CORNISH Rebels have secured the South West Premier League Leaders title and booked their place in the League Grand Final with a 52-36 win over Plymouth Titans on Saturday, writes Rob Butland.
Martyn Lawrance continued his fine form at loose forward grabbing two tries in the opening ten minutes at The Rec, either side of a try from second-row Matt Ballard.
Captain Grant Thirlby stepped up to convert two of those before Plymouth got themselves back into the game as their prop Dec Sexton found a gap and full-back Kelly nipped in to close the gap further.
The Cornish managed to score at just the right times throughout and with the game at 16-12 with the Titans gaining momentum, two tries from full-back Matt Shepherd gave the Rebels some welcome breathing space.
Shepherd's second try saw him take a quick tap-penalty to himself and leave the Titans defence in his wake with a 70 metre sprint for the try-line, before Sexton replied again for Plymouth for a 26-18 half-time game.
The Rebels started brightly in the second half with Lawrance making an unbelievable run down the touchline. But after being brought down six inches from the try-line, it was quick thinking Thirlby who sent the ball high and wide across the width of the pitch for Jake Butcher to leap and catch behind the try-line for the move of the day and another Cornish try.
Liam Thompson scored again for the visitors, but Ben Tharme's conversion was to be his last involvement before leaving the field injured after an impressive display from the Plymouth scrum-half.
Dan Thomas then touched down for the Rebels, before another stunning individual Rebels play. This time, stand-off Darren Pellow took the ball 40 metres from the scrum and managed to beat the Titans defenders in a straight sprint for the whitewash to a rapturous applause from the crowd.
Despite the heat neither team wanted to give up the hunt for points. The final ten minutes saw a brace of tries from each side. Titans' Tom Worboys and Kelly both found the tryline in between two more from Rebels top-scorer Shepherd, who gave another impressive display with and without the ball.
Both teams should be commended on their determination and resilience on a red-hot day. The victory means the Rebels will finish the season top of the table and have now guaranteed a place in the South West Premier League Grand Final on August 17th.
Rebels starting 13: Shephers, Murray, Winston, Butcher, Martin, Carter, Pellow, Joyce, Thirlby, Jacques, Ballard, Pattison, Lawrance. Replacements: Thomas, Molin, Marshall, Wright, James, McAtee, Cook.