By Phil Westren
17-3 up after just 11 minutes, the Cornish Pirates will be bitterly disappointed to have lost this match. Three late yellow cards proved critical, and with just 12 men on the field they were unable to hold out. Gifted ascendancy in those final seconds, the Titans took full advantage, wing Jake Henry’s try levelling matters and it fly-half Will Robinson’s excellent conversion that crowned him Rotherham’s Halloween hero.
In absolutely perfect conditions at Clifton Lane the Cornish Pirates also got off to a perfect start, with a try scored in just the second minute by flanker Sam Simmonds. Fly-half Laurence May, influential in the build to Simmonds’s try, duly added the conversion.
The Titans soon opened their account thanks to a successful penalty strike by their own number ‘10’, Will Robinson, but the Pirates responded immediately with another score of their own. Scrum-half Alex Day was alert to use space to the side of a ruck, and he had a free run to the line for a converted try.
A clumsy challenge, made by Robinson on Pirates full-back Toby May, saw the Titan shown a yellow card. May ‘L’ also then confidently stepped up to kick three points on offer, and in the process put the Pirates 17-3 up.
Simmonds fell foul of referee Mr. O’Grady who directed him to the sin bin, and the home pack followed up with solid work, scoring a try through lock Tom Hicks. Refreshed off the naughty boy’s seat, Robinson kicked the conversion.
There was a lengthy delay in play because of injury to home centre Cameron Hudson, but the Rotherham team’s supporters were at least given something of a boost when Robinson slotted his second penalty of the match.
The Pirates needed to get back in gear, and they would do just that. Taking advantage after Hicks was shown yellow, the Pirates responded to soon take a rumble over the line. Hooker Jack Innard was identified as the try-scorer and May landed a fine conversion to give the Cornish side a 24-13 lead at the interval.
Play was evenly contested in the opening period of the second half, with credit due the Titans for defending well when the Pirates threatened.
As in the first half, there was another lengthy injury delay, and points on the board were proving difficult to acquire, until two successful penalty strikes by Robinson put the Titans back into contention – and, as it would prove, seriously so.
As the final minutes ticked away the home team ramped up their effort and were awarded a number of penalties. The Pirates were forced to defend and their chances to hold out evaporated, as in succession yellow cards were shown to wing Matt Evans, replacement hooker Tom Channon, and lock Brett Beukeboom.
Awarded a final penalty, the Titans opted for a scrum. Only six metres from the Pirates line they quickly spun the ball wide for Henry to score - and Robinson to be crowned the Halloween hero with his match-winning conversion.
Cornish Pirates’ joint Coach Gavin Cattle gave an honest appraisal after the game, commenting:
“There will be a lot of talk about yellow cards, but we don’t want to bring the referee into it as we have no complaints.
“There were positives in that we created opportunities, but from our point of view a lack of accuracy in the red zone was disappointing. We dominated the first half especially and after having a strong foothold had opportunities to put the game to bed.
“The boys were emotionally down at the end but we’ll learn from these experiences and get back on the horse ready for Jersey Reds next weekend.”
Titans: 15 Will Goodwin, 14 Will Thomas, 13 Cameron Hudson (Matt Walsh 21), 12 Will Owen (capt), 11 Jake Henry, 10 Will Robinson, 9 George Tresidder; 1 Toby Williams (Tom Williams 68), 2 Charlie Maddison (Luke Cole 60), 3 Joe Rees (Danny Herriott 60), 4 Oli Curry, 5 Tom Hicks, 6 Buster Lawrence (Toby Salmon 46), 7 George Oliver (James Tyas 56), 8 Tom MacDonald.
Replacement (not used): Dan Kelly
Yellow cards: Robinson, Hicks.
Cornish Pirates: 15 Toby May (Will Cargill 30), 14 Kyle Moyle, 13 Tom Hendrickson, 12 Nicolas Battista, 11 Matt Evans, 10 Laurence May (Jack Innard 79), 9 Alex Day (Stuart Townsend 61); 1 Marlen Walker (Paul Andrew 58), 2 Jack Innard (Tom Channon 51), 3 Tyler Gendall (Jack Andrew 60), 4 Chris Morgan (capt, Josh Caulfield 60), 5 Brett Beukeboom, 6 Alex Cheesman (Jake Parker 60), 7 Sam Simmonds, 8 Tom Duncan.
Yellow cards: Simmonds, Evans, Channon, Beukeboom.
Titans – tries: Hicks, Henry; cons: Robinson (2); pens: Robinson (4).
Cornish Pirates – Simmonds, Day, Innard; cons: L. May (3); pen: L. May.
Referee: Matthew O’Grady (RFU)
Will was joined on The Morning Show by joint Coach of the Pirates' Alan Paver to talk about about the match. You can hear the full review below.