Westholme, Alexandra Road,
Penzance, Cornwall, TR18 4LY
Tel: 01736 331961 Email: [email protected]
5 May, 2023
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League / Cup
Playing this Championship Cup semi-final under Friday night lights at the Mennaye Field, the Cornish Pirates succumbed to an ultimately narrow defeatagainst favourites Jersey Reds, who just a week before were crowned league champions.
Having themselves finished the league season strongly, with seven wins from their final eightgames, it was naturally disappointing that the Piratesentered this important Cup contest missing severalstand-out performers who have been injured of recent. It was in freak circumstances that such as AJ Cant, Robin Wedlake, Shae Tucker Harry Bazalgette, Cory Teague, and Alex Everett, were all unavailable.However, despite the circumstances, and despite the defeat, all who wore the shirt on the night performed incredibly well, their efforts to a man simply heroic.
From the side that won at Richmond six days earlier,there were five changes in a rejigged back line. Carwyn Penny was selected at full-back and Arthur Relton on the wing, whilst Garyn Smith and a fit again Rory Parata formed a new centre pairing.Injured in the recent home game against Hartpury, it was a surprise bonus that Arwel Robson was passed fit to a slot in at fly-half. As for the forwards, Will Crane returned at hooker and, with skipper John Stevens this week wearing the number ‘6’ shirt, Will Gibson started at open-side flanker.
After an atmospheric build up ahead of kick-off, the game started in ominous fashion for the Pirates, as an attempted grub kick bounced off Jersey legs which led to wingman Will Brown racing some 40 metres to pounce on the ball at the scoreboard corner. Fly-half Russell Bennett added the extras.
To their credit the Pirates responded in positive fashion and, after wing Will Trewin gathered skilfully and made a burst down the right wing, the Pirates held territory from where two catch and drives were set. Backs joined forwards on both occasions, and the second ended with hooker Will Crane scoring his fourteenth try (in all games) this season. Fly-half Arwel Robson was luckless with his conversion attempt from out wide.
A spell of kick tennis followed, whilst the play of Trewin and his fellow winger Arthur Relton caught the eye when making important tackles. As for ballcarrying, a third Cornish bred player, Ben Grubb, was proving a willing performer.
Jersey Reds are league champions for a reason, with their set piece very strong, and after applying pressure near the Penzance posts it was ex-Munster hooker Eoghan Clarke who scored their second converted try.
Approaching the break, after the visitors suddenly lost the services of their South African former Worcester Warriors centre Scott Van Breda to the sin bin, in time remaining the Pirates were swift to benefit from numerical advantage. Centre Rory Parata made an initial break, and Relton then put on the burners to score a converted try at the Newlyn posts.
So, a 12-14 halftime scoreline indicated there wasvery little in it, with the Pirates in closer contention than likely many would have predicted. An interesting second forty was now suddenly anticipated.
As per the first half, the second period did not start well for the Pirates. Jersey’s lock forward James Scott was a little frustrated not to have scored a try at the Newlyn gate corner, but maintaining pressure the visitors were awarded a penalty try and Pirates’replacement prop Marlen Walker was also issued a yellow card for a technical offence.
This was a fully committed contest – one with no quarter given – and occasionally serious injuries can arise. Sadly, this proved to be the case and a length delay in play ensued after Jersey’s replacement lock Tom Everard unfortunately broke a leg.
On the resumption of play it was not long before the Pirates narrowed the gap when Parata scored a converted try at the Penzance posts, only for the islanders to hit straight back when Brown notched his second converted try of the night.
There was just a slight worry that Jersey would now flourish further in the last quarter, and especially after Aussie wing Ben Woollett’s try at the Newlyn posts made it 19-35. Pirates’ man–of–the–match skipper John Stevens and his crew, however, had other ideas, and have proved anything but an outfit to throw in the towel.
From the restart, an unfortunate knock-on saw a scoring chance go begging, but by maintaining full focus and commitment the Pirates would near the end at least score a deserved bonus point providingfourth try. Parata was again to the fore as he randown the right, with Stevens then taking up the challenge and passing inside to replacement scrum-half Alex Schwarz. Keen to quickly add the extra two points, full-back Carwyn Penny was unable to add the conversion.
Although Jersey ultimately deserved their win for being just a little more clinical when it mattered,speaking at the end of Friday night’s encounter Cornish Pirates’ joint head coach Gavin Cattle was rightly proud of his team. Hecommented:
“Yes, we had disruption in the build up to this game, which was unfortunate, and all we could ask from the lads was to put their best foot forward. They did that, and the effort was outstanding, as has been the case for the whole squad since Christmas.
“Despite some adversity, it just shows if you get a good group of men together, they can achieve good things, and although accepting we couldn’t quite get the desired result on the night against a very good Jersey team, they should all feel proud of themselves.
“Togetherness, working for each other, and players wanting the shirt to perform are traits that we have witnessed from our squad, with Arwel (Thomas) a perfect example tonight. His availability following a recent injury was in doubt, but he showed his character and determination to put his hand up and play, and he made the full 80 minutes, which was a great test of character.”
“Thanks once more are also expressed to our supporters. We are fortunate both home and away,and I loved the way they got behind the team once again and lifted the atmosphere.”
John Stevens (C)
Scott Van Breda
Lewis Wynne (C)
Scott Van Breda