Cornish Pirates 20 Rotherham Titans 40
Needing just three league points to make the Greene King IPA Championship play-offs, this win for the Titans ultimately saw them secure their place with two games still remaining.
It was obvious that Lee Blackett's respected side would arrive in Cornwall keen to hastily achieve their goal, but it was the Pirates who impressed most in the first period, as they took a 20-7 points lead into half-time.
Having announced his retirement from the game, powerful midfield performer Junior Fatialofa, accompanied by his young son Fraser, had the honour of leading the Pirates out onto the field for what was the last home game of the season.
Conditions were fine and sunny, with thoughts of fire and storm damage now but a memory, as the prospect of a fine game of rugby was anticipated.
Playing with positivity, the Pirates got off to a bright start, with No. 8 Laurie McGlone making a strong 'carry', and the Titans' defence tested when the ball was moved to the right. The line wasn't breached, but when a penalty was awarded the boot of fly-half Kieran Hallett posted the first points of the afternoon.
It was all Pirates, and after after an added setback for the Titans saw them lose the services of injured scrum-half and skipper Charlie Muchrone, it was not long before Hallett added to visiting woes with a second successful penalty strike.
Hallett would miss with a long range penalty effort, a light but surprisingly tricky wind making it difficult at times both for kicking from ground and from hand, but it mattered not when another bullocking charge from McGlone led to the game's opening try. It was one scored at the Newlyn posts by centre Tom Riley, with Hallett's conversion making it pleasingly 13-0 to the Pirates.
The Pirates scrum was going well and the overall performance had provided plenty of encouragement. They had managed thus far to subdue their visitors, only for the Yorkshire side to then show its potential as the clock passed the half-hour mark. Despite being on their '22', the Titans instinctively spotted an opportunity to attack, and following a fine bout of inter-passing made it all the way to the Penzance line, for a try scored by full-back Sean Scanlon. Their Argentinian fly-half, Juan Pablo Socino, who is way out alone as the Championship's top points scorer, added the conversion to take his tally to 287.
The Pirates seemingly made light of the scores, and their response was all but immediate. Once again it was McGlone who impressed on the hoof, and with pressure maintained the referee, Mr. Andrew Jackson, awarded the Pirates a penalty try. The conversion was a formality, Hallett adding the extra two points for the Pirates to lead 20-7 at the break.
In the context of the game it was felt that the score before half-time was likely of importance, but nobody of course realised how clinical the Titans would be in the second period. They certainly got off to a perfect start, with forwards and backs combining before Socino sent hooker Tom Cruse in for a converted try at the posts. 20-14.
In an effort to lift their side the home faithful chanted 'Pirates, Pirates', and Hallett was unlucky not to open up a nine points gap when the a trick of the wind took his effort to the right of the posts.
Play was now opening up, it an end to end affair with try-scoring chances surely on offer for both teams during the final half hour of the match. As it worked out the Pirates, unfortunately, would not score again, but it took little time for the visitors to maintain their flow, and how. When breaks were made the Titans always had support runners, an effort started by Jamie Broadley and finished off by fellow wing man Michael Keating providing the perfect example. The conversion from Socino also put the Rotherham side ahead for the first time in the match.
Now in a mood to press on, the Titans extended their lead three minutes later when replacement scrum-half Dan White scored a converted try at the Newlyn gate corner.
Two more tries followed for the now rampaging Titans, one scored by dynamic centre Jack Roberts and there a second for Keating, the last of the afternoon, which was this time converted by replacement fly-half Dallan Murphy.
In 11 previous home games against Rotherham, the Pirates had only lost once, a 28-32 result at Camborne in October, 2008. In this, their second defeat, they had no arguments, as from the moment in the second half when the Titans sensed their chance to go into overdrive, they clinically did just that.
Commenting after the game, Cornish Pirates' Director of Rugby, Ian Davies, said: “It was unfortunate that we squandered four clear chances in the first half, and knowing that Rotherham are a very tight unit there was always a fear that if they gained a bit of belief then they would be difficult to stop, which is exactly what happened.”
Cornish Pirates: 15 Kieran Goss (Kyle Moyle 61), 14 Max Bodilly, 13 Tom Riley, 12 Junior Fatialofa (Tom Hendrickson 65), 11 Craig Holland, 10 Kieran Hallett, 9 Tom Kessell; 1 Shane Cahill (Ben Prescott 78), 2 Tom Channon (Aaron Carpenter 72), 3 Ben Prescott (Kieran Davies 61), 4 Will Carrick Smith, 5 Darren Barry, 6 Chris Morgan (capt, Angus Sinclair 65), 7 Jake Parker (Tom Duncan 65), 8 Laurie McGlone (Alex Cheesman 61).
Yellow card: Cahill.
Rotherham Titans: 15 Sean Scanlon, 14 Jamie Broadley, 13 Jordan Davies (Joel Gill 72), 12 Jack Roberts, 11 Michael Keating, 10 Juan Pablo Socino (Dallan Murphy 72), 9 Charlie Mulchrone (capt, Dan White 17), 1 Marshall Gadd (Toby Williams 60), 2 Tom Cruse (Alfie To'oala 56), 3 Mark Tampin (Rikki Stout 53), 4 Tom Holmes, 5 Josh Thomas-Brown, 6 Ed Williamson (Ben Morris 72), 7 Jack Preece, 8 Alex Rieder.
Yellow card: Thomas-Brown.
Cornish Pirates – tries: Riley, penalty try; cons: Hallett (2); pens: Hallett (2).
Rotherham Titans – Keating (2), Scanlon, Cruse, White, Roberts; cons: Socino (4); Murphy.
Referee: Andrew Jackson (RFU).
The Cornish Pirates will now end their season with two away games in the Championship. The first is against Bedford Blues on Saturday, and on Friday week they travel to play Leeds Carnegie.