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Cambridge 33

Cornish Pirates 40

20 January, 2024

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League / Cup

Championship Rugby Round 9


Ellgia Fields



Cambridge 33


Cornish Pirates 40

For their opening Championship league game in 2024, the Cornish Pirates travelled to play Cambridge away at their Ellgia Fields ground.


In recent games this season’s Championship newcomers, who won 28-26 away to London Scottish last time out, and who the Pirates beat 62-17 away in the Premiership Rugby Cup earlier this season, had started to show signs they are finding their feet at a higher level. The Cornish side knew they could not take their opponents lightly, and wisely so – as the final result confirmed.


The Cornish Pirates selection saw a return at full-back for fit again Kyle Moyle. Will Trewin moved out to the wing and there was a new centre pairing with Robin Wedlake named to partner Joe Elderkin. In the forwards, prop Fin Richardson made his first league start for the Pirates, whilst Josh Williams was selected alongside Steele Barker in the second row. Club captain John Stevens is presently injured, so flanker Alex Everett wore the skipper’s armband with Hugh Bokenham stepping back into the back row at number 8. On the bench, the name of Will Britton was listed. Recovered from a knee injury, he looked forward to making an appearance for his first league outing this season.

Conditions at kick-off, albeit it being a little on the cold side, were all but perfect when match action commenced, and after an early Pirates penalty miss – fly-half Bruce Houston’s attempt rebounding off a post – it was the home side who opened the scoring in the eighth minute with a try scored by wing Kwaku Asiedu. Fly-half Steffan James added the extras.

Home support was naturally buoyant, but from a potent driving maul it was not long before the Pirates got on the scoreboard through a try scored by hooker Morgan Nelson, which was his thirteenth in all games this season (now seven in the league). Houston converted well to level the scores.

Better still was to come for the Cornish side, with first a sudden burst to the line by centre Joe Elderkin to soon put the Pirates in front. Then, after Will Trewin and Kyle Moyle were initially involved, fly-half Bruce Houston’s fired a long pass to wing Matt McNab who ran 40 metres for another Pirates try. Houston converted both and the Pirates led 21-7.

After an early stutter the Pirates were looking very impressive facing the ‘Blood and Sand’ – to give Cambridge their nickname – and when lock Josh Williams stretched his legs to make it to the line for an unconverted tr, a quickly acquired four-try bonus point was in the bag.

Cambridge, led by Aussie lock George Bretag Norris, strived to respond, with scrum-half Kieran Duffin lively when breaking tackles and Asiedu threatening once more. However, with skipper Alex Everett always strong to the fore, and the Pirates acquiring several line-out steals, including an important one right on halftime, the Pirates returned to the changing rooms holding a satisfying 26-7 advantage.

Interval complete, and with the sun setting and the temperature inevitably dropping, it was Cambridge’s Jamie Benson, on loan from Harlequins, who got the second half underway. It also initially appeared that from territory acquired a second home try looked ‘on’, only for the Pirates to be awarded a penalty.

Reflecting their recent on field strength, the Cambridge team showed many changes from the one that welcomed the Pirates to their Ellgia Fields ground, so after an interception and then a quick tap penalty led to an unconverted try scored by experienced full-back Eli Caven, hopes of making it back into this contest were heightened. We would see – how would the Pirates react?

Quick to attack, Trewin went close to scoring, and from a scrum that followed the Pirates reapplied pressure on their opponents, only to then concede a penalty that gifted relief to the Blood and Sand.

Replacement scrum-half Ruaridh Dawson showed his pace to score a converted effort at the posts that made it 33-12, but all but from the restart Cambridge secured their third try of the match, scored by hooker Ben Brownlie, to bring them within 14 points of their opponents. Hopes will have been high for them to quickly score again but a converted try by replacement backrower Harry Dugmore took the Pirates to the 40-mark and victory surely now a ‘cert’.

To their credit, home perseverance led to replacement Nahum Merigan, a former England under 20s player who has featured for Bath, notching up a converted bonus point providing fourth try for Cambridge, and there a chance of acquiring a second bonus point if they scored again and lost within seven points, which they admirably did. Following a penalty kick to the corner it was second five-pointer from Brownlie that provided the chance, but the conversion also had to be nailed, and it was, with the last play of what had proved for supporters an entertaining game.

Of general interest, Cambridge was formed in 1923 and it was a century later when they played at their highest level and recorded the previously mentioned win against London Scottish. That was a special moment, and another was sought with a strived for victory against the Pirates. It was not to be – however their hard work, development and perseverance will surely earn rewards in games to come.

As for the Cornish Pirates, they are seasoned Championship campaigners who, despite their victory, will have been a little disappointed with the overall performance.

Giving an honest assessment at the end of Saturday’s contest, joint head coach Gavin Cattle said:

“Despite winning it was a frustrating performance and we must do better. In the first half I felt we gave them unnecessary entries and our level of performance in the second half just wasn’t good enough. Credit though to Cambridge who deserved their two points.

“There were penalties that we shouldn’t have given away but the line-out worked well at times and it was good to score four first half tries in quick succession. However, having said that human psychology kicks in, as it often does, and you take your foot off the gas, plus we looked a bit leggy out there.”

“On the positive side, it was back to match action for our first game since just before Christmas, and considering too a bit of illness that has been lurking around we at least secured five points, which has to be pleasing.”

Cambridge:   15 Eli Caven 14 Kwaku Asiedu (21 Sam Hanks, 40) 13 Tom Hoppe (16 Morgan Veness, 72) 12 Jamie Benson 11 Joe Green 10 Steffan James 9 Kieran Duffin; 1 Jake Ellwood (17 Huw Owen, 63) 2 Ben Brownlie 3 Kieran Verden (18 Matt Collins, 68) 4 George Bretag Norris (captain) 5 Geordie Irvine (19 Kieran Frost, 45) 6 Benji Hoppe (23 Matt Dawson, 55) 7 Jared Cardew (20 Ben Adams, 55) 8 Anthony Maka (22 Nahum Merigan, 45).

Cornish Pirates:   15 Kyle Moyle (23 Tom Pittman, 58) 14 Will Trewin (Iwan Jenkins, 62)13 Robin Wedlake 12 Joe Elderkin 11 Matt McNab 10 Bruce Houston 9 Alex Schwarz (21 Ruaridh Dawson, 50); 1 Lefty Zigiriadis (17 Jacob Morris, 56) 2 Morgan Nelson (16 Rhys Williams, 56) 3 Fin Richardson (18 Matt Johnson, 40) 4 Josh Williams (19 Will Britton, 50) 5 Steele Barker 6 Alex Everett (captain) 7 Will Gibson (20 Harry Dugmore, 45), 8 Hugh Bokenham.


Cambridge – tries: Kwaku Asiedu (08) Eli Caven (49) Ben Brownlie (61, 80) Nahum Merigan (73); cons: Steffan James (09, 62, 74, 80).

Cornish Pirates – tries: Morgan Nelson (11) Joe Elderkin (12) Matt McNab (19) Josh Williams (24) Ruaridh Dawson (57) Harry Dugmore (66); cons: Bruce Houston (12, 16, 20, 58, 67).

Referee:   Harry Walbaum

Assistants:   Jonathan Healy & James Clarke

Match Officials


Harry Walbaum


Jonathan Healy


James Clarke