22 April, 2023
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League / Cup
Playing their penultimate league game of the season at home against Hartpury on Saturday, in what proved difficult conditions the Cornish Pirates emerged winners of what was a hard-fought game. However, closely contested as it was, in the words of joint head coach Alan Paver, it was ‘Job done’.
Playing against a team that beat them 22-16 at Hartpury in December, the Cornish Pirates made three changes in their starting XV from the one that won 14-13 away to Doncaster Knights the previous weekend. Two were in the centre, where Joe Elderkin and Shae Tucker were selected, whilst wing Will Trewin replaced Arthur Relton who failed a late fitness test. As for the bench, 23-year-old new arrival prop Jacob Morris, who is dual registered with Exeter Chiefs, wore the number 17 shirt.
After fly-half Arwel Robson led the Pirates out for what was his 50th appearance for the club, the team got off to an encouraging start with a try scored in just the sixth minute. A line-out was won at the Newlyn gate corner, and from the drive for the whitewash that followed, with several backs also adding a little extra poundage, it was lock Will Britton who was eventually identified as the scorer of what was his first league match try for the club. Robson then added the conversion.
Hartpury’s immediate endeavour to respond was thwarted, and they then lost the services of lock Ben Glynn because of injury. Former Pirates prop Sam Rodman also needed treatment before getting to his feet and carrying on.
Midway through the half, the Pirates attacked strongly once more. Wing Robin Wedlake went close at the old Western National corner before the pack once again took on the challenge of getting over the line. The effort proved successful, with Britton’s second row partner Cory Teague getting in on the act to register his first ever five-pointer in the team’s colours. Robson was again on target with a perfectly struck conversion.
The Pirates were playing well, as typified by a flashing run down the right by Trewin, but there was disappointment for Robson when he frustratingly had to depart proceedings with what appeared an arm injury.
What would prove to be the Pirates third and final try of the match came in the 32nd minute, which followed an initial fine break by Wedlake. At a line-out, the hooker Will Crane to Britton axis delivered impeccably, and from another drive it was prop Matt Johnson who scored with replacement fly-half Harry Bazalgette this time adding the extras.
To date Hartpury had played with endeavour but without anything to show for it. That would change, however, shortly before halftime,
as following an initial telling run down the left by full-back Alex Morgan, it was scrum-half Oscar Lennon who did brilliantly to score an unconverted try at the scoreboard corner.
Holding a 21-5 lead to start the second period, the Pirates must have had a level of confidence that a four-try bonus point was in their grasp, but it was not to be. Hartpury’s centre Jack Bates was always a threat, and displaying power and pace from out on the left wing he was quick to score an early second half try at the old Western National corner. The clock ticked to 45 minutes as fly-half George Barton converted from out wide, and there was surely every prospect of both teams adding to their tallies. Surely? Think it, yes, but it did not materialise.
Both sides had their moments and chances it what developed into an at times torridly contested affair. There would though be no bonus point providing fourth try for the Pirates, nor another score for the visitors who looked to finish strongly, only to see their chance of at least acquiring a bonus point being denied by a fine tackle made by the determined Trewin.
Speaking at the end of Saturday’s encounter, Cornish Pirates’ joint head coach Alan Paver said:
“We were really pleased with the win, although our performance in the second half wasn’t up to our standard. However, we did enough hold out for victory, and it was ultimately a case of job done.
“The conditions weren’t easy and both sides made errors, but managing to play both territory and the conditions in the first half we got what we deserved. As for the second half, it was a bit of a reverse, when because of handling errors we couldn’t really get a grip on field position and the execution of our kicking game wasn’t there. Having said that, there was also credit to a well-coached and fine Hartpury team for getting back at us.”
“Looking at things overall, though, we have got better after an indifferent start to the season. Some difficult questions were asked but we just stuck by our guns, kept motivated along the way and, as our skill set and leadership got better, before you knew it we were difficult to beat again, so fair credit to the lads.”
John Stevens (C)