Pirates Amateurs 32 Falmouth Eagles 8
Due to the abysmal weather it had been three weeks since Falmouth Eagles, and most of the Tribute Cornwall and Devon league had last played a match.
But with the weekend came respite from the relentless rain, and so it was that the Eagles found themselves in Penzance on breezy Saturday afternoon to do battle with Pirates Amateurs in a rescheduled match.
Despite the pitch at the Mennaye being bathed in warm, weak sunshine there were reminders all around of just how brutal the storms have been, with part of the Jewson stand still damaged after being forcefully ripped from the ground by the high winds.
And after 80 minutes of rugby the Eagles may have wished for a similar storm to sweep in off the bay and rip a hole in the ground beneath them as they collapsed to a 32-8 defeat in a heated and high tempered game against a resurgent Pirates Amateurs team.
The Eagles came into the game knowing it wouldn’t be easy. The Pirates had run them close at the Recreation Ground earlier in the year, but with the season entering its final third coach Phil Angove will have expected some urgency from his side, and a strong start.
And for a time it seemed his side had responded, showing plenty of energy in the opening exchanges, and moving the ball well
A spell of high intensity rugby saw them push upfield, and draw first blood with a good penalty from Justyn Irons, knocked between the posts with seven minutes on the board.
But no sooner had they scored than their good work was undone after conceding a penalty straight from the kick off, and Rhys Brownfield brought the scores level by coolly slotting over. The Eagles had led for less than a minute.
It got worse for the Eagles as they were reduced to 14 men after James Dobson received Falmouth’s second yellow card of the season.
The Pirates made their extra man advantage count and put the Eagles under pressure.
High kicks from the Pirates were not collected properly, and a knock-on forced the Eagles to defend a five metre scrum, which they succeeded in doing.
Tempers were already starting to flare, and 25 minutes into the game the Eagles were reduced to 13 men.
A scuffle broke out, and despite the constant shrill of the referee’s whistle more and more players became involved in the melee, which, when it finally ended, led to Toby Mears and the Pirates’ hooker being binned for their involvement.
Fortunately the Eagles were down to 13 for only seconds as the next break in play allowed Dobson back onto the field.
Angove made some good substitutions, bringing Geach on at the expense of Carne.
A forward for a back gave the Eagles some dominance in the scrum, but they were unable to make the pressure count.
The players in the bin were allowed back on, but soon after a chip over the Falmouth backs wasn’t dealt with properly and Ryan Forrester scored to put the Pirates 8-3 ahead.
The Eagles fought back, getting within 10 metres of the line and winning a penalty.
However, with not enough time to kick for touch the attempt at goal was missed, and the Eagles went into half time five points down.
Things didn’t improve for Falmouth after the break, and from a Pirates lineout the ball was passed wide to Lee Edwards who cut inside and scored under the posts.
Brownfield’s conversion put the Pirates 15-3 ahead.
The Eagles needed to come back, and they tried hard, winning themselves a penalty 20 yards out.
But in the course of trying to find touch with the kick, the ball went backwards and the resulting lineout was unusually poor, allowing the Pirates to clear the danger - yet another missed opportunity to put points on the board.
Then as Falmouth tried to up the intensity captain Simon Bailey came crunching into a ruck illegally, and he was sin-binned for dangerous play.
The loss of Bailey hit the Eagles hard, and in the ten minutes he was off the field they were rudderless, conceding two tries.
The third was well-earned by Forrester, who broke through four tackles before diving over.
Falmouth heads dropped, and mistakes were made. From the kick off the Pirates claimed the high ball, and an up-and-under from Brownfield was missed by two Falmouth defenders.
The ball bounced forward, and a grubber kick from Aaron Hall put Tom Edmonds at full back under pressure, missing the touch down and allowing Hall in to score the Pirates’ fourth try for a 29-3 lead.
The reinstatement of Bailey brought some stability and focus back to the Eagles, but it all seemed a bit too late by this point.
However, credit must go to the Eagles who kept battling in the face of defeat.
And their determination was rewarded when from a lineout they drove hard, gaining 30 metres before being pulled back due to a penalty infringement by Pirates.
But the Pirates defended solidly, winning their own penalty, which the ever-reliable Brownfield nudged over to extend the lead even further.
The Eagles managed some consolation points when a good run by Joel Rose from the 22 saw him break through several Pirates tackles before the ball was worked out wide to Edmonds, who dived over the line - but by then the game had gone.
Falmouth were left to rue the ill discipline, bad passing, and poor decision making at crucial times during the second half which cost them the game. When a team spends 30 minutes of a game with only 14 players on the pitch they will always be up against it.
The Eagles will be looking to bounce back on Saturday but with Crediton and Withycombe both recording heavy victories this weekend and the Eagles next game against top of the league Exeter University, a third place finish may be slipping away.