23 April, 2022
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League / Cup
Hopes of the Cornish Pirates progressing in the Championship Cup as a Tie 3 winner were dashed by Doncaster Knights at the Mennaye Field on Saturday.
The Pirates had emerged narrow 26-24 winners away to Doncaster Knights in their 1st Leg match in Round 1, however the Knights hit back strongly in this 2nd Leg contest to progress as one of Five Tie winners. As for the Pirates, their cause is not lost, because they too will also qualify for the quarter-final stage for being one of the two Round 1 losing teams with the best playing records.
The Cornish Pirates selection saw starting roles for props Marlen Walker and Alfie Petch, with Tom Duncan making a return to skipper the team at No 8. As for the backs, Tommy Wyatt partnered Shae Tucker in the centre, whilst included on the bench was a fit again Rory Parata. He was mightily keen to get a taste of the action, along with young lock Steele Barker who would make his first appearance in a Championship contest.
Playing towards Newlyn, the Cornish Pirates got off to a fine start. Wing Callum Sirker first went close at the old Western National corner, before a drive to the line ended with prop Petch identified as a try-scorer. It was his first in a Pirates shirt, to which fly-half Harry Bazalgette added the extras.
Both sides created opportunities as they looked to get into rhythm, only for unaccustomed errors to blot matters. However, midway through the first half the home team extended their lead, this time thanks to a penalty kicked by Bazalgette from in front of the Newlyn posts.
So far, so good, but such thought only brief as all but from the restart the Knights broke from halfway for flanker Sam Hudson to happily show a clean pair of heels all the way to the Penzance posts. Fly-half Billy McBride kicked the conversion, as the Yorkshire team suddenly appeared invigorated, with two former Pirates, full-back Harry Davey and wing Maliq Holden, among those concentrating defenders.
McBride had an opportunity to level matters with a penalty kick, only to see his effort drift wide. However, points, and indeed a lead was soon achieved by the Knights, after Hudson took advantage from a messy line-out to gather and run clear once more, for what was on this occasion an unconverted opportunist score.
With half-time fast approaching, there was thankfully time for the Pirates to regain the lead, an unconverted try scored wide on the left by Sirker making it 15-12 at the interval.
Ending the first forty well, the Pirates will have hoped for more of the same at the start of the second period. Doncaster Knights, however, clearly had different ideas, as they opened the scoring in the second half with a converted try scored by hooker Will Holling.
As the half developed there was a real sense that the Knights were about to get the upper hand, which was a thought duly confirmed when Holden scored a try at the old Western National corner. The conversion attempt from replacement Sam Olver missed, but a 15-24 scoreline with sixteen minutes to go looked a little worrying. Worrying? Yes, but with matters only getting worse when replacement Mark Best charged down a kick to score another unconverted try to make it 15-29.
At this stage the clock was even less a friend of the Pirates, though there was a glimmer of hope after Doncaster replacement Ben Murphy was yellow-carded and the Pirates quickly conjured up a try. Scrum-half Tom Kessell was influential with a clever pass to fellow replacement Parata, who made it to the line at the clubhouse corner. Replacement fly-half Arwel Robson was unable to add the extras, but the Pirates were at least in with a sniff of a chance to take play to extra time.
Taking into account the 24-26 1st Leg scoreline, and the 29-20 Doncaster advantage in this 2nd Leg, the aggregate score was now 53-46 in favour of the Knights. In straightforward terms, the Pirates needed either a converted try or penalty try to level matters, but it was not to be, as a late penalty kicked by Doncaster’s Olver ultimately decided matters.
Doncaster Knights fully deserved their victory, as confirmed by Cornish Pirates’ joint head coach Gavin Cattle, who post-match commented:
“Firstly, I have to say I think Doncaster thoroughly deserved the victory.
“We had some opportunities in the first half but at times offloads weren’t going to hand because the accuracy wasn’t there, and then we had some execution difficulties kick-wise playing into the wind in the second half. The execution from the back just wasn’t the usual standard and not what we needed it to be.”
“We knew it would be a bit of a learning curve, and as ever we’ll reflect on the match. Basically, though, they beat us at our own game and, unfortunately, our performance level simply wasn’t high enough.”
Tom Duncan (C)
Thom Smith (C)