Jersey 6pts Cornish Pirates 20pts
CORNISH PIRATES 20pts
The aim for the Pirates was to go all out for a win that would kick start their 2012-13 campaign, and with a hat-trick from wing Matt Evans they did just that.
This was a game with added pressure for both sides, and there perhaps a feeling pre-match that the outcome was difficult to predict. The island side, coached by Ben Harvey, son of former 'Pirate' Brett, had clinched their fifth promotion in eight seasons when emerging as champions of National One last season, so they were keen to impress at the higher level, and in front of a big and expectant crowd who were accustomed to seeing their team win. As for the Pirates, led again by scrum-half Gavin Cattle, and including seven of their new signings in the starting line-up, they were, of course, favourites on the opening weekend of the 2012-13 RFU Championship, but they also knew that nothing could be taken for granted.
Wearing their yellow, red, white and black 'Inox Group' sponsored away shirts, the Pirates, through fly-half Kieran Hallett, kicked the game off against the Championship newcomers, in conditions that were a little cloudy and windy, but also dry.
The play early on was a little frantic from both sides, and for the home team former Pirates in scrum-half Nicky Griffiths and wing Tom Cooper were clearly keen to impress. Griffiths was especially busy and creating pressure with colleagues a penalty awarded them in the sixth minute was comfortably slotted by fly-half Ross Broadfoot.
From the restart the Pirates looked to make all but an immediate response. Skipper and scrum-half Gavin Cattle kicked well from hand and when a penalty came his team's way the option taken was to go for a catch and drive. Clearly confident that the Pirates pack could deliver, they went close to scoring a try not just from the first penalty awarded but also from a second when lock Gary Johnson secured clean ball.. As things worked out, however, when a third penalty was then awarded the ball was handed to Hallett for him to bring the scores level with a successful kick at goal.
The first half hour was evenly contested, with there credit to Jersey for the effort displayed at this higher level. Their pack was able to set up an effective driving maul and they were unlucky not to take the lead when Broadfoot's second effort fell short, after a penalty had been awarded following an altercation between their skipper, former Cornish All Blacks lock Nathan Hannay, and Pirates lock Darren Barry.
In the period leading to half-time Evans had twice looked a threat as the Pirates started to exert extra pressure. A score before the break looked on, and after play was taken to the left Evans was over the line for his first try of the afternoon. Hallett's conversion attempt missed but the Pirates were ultimately pleased to hold an 8-3 lead at the interval.
When the second half got under way, two scores would quickly materialise. The first came to Jersey, thanks to a penalty kicked by replacement fly-half Michael Le Bourgeois, which considerably lifted the morale of the partisan home crowd. However, when Evans chased Cattle's clever kick to register his second try, converted by Hallett, the sudden seven points seemingly acted as a statement that the Pirates would ultimately hold the upper hand come what may.
Jersey's heads never dropped, and in Tongan flanker Talite Vaioleti they had someone who throughout looked strong and able. Le Bourgeois and Hallett both missed difficult penalty attempts and it looked likely that the score would perhaps stay at 6-15, but that was before the Pirates took numerical advantage after Jersey's experienced former Doncaster hooker, Steve Boden, was shown 'yellow' by referee Mr. Steve Lee.
With just a few minutes remaining Evans was gifted his hat-trick opportunity through a pass that he happily took to score, thus putting the end result absolutely beyond doubt, and it one that secured a satisfying cross channel victory.
Speaking at the end of the game, the Cornish Pirates head coach, Ian Davies, commented:
"Having not been able to find out much about Jersey, we would have preferred not to have played them away in our first game. However, I'm delighted with the win."
"To their credit our forwards produced good ball and there was pace on display in the outsides against a Jersey team who have now tasted Championship rugby, and who will no doubt derive benefit from it."
Cornish Pirates: G. Pointer, T. Bedford, T. Riley, J. Fatialofa (A. Cheesman 72), M. Evans, K. Hallett (A. Penberthy 76), G. Cattle (capt, T. Kessell 70), B. Maidment, P. Burgess, K. Marriott, G. Johnson, D. Barry (D. Lyons 60), B. Prescott (R. Storer 70), R. Elloway, P. Andrew.
Replacements (not used): D. Semmens, A. Paver.
Jersey -pens: Broadfoot, Le Bourgeois.
Cornish Pirates - tries: Evans (3); con: Hallett; pen: Hallett.
Referee: Steve Lee (RFU)