All the Latest News & Fixtures...
Returning to Greene King IPA Championship action on Saturday, the fixture for the Cornish Pirates away to Rotherham Titans always had banana skin potential, and so it proved.
After 13 rounds played in this season’s Championship campaign, the Titans arrived at this fixture yet to taste victory, however in recording two British & Irish Cup wins at the start of 2018 their apparent resurgence was given added incentive to record another encouraging result.
Playing against a side that is propping up the league, the Pirates were aware they could take nothing for granted on their visit to Clifton Lane, plus it was remembered, that when the teams met at the Mennaye Field back in September the high-scoring match proved a closely-fought affair, with the Pirates ultimately pleased, following three defeats suffered in their opening games, to secure a 62-47 result.
Lock Chris Morgan skippered the Pirates for their trip ‘Up North’, the side missing a number of their dual-registered players. Nico Coronel was named on the wing and a fit again John Stevens selected at open-side flanker. Listed among the replacements, Paul Andrew, now fully recovered from injury, was keen to make his first appearance of the season.
A bright start for the Pirates saw hooker Sam Matavesi run impressively, and fly-half Will Cargill then achieve success with his second penalty attempt at goal.
All looked promising, before in the space of just three minutes the hosts hit back with two well-taken tries scored by wingers Will Thomas and Drew Cheshire. Both were converted by fly-half Lee Millar.
A line-out by the Pirates gifted the Titans a chance to build for a third score, and with scrum-half Rhodri Davies a lively competitor it wouldn’t have come as a surprise. Indeed, further points in the match did materialise, but they were ones thankfully acquired by the Pirates. Wing Coronel latched on to Cargill’s well-weighted kick, ran strongly and then fed centre Nicolas De Battista who crossed for a converted try.
Overall, after a difficult period, the Pirates had recovered well, only for their good work to be spoiled when Rotherham’s team extended their lead through full-back Caolan Ryan, who became their third back-three player to register a try, it once again converted by Millar.
Cargill was unable to pull three points back with a penalty miss, as to their credit the Titans ended the first forty having taken their chances to deservedly hold a 21-10 points lead.
Into the second half, it was veteran Chris Morgan who sprightily showed a clean pair of heels to score near the posts, with Cargill’s conversion bringing the Pirates further back into contention.
The momentum appeared to be changing, and especially so when Titans skipper Tom Calladine was yellow-carded. The Pirates, however, made ‘errs’ at crucial times and they were unable to take any immediate advantage.
Home supporters held hope of holding on for that elusive first win in the Championship, whilst for the Pirates their travelling faithful urged their team on.
A break by scrum-half Alex Day took play close to the Rotherham line, and it was No 8 Tom Duncan who then made it over. The try saw the Pirates back in front, leaving Cargill to add the extra two points with his last deed of the day.
Unfortunately, for the visitors, a 21-24 scoreline would in the final few minutes see a reversal in fortune, as two late penalties saw the Titans to victory. Millar stroked the first clean through the posts to draw the scores level, and at the end Ryan’s controlled effort delivered the bounty.
Ultimately, it would be a mini-miracle if the Titans were to avoid relegation – their people and traditional pie & peas will be missed! However, you never know and the moment was deservedly theirs to enjoy.
Speaking after the game, and in his town of birth, Cornish Pirates coach Alan Paver said:
It’s disappointing for us but Rotherham were worthy winners and against the grain early on took their opportunities well. We fought hard to get ourselves back into a position to push our nose ahead, however towards the end, when there was all to play for, our game management wasn’t quite enough to secure the sought-after result.
Knowing they were on a roll It was always going to be a tough game for us, and the psychological aspect is something we had talked about. We will take a closer at the game, as ever, because there are always things to learn from ahead of next weekend’s rescheduled Cup fixture against Hartpury.