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Drama at the Mennaye as Pirates secure late cup victory over Jersey
Cornish Pirates 31 Jersey RFC 20
Well, after playing three Championship games against Jersey in the past two seasons the Cornish Pirates welcomed the Islanders to the Mennaye Field on Saturday night for the first of two back to back Pool Six games in the British & Irish Cup, and in recording this third bonus point victory in this season's competition they remain firm leaders.
It was also, of course, fresh in minds that Jersey arrived in Cornwall just three weeks after beating the Pirates 27-25 at home in a league encounter, which was their first Championship win against the Cornish side.
There were number of changes in the Cornish Pirates side from that which drew 27-all in the Championship at Nottingham the previous weekend, including a move from wing to fly-half for Canadian international Matt Evans.
A new wing combination saw Guernsey islander Luke Jones selected against former rivals, whilst Kyle Moyle, fit again after a spell with the Cornish All Blacks, took the other spot out wide for what would be his first appearance of the season.
Just before the kick-off the players, officials and supporters all stood about the ground, joining millions about the world to remember and pay to Nelson Mandela, marking the occasion not with a minute's silence but with a minute's applause.
Jersey, who arrived in Cornwall with Forwards Coach Steve Boden their Interim Head Coach following the departure on Thursday of Director of Rugby Ben Harvey, kicked the game off playing towards the Newlyn end of the ground, and there were hopes of an early score for the visitors when centre Mark McRea broke into space.
The threat, however, was held, and after soon applying pressure at the other end the field the Pirates opened the scoring with a try scored wide out on the left by No. James Phillips. Moyle slotted an excellent conversion, and having impressed with the boot, then equally impressed with speed and footwork to score and convert his own try to put the Pirates 14-0 up.
It all looked comfortable for the Pirates before Jersey then started to settle, with their efforts rewarded first with penalty kicked by fly-half Niall O'Connor, then a converted penalty try, and then a second penalty from O'Connor to make it 14-13 at the break.
Moyle missed with a lengthy attempt early in the second half but was on target when an easier chance came his way. The game though was unusually flat, despite the good weather conditions, and it needed a mix of spark and spice to liven it back up.
Players off the bench would make an impact, including two experienced for Jersey in the shape of lock Alex Rae and back-rower Latu Makaafi, and as the clock ticked away a second penalty try of the night was awarded the visitors by referee Mr. Richards. It had followed a series of scrums at the Penzance posts and the conversion was a formality. The scoreboard now read 17-20, with six minutes left on the clock. The likely result of this one looked as if it was going to go Jersey's way.
Replacements made by the Pirates had included the introduction of centre Alex Dancer just before the break.
Troubled by injury early in the season and now back to fitness after a brief loan spell at Taunton, he was delighted to make his home debut, whilst among changes made during the second period Matt Evans was by now moved to his more familiar position on the wing.
The man of the match had performed well in the '10 shirt, but the execution and completion of a try that he would score at the Newlyn posts suddenly brought this match back to life.
Back in the lead and with replacement Angus Sinclair's conversion making it 24-20, the total focus was now on seeking a bonus point, so could they do it?
Okay, we now know they did, as with the crowd adding vocal encouragement to the cause, replacement lock Darren Barry squeezed in at the Newlyn gate corner, with Sinclair's super conversion making the final score 31-20.
From a Jersey perspective Steve Boden must have been proud of the effort put in by his team, which certainly didn't lack in terms of commitment, but there was no doubt frustration that at the very end his side was denied even a losing bonus point.
As for the Pirates, Head Coach Ian Davies commented after the match: “It was great to see Kyle Moyle back from injury and looking a threat whenever he touched the ball, as it was to see the team show it's character right at the end to deliver two important scores.”
Ian added: “Yes, we are in a good position as clear leaders in our pool, but knowing the threat that Jersey will pose at Rues des Landes we'll take nothing for granted when facing them there next Saturday.”
Cornish Pirates: 15 Craig Holland, 14 Kyle Moyle (Mike Pope 74), 13 Tom Riley (Alex Dancer 35), 12 Rheon James, 11 Luke Jones (Angus Sinclair 54), 10 Matt Evans, 9 Gavin Cattle (capt); 1 Shane Cahill, 2 Rob Elloway (Tom Channon 74), 3 Peter Joyce (Jack Andrew 47), 4 Will Graulich, 5 James Sandford (Darren Barry 49), 6 Chris Morgan, 7 Joel Conlon, 8 James Phillips (Alex Cheesman 77).
Jersey RFC: 15 Drew Locke, 14 James Copsey, 13 Mark McCrea (Jimmy Williams 13), 12 Mark Foster, 11 Jack Burroughs, 10 Niall O'Connor, 9 Joel Dudley; 1 Tom Fidler, 2 Dave Felton (Elvis Taione 54), 3 Nick Selway (Jon Brennan 54), 4 Nick Campbell (Alex Rae 61), 5 Dave Markham, 6 James Voss (Latu Makaafi 61), 7 Fred Silcock (Joe Buckle 73), 8 Tom Brown (capt).
Replacement (not used): Stratford.
Cornish Pirates – tries: Phillips, Moyle, Evans, Barry; cons: Moyle (2), Sinclair (2); pen: Moyle Jersey RFC – tries: penalty tries (2); cons: O'Connor (2); pens: O'Connor (2)
Referee: Dean Richards (RFU)
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