28 October, 2023
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League / Cup
As supporters looked forward to watching this Round 2 contest in the RFU Championship at the Mennaye Field on Saturday – an hors d’oeuvres ahead of viewing the Rugby World Cup final on the ‘telly’ in the evening – they anticipated the accustomed entertaining affair between the two sides, as has so often been the case in the past. Well, in certain respects it was, with there a tense old finish for supporters to savour.
The Cornish Pirates starting XV showed five changes from the one that ran out against London Scottish the previous weekend. There was just one in the backs, where wing Arthur Relton was handed a starting role, whilst in the pack there were four changes whereby Jack Andrew and Marlen Walker formed the propping pair, Josh Williams was selected to partner Steele Barker in the second row, and Hugh Bokenham was named at number 8 for what was his first ‘start’ for the club. As for the captaincy arm band, with John Stevens and Kyle Moyle both still injured, and the previous weekend’s stand-in skipper Alex Everett taking a place on the bench, it wasyoung flanker Will Gibson who had the honour of leading the side.
After a minute’s silence was impeccably observedjust ahead of kick-off in memory of former Pirates and Cornwall captain Peter Michell, who had sadly passed away early in the week, the match started with both sides making handling mistakes following earlier heavy rain and also having to cope with a difficult wind.
As the Pirates were forced to soak up some pressure, the home crowd needed a lift, which materialised firstly through witnessing a thumper of a tackle made by centre Ioan Evans and then a seventeenth minute penalty slotted by fly-half Iwan Jenkins. A downer though, was when the Pirates then lost the services of stalwart prop Jack Andrew with a shoulder injury.
The visitors always looked threatening, as in turn at times in the first half did several Pirates, including the previous week’s man of the match, full-back Dan John. Unfortunately, however, he was yellow-carded,and it was not long before the Blues made use of numerical advantage when their skipper, former Pirates scrum-half Alex Day, scored a converted try that saw his team take a 7-3 lead into the break.
Into the second period the strong Bedford side applied extra pressure, leading to rise in the Pirates penalty count, and they gained due reward when two Maisey penalties extended their lead. The developing and spirited home team, however, with fresh legs introduced off the bench, were clearly in no mood to cave in.
Replacement number 8 Alex Everett was quick to make a mark, and when the ball was suddenly moved right it was John, with a man of the match performance for a second week running, who provided real spark.
The Pirates would notch their first try of the match when play was taken to the Newlyn posts, where hooker Morgan Nelson was identified as the scorer. Jenkins converted and followed up soon after with a penalty that suddenly drew the scores level.
All was now to play for, with a tense end of the match surely guaranteed, only for a fortuitous,converted try scored by Bedford’s ex-Munsterwingman Sean French suddenly changing one’s line of thought.
Once again though, the Pirates refused to bow, and in time remaining hit back with a try scored at the old Western National corner by flanker Harry Dugmore. This left Jenkins with the task of adding a conversion to draw. In complete silence about the ground, he struck his kick well, only to see it miss by the cruellest and narrowest of margins.
Having to settle for a losing bonus point was the least the Pirates deserved, with there inevitably mixed feelings at the sound of the final whistle, but there absolutely no lack of character in defeat.
Speaking at the end of Saturday’s encounter, Cornish Pirates’ joint head coach Gavin Cattle said:
“They put pressure on and squeezed us in the first half against a young team that is learning and realising the bar we need to set ourselves.
“The good thing is that we showed energy and have a very competitive back three and backline generally that we need to feel confident of giving them chancesto compete for spots, so in that direction we are happy.
“I thought Ioan Evans had a very good game with ball in hand and especially defensively. They dominated possession in the first half but there were some good tackles that led to us earning turnover ball or at least gave us time to recover in defence.
“Yes, some things didn’t go our way with kicking out of hand and having possession stripped from us, but there are areas of our game that are very encouraging, with big ticks in the box for such asattitude, actual dominance in defence, and getting up from the floor for your mates.”
Cornish Pirates: 15 Dan John 14 Will Trewin (23 Matt McNab, 65) 13 Ioan Evans 12 Joe Elderkin 11 Arthur Relton 10 Iwan Jenkins (22 Tom Pittman 9 Ruaridh Dawson (21 Alex Schwarz, 58); 1 Jack Andrew (17 Lefty Zigiriadis, 17) 2 Morgan Nelson 3Marlen Walker (18 Matt Johnson, 40) 4 Steele Barker 5 Josh Williams (19 Josh King, 68) 6 Harry Dugmore 7 Will Gibson (captain) 8 Hugh Bokenham(20 Alex Everett, 47).
Replacement (not used: 16 Rhys Williams.
Yellow card: 15 Dan John (31)
Bedford Blues: 15 Matt Worley 14 Sean French 13 Michael Le Bourgeois (23 Ethan Grayson, 47) 12 Jordan Venter 11 Dean Adamson (22 Louis Grimoldby, 62) 10 Will Maisey 9 Alex Day (captain; 21 James Lennon); 1 Joey Conway (17 Jamie Jack, 49) 2 James Fish (16 Jacob Fields, 58) 3 Oisin Heffernan (18 Bryan O’Connor, 49) 4 Robin Williams (19 Jordan Onojaife, 49) 5 Alex Woolford 6 Luke Frost 7 Jac Arthur (20 Cameron King, 58) 8 Joe Howard.
Cornish Pirates – tries: Morgan Nelson (61) Harry Dugmore (76) con: Iwan Jenkins (62) pen: Iwan Jenkins (17, 67).
Bedford Blues – tries: Alex Day (34) Sean French (73) cons: Will Maisey (35, 76) pens: Will Maisey (51, 58).
Referee: Jonathan Cook
Assistants: Ryan Collier & Kevin Williams
‘Tribute’ Man of the Match: Dan John