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Frustration as Pirates have to settle for a draw at Meadow Lane
Nottingham 27 Cornish Pirates 27
After coming from behind to take a 27-24 lead nearing the end, it was ultimately frustrating for the Pirates that they had to settle for a draw against Nottingham.
This though was a contest that was always likely to go to the wire, as the Cornish side sought a first victory at Meadow Lane since November, 2010,and starting well they were pleased to have opened the scoring on four minutes thanks to a penalty kicked by fly-half Angus Sinclair.
No. 8 James Phillips, who was making his debut for the Cornish Pirates on loan from Exeter Chiefs, was immediately impressive, but both teams were soon down to 14 men after referee Mr. Campbell sent home flanker Tom Calladine and Pirates lock James Sandford to the sin bin.
After a spell of Nottingham pressure, a penalty awarded the Green & Whites enabled the hosts to level matters on 14 minutes thanks to the boot of full-back Matt Jarvis, who soon after missed with a second strike at goal.
Showing up well for the Pirates was prop Peter Joyce and Sinclair, whilst out wide wing Matt Evans looked hungry for action on his starting return. Nottingham, however, would soon take a lead, their propulsion to the line firstly ominous from a catch and drive, and ending with skipper and flanker Brent Wilson then applying potency as a try-scorer. Jarvis slotted the conversion to make it 10-3.
This first half certainly wasn't a classic, and lacked a little panache, but a fine try scored for the Pirates by Evans was pleasing to the eye. Sinclair ably added the extra two points and 10-all is as it stayed to the half-time whistle.
Skipper Gavin Cattle, who was making his return from injury for this match, was replaced at scrum-half during the interval by Tom Kessell, but a lapse in defence would see Nottingham soon regain the lead with a converted try for wing Sean Morris.
The Pirates needed to respond, and they did, with a chance for further points earned after they forced their opponents to give a penalty away. Kieran Hallett had replaced Sinclair at fly-half, and stepping forward the club's top points scorer cleanly struck a kick to take his Championship tally this season to 75.
Line-out time was below par for the Pirates, and when the Green & Whites counter-attacked and scored their third try of the match through centre Ed Styles, which was again converted by Jarvis, the 24-13 scoreline surely demanded that the visitors would have to score next.
It looked as if the Pirates cause had suffered a further blow when Hallett had to depart with a thumb injury, but when Evans crossed for his second try of the afternoon, with Craig Holland now converting, at 24-20 the outcome of this particular encounter was once again too close to call.
The tension was was suddenly notched up, as decibel levels also increased from the sounds emanating from both sets of supporters, thus creating an echo about Meadow Lane.
With 77 minutes on the clock the Pirates powered to the line, as a score appeared imminent. It initially looked as if the referee had signalled that the drive had been held up, but his arm then raised to the sky, thus confirming a try, scored by replacement hooker Rob Elloway. Pirates supporters were ecstatic, whereas followers of Martin Haag's Green & Whites were left a little disgruntled and deflated. In the meantime Holland's successful conversion made it 24-27
The Pirates had not won at Meadow Lane since recording a 36-10 points victory there in November, 2010, so could they hold on? There was every hope, naturally, but for Nottingham there was also still time to take advantage of Pirate error and mount a final attack in an effort to secure either a win or a draw.
From one penalty award the home side opted for a kick to touch, in the hope also that a match winning try could be created. That didn't happen. However, a final penalty offer in the very last minute made it an easier option for them to settle for the chance of draw, and Jarvis's kick at the death delivered just that.
Speaking after the game, Cornish Pirates Head Coach Ian Davies commented
“It was very disappointing to have to settle for a draw as this was game we should have won. Our line-out let us down throughout but there were positives with some fine tries scored.
“We also showed character when we had to jig things around because of injuries, but to ultimately draw and not win, that was frustrating.”
Nottingham: 15 Matthew Jarvis, 14 Sean Morris, 13 Ed Styles, 12 Joe Munro, 11 Ryan Hough, 10 Rory Lynn, 9 Finlay Barnham (Sean Romans 62); 1 Ryan Bower, 2 Alun Walker (Harry Thacker 69), 3 Michael Holford, 4 Neilus Keogh (Tom Price 62), 5 Dan Montagu, 6 Tom Calladine, 7 Brent Wilson (capt), 8 Alex Shaw (Joe Burton 62).
Replacements (not used): Harry Williams, Keifer Laxton, Jacob Knight.
Yellow card: Calladine.
Cornish Pirates: 15 Craig Holland, 14 Kieran Goss, 13 Tom Riley, 12 Rheon James, 11 Matt Evans, 10 Angus Sinclair (Kieran Hallett 46, Mike Pope 56), Gavin Cattle (capt, Tom Kessell h/t); 1 Kieran Davies, 2 Tom Channon (Rob Elloway 62), 3 Peter Joyce (Ben Prescott 67), 4 Neale Patrick (Will Graulich 76), 5 James Sandford, 6 Chris Morgan, 7 Alex Cheesman, 8 James Phillips (Joel Conlon 74).
Yellow card: Sandford.
Nottingham – tries: Wilson, Morris, Styles; cons: Jarvis (3); pens: Jarvis (2).
Cornish Pirates – tries: Evans (2), Elloway; cons: Holland (2), Sinclair; pen: Sinclair, Hallett.
Referee: Ross Campbell (RFU)
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