13 October, 2018
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League / Cup
Playing what was inevitably always going to be a tough challenge away to Jersey Reds, the Cornish Pirates suffered their second loss of the season against a dominant home side.
Having played one less game than the Pirates this season, Jersey Reds arrived at this stage sixth in the Greene King IPA Championship table. They were also, inevitably, not only keen to once again frustrate their opponents – remembering that the Pirates sole Championship win on the island was back in 2012 – but to also knock them off their perch at the top of the league table.
The selection by the Pirates showed just two changes in the starting XV from the previous week. A fit again Robin Wedlake, who arrived at this Round 7 stage as the Championship’s top try-scorer this season, returned to the right-wing berth, whilst in the forwards Matt Bolwell slotted into the back-row in place of the injured John Stevens.
In dry, sunny and warm conditions, with the wind much kinder than that experienced in other places about, the Pirates kicked this game off in front of a large crowd gathered at the Stade Santander International, St. Peter, ground.
The Pirates went through the phases well at the beginning, hoping to conjure up an early score. Points would be delivered, but when a first real chance in the game arose, it was the Reds who scored first. Wing Leroy Van Dam had initially gone close, however following a scrum turnover it was the choice firstly of his line taken and then personal pace that led to centre James Newey making it over the whitewash for a try converted by a former ‘Pirate’, fly-half Aaron Penberthy.
So, first blood to the home side but with the teams appearing evenly matched in the opening period. As the half developed, however, despite the Pirates enjoying spells of possession it was the Reds who increasingly looked a potently powerful force. Indeed, following a penalty and an inevitable catch and drive, which the Pirates were unable to repel, a second home try was scored, this time by hooker Charlie Maddison. Penberthy again converted
On a day when there was still enough wind about for kicking to be a little bit tricky, a penalty strike from Pirates fly-half Will Cargill drifted wide. The weather element was also one where advantage though could be taken, which is how it looked when Penberthy made it 17-0 through landing a penalty kick taken from inside his own half.
Despite the best efforts of scrum-half Alex Day and back-rowers Tom Duncan and Matt Bolwell, there was zilch joy for the Pirates before in the 40th minute Cargill was successful with a second penalty attempt. The award came following a series of strong pick-go-drive plays that led to the Jersey team being penalised by the sticks.
17-3 at the break, it would be important for the Pirates to hopefully score again early in the second half, and in the process quell an atmosphere already pumped up by home supporters, including noise generated by cow bells.
If a good start materialised, it could perhaps cast doubts in Jersey minds. Unfortunately, however, when an early penalty was conceded, Penberthy happily stepped forward to re-open a 17 points gap.
Such was the general dominance displayed by the home side, it already in reality felt that they would be likely winners and as the minutes ticked away there appeared simply no way back for the Pirates. Reds’ lock Charlie Beckett had gone close and another run from Van Dam had also sent alarm bells, let alone the cow variety, ringing. A third penalty from Penberthy also cemented the general view.
The Pirates had acquired bonus points in all games played during the season but it just wasn’t happening for them, with credit also of course to the solid home defence.
Nearing the end of the match brought a flurry of points. Penberthy added to his repertoire with a drop goal, a converted try for the Pirates scored by replacement hooker Sam Matavesi brought scant consolation, and then a third Jersey try, a fine converted effort scored by wing Koch Marx, brought the game to a conclusion.
Yes, the Pirates toiled away, but this was an afternoon when a Championship victory on the island eluded them once more, remembering that their one such recorded win was back in 2012.
Jersey Reds had deservedly taken the spoils. Their front-five had been dominant, providing a platform for the rest of their able team to take advantage.
Cornish Pirates’ coach Gavin Cattle was honest in his assessment after the game, commenting:
We knew it was going to be tough and prepped for the set piece but ultimately it came down to theirs being superior. Also, when we did have possession we weren’t building pressure and our skill execution and accuracy let us down.
They dominated and it’s up to us now to reflect on that and see where we can put the wrongs right, although I thought the replacements who came on helped stabilise us, including the performance of prop Jack Owlett who showed promise.
Ultimately, however, it was one of those games when you have to tip the hat to the opposition and say well done, and give credit to Jersey for a very comprehensive performance.
Leroy Van Dam
Jerry Sexton (c)
Rory Bartl )
Aaron Penberthy Drop Goal
Alex Schwarz )
Brett Beukeboom (c)