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Defeat against London Scottish leaves Pirates playoff hopes in the balance
London Scottish 25 Cornish Pirates 6
Cornish Pirates' now confirmed director of rugby, Ian Davies, said pre-match that he expected a tough Championship battle, and against a very good side that is making a serious challenge for the top four, and he was proven right.
This was a fifth versus sixth encounter, played in blustery conditions and on a pitch that was inevitably heavy, and making his 50th appearance for the Cornish Pirates was lock Darren Barry, who was one on several changes to the starting line-up from the one that ran out against Ulster Ravens in the Cup the previous weekend.
On a day that was always going to be difficult for kickers, 'Scottish' fly-half Dan Newton missed with a first minute penalty attempt, which unluckily hit the bar.
The Pirates looked able with ball in hand at the start of this game, but their first points came thanks to the boot of fly-half Kieran Hallett, who was making a welcome return from injury. Starting this match with 75 points in the Championship thus far this season, successful penalties on 14 and 17 minutes took his tally to 81. Importantly, they also gave the Pirates a 6-0 lead.
In general, however, the penalty count appeared to go against the Pirates, and at the scrum in particular, and they were fortunate that Newton would fail again, twice, with chances to funnel kicks between the posts.
A former Redruth back-rower, the talismanic Mark Bright, skippered the exiles side, and he was once again making his presence felt. The Pirates were forced to defend, and from pressure applied they conceded a soft try scored by USA prop Tom Fry. Newton was again luckless, this time with a conversion attempt, but at least the Pirates held on to a narrow 6-5 lead come the break.
Playing into the breeze when the second half got underway, would be a test for the Pirates, who needed to play with tighter control than in the first period, and to also cut the penalty count against them.
London Scottish, however, emerged at the start of the second period in confident mode. The score by Fry before the break had given them a boost, and they certainly had their tails up when in the 42nd minute full-back Jim Thompson, a former Scotland 'A' and Scotland Sevens player, crossed for a try that saw former Pirates lock David Lyons involved in the build up. Centre Ollie Grove was handed the ball for the conversion attempt, but he too would miss.
To confirm their increasing dominance London Scottish would soon score again, when the Championship's top try-scorer, wing Miles Mantella, took his tally to 13 with an unconverted score.
The home side now sought a bonus-point-providing fourth try, which they would have to work for. It would eventually be delivered, but it took until just past the hour mark when Tom Dunn, who is dual-registered from Bath Rugby, was gifted space to score. It was his last contribution of the game before being replaced by Adam Kwasnicki. And the conversion? Drawing ironic applause from the home support, an effort from Newton was at last landed to make it 22-6.
Into the last quarter of the game the Pirates introduced their remaining six replacements, but with the weather worsening there was little chance of witnessing a rugby spectacle.
Replacement James Love extended the London Scottish lead with a penalty to make it 25-6 late in the half, and as the elements deteriorated still further, the match was about to end in horrendous conditions, with a mix of driving rain, a gusting storm force wind, plus thunder and lighting.
The players were admired for their final on-field efforts, as was the spirited bagpiper on the sidelines, but all welcomed the final whistle to bring an end to a game that was well won by the home side.
Ian Davies had no argument with the final result.
“We were outplayed in all facets and the penalty count went against us in the first half at scrum time, which is something we'll look at," he said.
“It might have been a different story if we had managed to finish off a number of first half chances, but come the second half we looked a little rudderless, although not forgetting that London Scottish also have one of the best defences in the league and are difficult to break down.
“Positives included the effort displayed by wing Mike Pope and the return to action of Kieran Hallett, but overall it was a reality check for the squad. A number of players simply didn't perform, and we'll need to react when we take on what will be a dangerous Ealing Trailfinders side - who are fighting for Championship survival - at the Mennaye Field next Sunday.”
London Scottish: 15 Jim Thompson, 14 Mike Doneghan, 13 Oli Grove (James Love 64), 12 Andy Reay (PJ Gidlow 69), 11 Miles Mantella, 10 Dan Newton, 9 Jordi Pasqualin; 1 Eric Fry, 2 Tom Dunn (Adam Kwasnicki 62), 3 Tom Francis, 4 Tyler Hotson (Paul Spivey 71), 5 Dave Lyons, 6 Ben Russell (Neil Best 48), 7 Chevvy Pennycook, 8 Mark Bright (c).
Replacements (not used): Mark Irish, Lee Millar..
Cornish Pirates: 15 Craig Holland (Kyle Moyle 64), 14 Mike Pope, 13 Tom Riley (Junior Fatialofa 64), 12 Alex Dancer, 11 Kieran Goss, 10 Kieran Hallett (Angus Sinclair 64), 9 Tom Kessell; 1 Jack Andrew, 2 Rob Elloway (Tom Channon 64), 3 Ben Prescott (Shane Cahill 30), 4 Will Graulich, 5 Darren Barry (Jake Parker 64), 6 Chris Morgan (capt, Joe Atkinson 64), 7 Alex Cheesman, 8 Aaron Carpenter.
London Scottish – tries: Fry,. Thompson, Mantella, Dunn; con: Newton; pen: Love.
Cornish Pirates – pens: Hallett (2).
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys (RFU)
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