24 September, 2022
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League / Cup
Welcoming Bedford Blues to the Mennaye Field on Saturday, the Cornish Pirates envisaged the usual exciting contest, with it also high-scoring. Well, on both counts it could be said to have delivered but with the visitors thoroughly deserving their victory.
Having lost 26-18 away to Coventry in their Championship opener, in front of a bumper crowd at Goldington Road last Saturday the Blues won 49-36 against London Scottish. Former ‘Pirate’ Alex Day skippered their team at scrum half and featuring after four seasons playing for Wasps was centre Michael Le Bourgeois, who has returned to the club in a player/coach role.
For Cornish Pirates’ captain John Stevens, this game versus Bedford Blues marked his 100th appearance for the club. Perhaps not one to normally show emotion, it was inevitably a proud moment for the eldest son of the late and legendary Brian ‘Stack’ Stevens.
There were two changes in the Cornish Pirates starting line-up from the one that ran out at Nottingham the previous weekend, with Alex Schwarz named at scrum half and Rusiate Tuima selected at number 8 in place of the injured Seb Nagle-Taylor. Among fresh bodies on the bench, Tommy Wyatt was keen to make his first appearance for the Pirates this season.
The Blues opened in enterprising style with full-back George Hendy an attacking threat, as was Day. It took a fine chase back tackle to prevent what looked a likely score, however the visitors were not denied taking an early lead with fly-half Will Maisey kicking a penalty on offer.
Looking to respond, the Pirates attacked through Tuima, but they overall looked a little frustrated, their scrum disrupted and in broken play Day and Le Bourgeois influential for the Blues. It was a case of fair play to them and following a second successful penalty strike from Maisey they went 6-nil up.
However, for the remaining period of the first half the Pirates were more cohesive and penetrating, applied pressure ending with a try scored at the Newlyn gate corner by hooker Will Crane. Fly-half Arwel Robson added the conversion to put the Pirates in front.
Before the break efforts from the Pirates were rewarded once more, this time with a converted try scored by Tuima. 14-6 at half-time provided encouragement for the second forty. Time would tell.
Playing towards the Penzance end of the ground, hopes were high that momentum achieved prior to the interval would continue when the second half got underway, but it was not to be, as after just three minutes good interplay involving Bedford centre Ethan Grayson and full-back Hendy ended with Day lending his support to score a converted try.
Maintaining pressure on their opponents soon saw the Blues take back the lead when Maisey slotted his third penalty of the afternoon. However, home hopes were given a boost when in the 53rd minute the Pirates suddenly regained it once more. Stevens was at the heart of the resurgence, and although there was no joy from a catch and drive effort at the scoreboard corner, the Pirates at least kept territorial advantage. Then, following man of the match flanker Alex Everett making a dent in Bedford’s defence, the ball was ultimately worked cleverly through hands, and ended with wing Robin Wedlake running clear to score a converted try to the right of the Penzance posts.
A now 21-16 scoreline provided a boost to supporters, the game now living up to its billing, although from a Pirates perspective that was as good as it got.
During a period of changes in personnel, being made or about to be made,it was the Blues who proceeded to dominate. Flanker Jac Arthur was identified as the scorer of one converted try to the right, and just two minutes later, following a misfired throw in at the line-out, hooker Jacob Fields scored another.
The Pirates were facing their first home defeat in a league match since a 20-18 loss against Ampthill in March last year, whilst the Bedford team was odds on to record their first league match win, 30-29, at the ‘Mennaye’ since October 2018.
Putting the result beyond doubt in the last quarter, following a quick tap and go out of defence the Blues gained a bonus point when that man Day scored his second try of the match. Maisey faulted on this occasion with his conversion attempt but then made no mistake with two penalty efforts that came his way, the second of which secured an impressive and fully deserved 41-21 victory.
Speaking after the match, Cornish Pirates’ joint head coach Gavin Cattle commented:
“This was a game that unfortunately turned on its head pretty quickly. There were two incidents that we didn’t take in the Bedford ‘22’ that would have given us a bit of a lead and then on the flip side they took two opportunities and then we were chasing the game. It’s the nature of playing Bedford sometimes, and of this league, whereby if you don’t take your opportunities, and you are not clinical, they you can pay for it.
“We are moving the ball pretty well and the play of Alex Everett was a plus, as he was outstanding in terms of collision on both sides of the ball, but as I have said in recent weeks it is not going to be a smooth ride at this time of the season as we look to develop, and we must give credit to a good Bedford side who played particularly well in the second half.”
John Stevens (C) 100*
Michael Le Bourgeois
Alex Day (C)