20 October, 2023
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League / Cup
Following their recent convincing victory played away to London Scottish in this season’s Premiership Rugby Cup, playing the much-changed opposition at the Mennaye Field in their opening Championship league game of the season, the Cornish Pirates expected a much tougher contest. It was.
Under the glow of Friday night lights, however, which appeared even brighter through the swathes of mist and rain, the Pirates ultimately won this hard-earned and generally closely fought encounter when two late converted tries cemented their victory.
Of several changes in the Cornish Pirates starting XV, Alex Everett was selected at number 8, Josh King partnered Steele Barker in the second row, and in the front row props Lefty Zigiriadis and Matt Johnson were named. Dan John was selected at full-back, with Iwan Jenkins and Ruaridh Dawson forming the half-back pairing.
For centre Joe Elderkin this game marked his 50th appearance for the Cornish Pirates, so he proudly emerged from the tunnel first, followed then by Alex Everett who had the honour of also skippering the Pirates in the injured absence of both club captain John Stevens and Kyle Moyle.
On such a foul evening weather-wise, handling errors by both teams were inevitable and, after failing to derive benefit following three early catch and drives, for the Cornish Pirates there was an understandable sense of frustration. It was also a little feisty, which led to referee Mr. Sellwood having a word with both skippers.
As expected, this was proving a much tougher contest than experienced in the Cup encounter, the visitors having made 11 changes in a team that was littered with quality and included personnel who have played for Harlequins, including such as centre Ben Waghorn, lock Matas Jurevicius and hooker George Head. A recent acquisition from Jersey Reds, wing Will Brown, was also the top scorer in the league last season.
After visiting former Coventry full-back Will Talbot-Davies was off target midway through the first half with a penalty attempt, it was not long before the Pirates would open their account following a pinpoint 50-22 kicked by fly-half Iwan Jenkins. From a position deep inside the London Scottish half, hooker Morgan Nelson threw long and from the ensuing potent driving maul was then identified as a try-scorer to the left of the Newlyn posts. Jenkins added the extra two points.
Talbot-Davies was luckless with a second penalty attempt which went wide of the Penzance posts, and the score remained at 7-0 come the break, in a match where in the conditions a fair level of credit was due both teams for grafting it out.
Into the second period, a score for the visitors appeared more likely. They won several penalties deep in the Newlyn half and looked confident at scrum time, only for the Pirates to deny them time and again with a terrific defensive effort.
As the half wore on both sides emptied their bench, with the result of the game still in the balance. Indeed, with the clock ticking away the PA announcer (yours truly!) congratulated both teams on their efforts in difficult the conditions and commented an interesting last 10 minutes was on the cards.
Well, as it worked out the Pirates finished with a flourish, and although unable to secure a four-try bonus point, at least won with a bit to spare. Deserved man of the match full-back Dan John scored an excellent try, and there was also one touched down by replacement hooker Rhys Williams. Jenkins converted both.
Yes, stalwart home supporters were wet, and could have been forgiven for feeling a little miserable, but witnessing this victory in such conditions they were clearly and rightly delighted.
Speaking at the conclusion of Friday night’s encounter, Cornish Pirates’ coach Louie Tonkin said:
“The match wasn’t a classic, not helped by the weather that dictated the terms of the game and made it very difficult for both teams to manage. However, having said that we were happy with the result as we managed to pull away with the two lates scores.
“I thought our defence was particularly good, with a lot of character shown. They had some really talented players in their team who caused a lot of problems, but the guys stuck at it, and we were delighted with our effort in that part of the game.
“Conditions inevitably made it difficult at the line-out for both sides, which for us was a pity after all the work put in during the week, although our two maul tries provided consolation. Also, our half-backs Ruaridh Dawson and Iwan Jenkins kicked very well out of hand, and we conjured up some excellent 50-22s, so that and to ultimately get the result on the evening provided just satisfaction.”
Cornish Pirates: 15 Dan John 14 Will Trewin (23 Arthur Relton, 62) 13 Ioan Evans (22 Tom Pittman, 75) 12 Joe Elderkin 11 Matt McNab 10 Iwan Jenkins 9 Ruaridh Dawson (21 Alex Schwarz, 72); 1 Lefty Zigiriadis (17 Jack Andrew, 52) 2 Morgan Nelson (16 Rhys Williams, 72) 3 Matt Johnson (18 Fin Richardson, 52) 4 Josh King (19 Josh Williams, 59) 5 Steele Barker 6 Harry Dugmore (20 Hugh Bokenham, 59) 7 Will Gibson 8 Alex Everett (captain).
London Scottish: 15 Will Talbot-Davies 14 Will Brown (23 Noah Ferdinand, 70) 13 Ben Waghorn 12 Robbie McCallum (22 Will Simonds, 50) 11 Luke Mehson 10 Cameron Anderson 9 Jonny Law (21 Lewis Gjaltema, 50); 1 Will Prior (17 George Cave, 34) 2 George Head (16 Garin Lloyd, 72) 3 Ashley Challenger (18 Rhys Charalambous, 70) 4 Johnny Green 5 Matas Jurevicius (70) 19 Lewis Barrett 6 Bailey Ransom (captain), 7 Ioan Rhys Davies (20 Silas Pill, 50) 8 Will Trenholm.
Cornish Pirates – tries: Morgan Nelson (26) Dan John (72) Rhys Williams (78) cons: Iwan Jenkins (27, 73, 79).
Referee: George Sellwood
Assistants: Ian Bibey & Kevin Williams
‘Tribute’ Man-of-the-Match: Dan John