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The postponement of the scheduled Cornish Pirates versus Hartpury RFC tie in the British & Irish Cup, once again brought to the forefront of one’s mind the subject of Mennaye mudfests witnessed over the years.
Near to the sea and with a river and boating bond close to the ground, it is perhaps not surprising that the good old Mennaye Field gets a little wet. Indeed, with the ‘Orrible’ conditions experienced of late it has been, as described by player-coach Alan Paver “a bit like a wet sponge!”
We have certainly witnessed our fair share of Mennaye Mudfests in the past, especially from the forties to the seventies, as with no adjacent ‘Nurseries’ field back then, the three Senior XVs and a Colts side did virtually all of their training and playing of matches on just the one pitch.
By November each season the field became increasingly muddy, and by January it was a field of mud! Note the photograph taken in 1968, when the Pirates played Devonport Services. To add a little interest the Pirates by the way won, 6-0.
Wing Stuart Michell and flanker John White scored a try each (a try was worth three points back then), and Pirates pictured l-r are: Alfie Fowler, Alvin Williams, Keith Stirling, ‘Stack’ Stevens, Mike Perkins, Chris Walsh, John Michell (with ball), John White, and Roger Pascoe. The referee is the late Victor Martin, a popular and much-respected official, who was a brother to David and John Martin.
Having mentioned how muddy it was back then, in contrast, by Easter it was on occasions like playing in a dust bowl!
Anyway, back to Mennaye mudfests, a number have also inevitably been experienced in recent years, all worthy to highlight. However, for this latest column we’ll look back to two such occasions, starting first with a game that proved truly memorable. Indeed, it stirred in my mind on Saturday morning before the Cornish Pirates game versus Hartpury RFC was postponed, as selected in the visiting side was one Luke Eves, whose dad Derek had played in the match about to be described.
The game involving the Pirates was played against Plymouth Albion on the 18th December 1999, the occasion also remembered by ‘Paves’ (Alan Paver), who was back in those days playing for our cross-Tamar rivals.
It was fourth versus fifth in Jewson National League 2 (South) – Redruth were third – as both sides strived to enter the fast approaching 21st century with the hope of achieving promotion.
On the day, Peter Johnson’s Pirates had to battle against tough opposition, and even tougher conditions! I remember water running along the front of the stand literally like a river, and with a slippery pitch and a swirling wind it provided a real test. That the Pirates emerged 9-3 winners was terrific, and if ever one man had influence to encourage the team to victory it was flanker Derek Eves. On loan from Bristol at the time, the 33-year-old former England ‘A’ man was truly inspirational.
And the team line-ups? They were as follows:-
Penzance & Newlyn (15-1): Nat Saumi (kicked 3 x penalties), Victor Olonga, David Sibson, Steve Evans, Rocky Newton, Andy Birkett, Mark Roderick, Chris Mills, Derek Eves, Jason Atkinson, Kevin Moseley (capt), Joe Bearman, John Thomas, Andrew Laity, Matt Kevern.
Replacements: Wayne Jenkin, Kevin Penrose, Bryan Easson.
Plymouth Albion (15-1): Chris Atkinson (1 x penalty), Steve Walkin, Russell Thompson, Richard Henwood, Gary Hooper, Tom Barlow, Paul Livingstone, Richard Durbin, Roger Thompson, Steve Dyer, Dan Ward-Smith, Philippe Farner, Wayne Reed, Graham Dawe (also Director of Rugby), Alan Paver.
Replacements: Nick Adams, Jason Lockley, Lee Thomas.
The second, more recent mudfest, was a game played by the Cornish Pirates against Nottingham on the 2nd December, 2012, when my match report displayed the heading ‘Pirates Win Mudfest At The Mennaye’.
Following Covid regulations, Penzance & Newlyn RFC and the Cornish Pirates have admirably reacted well to assist in a variety of ways, including, of recent, responding to help certain local choirs.
Captain Benbow shows his support for MIND Mental Health as the Co-op are aiming to raise £1m for them within our region.
Alfie Martin, who is on a 250-mile round walking trip of Cornwall visiting each and every rugby club in the county