22 October, 2022
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League / Cup
Following their last second home win at home against Ampthill, and then a no rugby reserve weekend, the Cornish Pirates would have been aware that travelling to face Coventry at the Butts Park Arena would provide a challenge, and thus it proved.
This was a sixth versus seventh Round 6 match in this season’s RFU Championship, with the two teams arriving at the stage separated only on points difference, having ahead of this contest each played 5, won 3, and lost 2 games.
Of general interest, Coventry had been boosted with the recent signings of experienced scrum half Will Chudley and back-rower Tom Dodd, who had both joined from crisis hit Worcester Warriors and were selected in the home team’s squad.
As for the Cornish Pirates, there was just a singlechange in their selected XV from the one that started against Ampthill, with Callum Sirker replacing the injured Robin Wedlake on the wing. Hungry for action off the bench was fit again prop Olly Adkins,who had recovered from an injury sustained in the pre-season match away to Taunton Titans.
In front of a large crowd, it was the Pirates who opened the scoring in the tenth minute after full-back AJ Cant linked with wing Callum Sirker whose eye-catching run down the right saw him offload to Alex Everett in support. Having joined the club from Cardiff back in the summer, it was the flanker’smaiden try in Pirates’ colours, to which fly-half Arwel Robson was unable to add the extras.
Coventry, however, were swift to hit back and would soon take a lead they would never relinquish.Following a driving maul, the ball was worked wide to enable wing Shea Cornish, a product of the Pirates youth section who is on a season loan from Exeter Chiefs, to score their opening try. Fly-half Pat Pellegrini slotted the conversion as he did to a try next dotted down from close range by Fijian Senitiki Nayalo, formerly of London Irish and Edinburgh Rugby.
After the Pirates looked to respond, and wing Tommy Wyatt was unlucky not to score when losing the ball over the line, it was scrum–half Ruaridh Dawson who showed his pace to score a fine try that Robson this time converted.
Conditions at the Butts Park Arena are made for playing open rugby football and thus far the crowd was being well entertained, including when an impressive backs move, with home full-back Louis Brown and wing Will Talbot-Davies involved, saw the latter score an unconverted try out wide.
The focus now for ‘Cov’ was to secure a bonus point providing fourth try, with them perhaps unlucky when a forward pass denied hooker Suva Ma’asi, who made one appearance for the Pirates in 2019 and who is the son a former Pirates legend Viliami Ma’asi
Late in the half the Pirates were awarded a series of penalties, with the hooker Will Crane to lock Cory Teague line-out delivery functioning well.
Prop Marlen Walker and skipper John Stevens also drove powerfully, but there was ultimately frustrationwhen the Pirates were penalised for a double movement and half-time arrived with the score reading 19-12.
It had been a competitive and entertaining first forty, so what would the second half bring?
Penalty given away it was Talbot-Davies, who with a long–range kick attempt from near halfway, soon extended his team’s lead, whilst shortly after man-of-the-match Shea Cornish, after selling an outrageousdummy, scored his second and Coventry’s fourth try of the afternoon, which Pellegrini once again duly converted.
A sudden 29-12 scoreline that looked a tough one for the Pirates to claw back, got even tougher 15 minutes into the second half after Cant was shown a yellow card for making a high tackle at a time when another Coventry score looked ‘on’.
After Coventry gave a spate of penalties away the Pirates scored from a driving maul through replacement hooker Max Norey. Robson added the extras as the Pirates now went in search of anotherscore, with Cant shortly after returning to the match action.
Coventry had been in control for much of the game,but the Pirates were guilty perhaps of not taking certain chances that came their way in the match. Both teams also seemingly each gave too many penalties away, and when a late kick at goal opportunity was gifted Pellegrini his successful strike made the final score 32-19.
Speaking honestly, as ever, at the end Saturday’s contest, Cornish Pirates’ joint head coach Gavin Cattle said:
“For us the outcome playing on what is a faster pitchwas disappointing, and a bit painful to be honest, and at half-time I felt that both teams had left opportunities out there.
“It seemed that both attacks when they created momentum had it in them to score at will and the crucial moment for us was just before the break when we were penalised for the double movement which, to be honest, I struggled to see how it wasn’t a penalty our way. But, having said that, for their performancein the second half I think Coventry deserved their winbecause they won the critical moments, and we have no excuses.
“Yes, at present it is painful because we just need to be better in every area of the game. There is progressand we do have the belief and endeavour butultimately it just needs to be better, because althoughit’s all very well looking dangerous, we ultimately didn’t exert enough pressure.
“As yet we have not got the upper hand at the set piece, but we are working incredibly hard during the week and, although I think we got the energy level right today, our accuracy was way off, and credit to Coventry for winning those incisive moments.”
Toby Trinder (C)
John Stevens (C)