Phil Westren's Report
Saturday 31s December 2016
Greene King IPA Championship Rd 13
Mennaye Field Penzance
In front of a bumper seasonal holiday crowd the Cornish Pirates not only completed the double against Nottingham in this season, but also ended 2016 pleasingly fourth-placed in the Greene King IPA Championship.
Delighted with their win at Ealing Trailfinders on Christmas Eve, the Pirates were naturally keen to record another league victory, this time in front of enthusiastic home support, and in an encounter that kicked off at the earlier than usual time of 1230.
There was just the one change in the squad from the one that ventured to Ealing, with a fit again Jack Andrew replacing Alan Paver on the bench. Also, adding extra atmosphere, the game marked a special occasion for props Tyler Gendall and Marlen Walker, both proudly making their 50th appearance for the club.
The Pirates opened the scoring in the fifth minute, with a try scored to the left of the Penzance posts by centre Max Bodilly. Fly-half Laurence May’s conversion made it 7-0.
The sky above was grey, requiring the floodlights to be switched on, but in every other respect the midwinter conditions were just about perfect for rugby football.
Approaching midway through the first half, visiting fly-half Sam Olver stroked over a penalty kick, and May then did likewise for the Pirates to reopen a seven points gap.
In a physically competitive encounter the Pirates extended their lead on the half-hour mark, wing Kyle Moyle intercepting and running in a try at a time when Nottingham were striving to break out of defence. May added the extra two points, and then three more with a penalty, which followed inroads made into the heart of Nottingham’s defence by back-rowers Tom Duncan and Alex Cheesman. 20-3 it was, at the break.
The Green & Whites were quick out of the blocks for the start of the second half, but the Pirates defended admirably at first, and once again sparkled with scrummage dominance. Tyler and Martin were clearly enjoying themselves.
A little defensive fragility was though exposed on 52 minutes, allowing Nottingham centre Charles Thacker to make a break and score a converted try.
The visitors were now worryingly in the ascendancy, a thought confirmed when prop Ben Hooper soon fought his way over. Olver converted and then added a penalty to all of a sudden level matters at 20-all. With a quarter of the game remaining could the Pirates respond? The answer, as we now know, would be so impressively ‘yes’.
Following another dominant scrum, man-of-the-match Stuart Townsend spotted space on the left. Using it well the scrum-half fed Moyle who sped in at the old Western National corner. May also did well to land the difficult conversion.
The Pirates were back on track, with Townsend holding major influence, and replacement prop Jack Andrew now making his mark. A bonus-point-proving fourth try would be scored by centre Nicolas De Battista, who stepped inside to make it to the line, and a final try of the afternoon, this time dotted down by replacement back-rower Dan Lee, cemented the victory – not forgetting that May also converted both efforts.
New Year’s Eve celebrations could now begin, albeit an hour or two earlier than usual. The Pirates and their ‘Pirate’ fancy-dressed supporters were no doubt up for a party, and deservedly so.
Speaking after the game, Coach Gavin Cattle said:
“For 50 minutes of the match we were by far the stronger, so when Nottingham enjoyed a spell by getting in behind us it was important not to panic. We didn’t, and by sticking to our guns and playing with intensity we were particularly good at the end.
“Our replacements, who are all quality players and can make an impact, did well, and the volume from the crowd was also great – you could sense a buzz when we arrived at the ground and it was there throughout.”
Cornish Pirates: 15 Toby May, 14 Jack Arnott (Alex Day 56-62), 13 Max Bodilly, 12 Nicolas De Battista (Bar Bartlett 62-68), 11 Kyle Moyle, 10 Laurence May, 9 Stuart Townsend; 1 Marlen Walker, 2 Tom Channon (Jack Innard 52), 3 Tyler Gendall (Jack Andrew 62) 4 Chris Morgan (capt, Jake Parker 76), 5 Brett Beukeboom, 6 Sam Simmonds, 7 Alex Cheesman, 8 Tom Duncan (Dan Lee 56). Yellow card: T. May. Replacement (not used): Will Cargill.
Nottingham: 15 Billy Robinson (Oli Evans 73), 14 David Williams, 13 Charlie Thacker, 12 Vili Hakalo, 11 James Stephenson, 10 Sam Olver, 9 Murray McConnell (Darryl Veenendaal 44); 1 Tom West (Kieran Davies 13-23, 68), 2Jimmy Stevens (TJ Harris 52), 3 Ben Hooper (Tom Heard 70), 4 Toby Freeman (Morgan Eames 70), 5 Ben Morris (capt), 6 Shane Buckley, 7 Langley, 8 Josh Poullet (Jordan Coghlan 68).
Cornish Pirates – tries: Bodilly, Moyle (2), De Battista, Lee; cons: L. May (5); pens: L. May (2).
Nottingham – tries: Thacker, Hooper; cons: Olver (2); pens: (2).
Referee: Jack Makepeace (RFU)
Cornish Pirates ‘St. Austell Brewery’ Man-of-the-match: Stuart Townsend