23 September, 2023
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League / Cup
Having each lost their opening two games in the Premiership Rugby Cup, going into this contest both teams were keen to seek victory, with the Pirates under no illusions that their hosts could provide stern opposition at their Grantchester Road home. As it worked out, however, the Cornish side scored 10 tries in this match, and in the process recorded their first ever Premiership Rugby Cup win with a particularly impressive second half performance.
For this trip to fresh pastures against new Championship arrivals Cambridge, the Pirates madea raft of changes in their selection from the XV that started against Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park seven days earlier, Matt McNab partnered Ioan Evans in the centre, and Dan John was named on the wing. Alex Schwarz this week wore the ‘9’ shirt and, in the forwards, there were starting roles for front-rowers Jack Andrew, Rhys Williams and Fin Richardson, the second row comprising Josh King and Josh Williams, and for flanker Harry Dugmore.
Named among the replacements were Hugh Bokenham and Tom Georgiou, each chomping at the bit to make their debuts for the club.
Getting off to an encouraging start, after a good run by Dan John possession would soon reach the hands of full-back Kyle Moyle who dummied and ran to score an excellent try in the right-hand corner.
Fly-half Iwan Jenkins, however, was luckless in attempting to add the extras.
It was felt pre-match that ‘The Blood & Sand’, to give the Cambridge team its nickname, would be very much up for this game and, as if to underline that view, they were quick to score their opening try when stalwart Kiwi wing Matt Hema sped over wide out on the right. Welsh fly-half Steff James also slotted a fine conversion.
Soon awarded a penalty, the Pirates opted through Jenkins to kick to the corner. Hooker Rhys Williams found his man at the line-out and, following a controlled driving maul, a second unconverted try was this time scored by flanker Harry Dugmore
The hosts too showed their potential when a kick into space by James found the hands of former Glasgow Warriors wing Eli Caven, who crossed for an unconverted try.
Responding all but from the restart, it was a break by Moyle, who was already having a particularly good game, that led to scrum-half Alex Schwarz scoring a try, which was this time converted by Jenkins to givethe Pirates a five–point lead.
With five tries scored in just the first quarter, for both sets of supporters there was no lack of entertainmenton display at the Ellgia Fields. However, as it worked out neither side would trouble the scoreboard operator in the second quarter, which led to referee Ian Tempest blowing the halftime whistle with score reading 12-17.
At the start of the second forty a superb 50-22 from Jenkins firstly set the Pirates up with a good opportunity to score, and it was the man himself who then duly obliged with their four-try bonus pointeffort, as he dummied and scampered over the line.For good measure he also added the extras.
In the afternoon’s fine conditions, the Pirates were now looking very lively, with wing Will Trewin soon registering his third try in three Cup games – another converted effort – that suddenly opened up a 19 points gap.
Another well crafted kick out of hand by the impressive Jenkins would set a position from where Trewin scored again, and the Pirates seventh try of the game, converted by Jenkins, was scored by McNab.
Replacements would next feature for the Pirates in the quest for points, with hooker Morgan Nelson and backrower Will Gibson scoring tries that were converted by replacement fly-half Tom Pittman.
The Pirates defence had been miserly until nearing the end of the second half, when Cambridge’s flanker Matt Dawson made it over the line for a try that remained unconverted by their replacement fly-half Lawrence Rayner, who is a player/coach at the club.
As for the final say, to seal what proved a truly comprehensive victory, Nelson made it double figures in the try-scoring stakes when his second made it 10 overall for the satisfied visitors, followed by Pittman making it three conversions from three off the tee.
Speaking at the end of the game, Cornish Pirates’ joint head coach Alan Paver said:
“It was a great performance overall. To get on the road and achieve a convincing victory like that is always nice. That said you have to really work hard for it and it is something that the lads are now really enjoying.
“I was not wholly happy at halftime. It might have looked good on the surface, but we didn’t have the bite in contact on either side of the ball and a few firm words were expressed. Quickly into our stride in the second half, however, you could see the quality from the likes of Moyler and Matt McNab, and finding all the holes we ended up scoring some decent tries.
“Last week against Exeter was pretty tough but we are showing a lot of development in areas of our game, and I think the work we are putting in, as it did last year, will pay dividends. When that will happen, we are not one hundred per cent sure, but once we get into the League I would think all the combinations would be bedded in and the work done. It will be a case of getting the right men in the right places, and at the right time, and to maintain levels of performance achieved, for what should be an exciting time going forward.”
Cambridge: 15 Joe Tarrant (23 Rian Hamilton, 15) 14 Matt Hema 13 Tom Hoppe 12 Matty Williams 11 Eli Caven 10 Steff James (22 Lawrence Rayner, 51), 9 Kieran Duffin (21 Jed Gelderbloom, 51); 1 Harry Morley (17 Jake Elwood, 55) 2 Morgan Veness (16 Willie Priestley, 60) 3 Billy Walker 4 Kieran Frost 5Gareth Baxter (18 Seb Brownhill, 60) 6 George Bretag-Norris (captain) 7 Matt Dawson 8 Jared Cardew (20 Archie Strath, 70).
Replacement (not used): 19 Noah Sloot
Cornish Pirates: 15 Kyle Moyle 14 Will Trewin (21 Ruaridh Dawson, 67) 13 Matt McNab 12 Ioan Evans 11 Dan John (23 Tom Georgiou, 19) 10 Iwan Jenkins (22 Tom Pittman, 57) 9 Alex Schwarz; 1 Jack Andrew (17 Jacob Morris, 51) 2 Rhys Williams (16 Morgan Nelson, 57) 3 Fin Richardson (18 Matt Johnson, 43) 4 Josh King 5 Josh Williams (19 Hugh Bokenham, 57) 6 Harry Dugmore 7 Alex Everett 8 John Stevens (captain; 20 Will Gibson, 41).
Cambridge – tries: Matt Hema (04) Eli Caven (14) Matt Dawson (76)
con: Steff James (05).
Cornish Pirates – tries: Kyle Moyle (02) Harry Dugmore (10) Alex Schwarz (17) Iwan Jenkins (41) Will Trewin (43, 56) Matt McNab (64) Morgan Nelson (71, 78) Will Gibson (74)
cons: Iwan Jenkins (18, 42, 44, 65) Tom Pittman (72, 79).
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistants: Neil Chivers & James Clarke