this encounter, partly through injury and others to rotate the squad and rest certain players. In the pack, Hayden King was selected at loose-head prop for his first league game in the campaign, Josh Caulfield moved up into the second row to partner Danny Cutmore, and John Stevens and Matt Bolwell formed the flanker pairing. As for the backs, Will Cargill was at ‘10’ and, with Shae Tucker picking up an injury this week, Tommy Wyatt partnered Rory Parata in the centre. AJ Cant was named at full-back and Harry Davey slotted in on the left wing to make his first Championship appearance of the season. On the bench, another player keen to make his first league outing in the present campaign was a fit again Tom Cowan-Dickie, whilst a new face was that of Will Butler, a centre, who had arrived in the Pirates camp at short notice on loan from Worcester Warriors.
After Nottingham’s scrum-half Alex Dolly opened the scoring with a fifth minute penalty, the Cornish Pirates all but dominated the first half. Their first try was scored by hooker Dan Frost, whose dummy before strolling over on the right would have pleased the best of fly-halves. Cargill added the conversion.
There was clever play that led to the Pirates second converted try, wing Robin Wedlake using his boot to thread the ball to the right for Harry Davey to follow up and score. From out wide, Cargill did well to add the extras.
Thus far the performance from the Pirates provided real encouragement, the team clearly keen to put the disappointment of the last two results behind them. It was also no doubt pleasing for the coaches, and especially so when the third try scored was a second for Davey, who showing speed and excellent footwork crossed on the left flank.
Nottingham threatened to score a try of their own following a fine run from wing Harry Graham, but it was no to be.
With time aplenty before the break, for the Pirates their focus was now to search for a bonus point fourth try, which did materialise but only after losing the services of a hobbling Wedlake. With Will Butler making his debut as a replacement in the centre, Tommy Wyatt moved out onto the wing and it was he who soon swatted off would be defenders to make it to the line. Cargill’s third successful conversion made it 26-3 to the Pirates, which is how it would stay come the break.
Hopes were understandably high that the Pirates could kick on still further in the second half, however when they all but immediately lost the services of hooker Frost it was the Merry Men of Nottingham who had other ideas. Prop Karl Garside firstly crashed over for a converted try to the left of the posts and then, after snaffling possession, scrum-capped flanker Jake Farnworth showed pace and excellent lung capacity to run sixty metres to score. Umm, anymore of that and this contest could suddenly become very interesting indeed.
With replacements and injuries play was somewhat stop-start, plus for the Pirates there was frustration that errors were made at vital times when the chance of further points looked very much ‘on’.
For Nottingham, wing Joe Browning regularly threatened with ball in hand, but to no avail, so when the Pirates conjured up their fifth try of the afternoon, which saw replacement Paddy Ryan stride under the posts, the converted score provided just relief.
The home team registered a consolation third try near the very end when experienced No.8 Jordan Coghlan ran clear for a converted score, however it was not enough to deny the Pirates the bounce back win that was sought.
Speaking after the game, Cornish Pirates’ joint head coach Gavin Cattle said:
We had talked all week about securing five points, so that was a positive to enable us to get back on track.
There were a lot of good points in the first half but because of injuries we were understandably a little bit disjointed in the second forty.
Our challenge now is to build consistency, and much of today – especially in the first half – was a step in the right direction.