1 October, 2017
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League / Cup
Frustrated Pirates Have to Settle for a Bonus Point…
Having recorded their first win of the season at home to the Titans last weekend, the Cornish Pirates hoped to open their October account with another victory, this time away to Yorkshire Carnegie. Unfortunately, against accustomed tough opposition, in yet another close encounter it was not to be.
After four rounds played in is season’s Greene King IPA Championship, ahead of the weekend Yorkshire Carnegie were placed sixth in the competition with 11 league points to their name, whilst the Pirates were eighth with nine.
Changes to the Pirates starting line-up from the one that ran out against the Titans were limited just to the back-row, where Alex Cheesman returned at open-side flanker and Matt Bolwell moved across to the blind-side in place of Dan Lee.
Fit again hooker Tom Channon was named on the bench, where prop Jack Andrew was also listed in readiness to make his 99th appearance for the club.
The Pirates kicked the game off, but it was their hosts who were quickest to apply themselves, with former ‘Pirate’ Mike Myerscough, playing in the back-row, held up close to the line.
Shortly after awarded a penalty, the home team’s skipper and fly-half Alex Davies opted for a scrum rather than a kick at goal, and it proved a wise choice as No 8 Ollie Stedman scored an opening try that Davies converted.
Sadly, a poor start for the Pirates then got worse, as their defence was tested and breached by scrum-half Will Homer. Dual-registered with Bath Rugby, it was remembered that he also had a spell DR’d with the Pirates in 2014-15.
Wings Alex O’Meara and Kyle Moyle showed bursts of pace to spark the Pirates into action, and after eating into home territory a line-out steal led to a positive response. Flanker Cheesman was identified as a try-scorer, and fly-half Laurence May duly added the extra two points.
Prop Christian Judge went close to scoring when the Pirates next threatened, but with a chance of kicking at goal then taken it was one successfully struck by May.
Approaching the half-hour mark, after flanker Josh Bainbridge scored a converted try that made it 21-10 to Yorkshire Carnegie, it was important for the Pirates to respond once more.
In the build up to half-time an entertaining spell of rugby ensued, and playing with confident composure the Pirates would indeed score again. Hooker Tom Cowan-Dickie powered over for a personal haul of three tries in the last two matches, with May’s conversion making it 21-17 at the break.
The game was evenly poised, however there was concern for the Pirates who had lost the services of an injured Alex Cheesman, whilst skipper Nicolas De Battista had also left the field just before the interval to undergo a Head Injury Assessment. He would not return.
When the second half got underway, Yorkshire Carnegie displayed a tempo indicating they were keen to bag a bonus-point-providing fourth try, so it was credit to the Pirates that they not only held the threat but actually reduced the deficit to just one point thanks to May’s second successful penalty slot. It also took the number 10’s points tally past the 50 mark, to 51 for the season.
Changes were made by both sides, but it was the Pirates who were appearing to get the upper hand, a thought seemingly confirmed when May’s third penalty gave them the lead for the first time in the match.
The skies darkened as play entered the last quarter, and although a probe from Duncan saw O’Meara threaten, this was a game still too close to call.
With the minutes ticking away, Davies had a penalty attempt to give his side back the lead. For Pirates supporters it was a relief to see the effort sail wide.
Good play from No 8 Tom Lawday and replacement scrum-half Mike Pope further eased tension, and after the latter departed with an injury, yet another penalty from May provided belief that the Cornish side could win this one.
Eyes inevitably turned to the scoreboard clock, and a run from the impressive Stedman caused concern, as did a carry from another former ‘Pirate’ in the shape of replacement hooker Joe Buckle.
Suddenly it was the Yorkshire side finishing strongly, their cause helped when replacement Andrew was yellow-carded, meaning the Pirates would see the game out with just 14 men.
Under enormous pressure in the dying seconds, the frustratingly inevitable then happened, Buckle first scoring off a rolling maul to draw the scores level, and then Davies landing the all-important conversion. The final kick had given his team back the lead, and also ultimately sealed a hard-fought victory. As for the desperately disappointed Pirates, they had to settle for a losing bonus point.
Speaking after the game, Cornish Pirates’ Co-Coach Gavin Cattle said:
It was a game that we started very slowly, with a few defensive lapses, and a lack of control at the first contact also obviously played into our opponents hands. We improved in areas and there was some exciting play but overall we need to show more composure and cut out mistakes, and not waste good field position.
Gavin also commented:
Injuries disrupted us but Toby (May) did a very good job stepping into the centre when we lost Nicolas to an HIA, and overall we have no excuses. We got into a commanding position to win the game, so there are clearly work ons and we must up the ante. The lads will have some hard graft ahead of them in training, because we are going to have to raise the level of physicality which is the only way to replicate what happens at a weekend.
In a league of often fine margins, the Cornish Pirates drop two places to tenth in the league, whilst the win for Yorkshire Carnegie propelled them up to fourth.
Alex Davies (c)
Nicolas De Battista