Cornish Pirates 21, Nottingham 15

This was indeed a game of two halves, the Pirates seemingly very much in control when leading 21-3 at half-time, only to allow their opponents back into the game in the second forty. Back into the game? Yes, but the Pirates still importantly held out for victory, writes Phil Westren.

Ahead of this contest it was noted that the teams had already faced each other three times this season. The Pirates won 42-7 away to Nottingham in the Championship Cup last October, and again, 23-4, away in the league in November. However, at home in the Cup at the start of December, they lost 29-20 against the Green & Whites.

Changes in the Cornish Pirates starting line-up from the one that ran out against Coventry the previous weekend included a first league match start for scrum-half Rhodri Davies. Sam Rodman was selected at tight-head prop, and with Josh Caulfield returning at blind-side flanker, James McRae moved to No.8. A welcome name on the bench was that of the club’s vice-captain, Nicolas De Battista, who has returned to fitness following an injury suffered at Doncaster last October.

Overnight rain showers had earlier in the day cast doubt as to whether this game would be played, however the hard work of ground staff, players, stewards and others, combined with kinder weather in the build-up to kick-off time, saw the pitch playable.

Match underway, and in bright sunshine, Pirates’ full-back Kyle Moyle soon lit the Mennaye up still further with a terrific run. Support almost led to a try, and although not immediate it wasn’t too long before man of the match centre Rory Parata scored at the Penzance posts. Fly-half Will Cargill added the two extra points.

The home team was playing some superb rugby, their passing and support play simply top drawer. A further score looked inevitable and with seemingly every player contributing to a build-up in play it was flanker Will Wilson’s converted try that saw the Pirates 14-0 up with a quarter of the game gone.

After the Green & Whites had made a couple of fruitless ventures into the Pirates ‘22’, on a next visit it was their chance of getting points on the board, which they did with a penalty successfully kicked by their fly-half Shane O’Leary.

O’Leary, along with backrowers Tui Uru and Jordan Coughlan were at the forefront of Nottingham’s cause. Inside centre Will Simonds also caught the eye, however it was his opposite number in the 12 shirt, namely ‘Pirate’ Shae Tucker, who would next light up the Mennaye, his powerful run into enemy territory setting a position from where hooker Dan Frost would also – a la Wilson - score for a second week running. The conversion for Cargill was a formality, and despite withstanding some late visiting pressure, the Pirates held a healthy and fully deserved 21-3 half-time lead.

On the resumption of play it was clear that the home team had a desire to quickly secure a bonus-point-providing fourth try. It was surely just a matter of time – wasn’t it? Well, on this day it did not materialise, the Pirates soon losing their flow of the first forty, with errors creeping into their game.

Another attack close to the line raised hope, but when possession was lost it gave an opportunity for Nottingham’s No. 8 Coughlan to take off on a run that would quickly gain support. Play was taken all the way to the Penzance posts, and after the Pirates lost the services of lock Fa’atiga Lemalu to the sin bin it was not long before the visitors worked the ball left for replacement Josh Poullet to provide a scoring pass to wing David Williams.

Conversion missed, it was now 21-8, and with eighteen minutes left on the clock home supporters now urged their team to find the form witnessed in the first half. Unfortunately, however, the Pirates were unable to respond and soon went further behind when Nottingham scored again, with lock Danny Qualter’s converted try making it 21-15.

Pluses for the Pirates in time remaining was displaying a dogged defensive effort to hold out for victory, and to also see De Battista get a little taste of game action, him given a warm welcome back.

So, in a match well officiated by the able and respected Sara Cox and her assistants, the Green & Whites were worthy of their losing bonus point. As for the Pirates – especially following their first half performance – they had understandably hoped for better.

Speaking at the end of the game, coach Alan Paver said:

“You can never take anything for granted and after starting so well and leading comfortably at half-time it ended up pretty painful to watch. The last thirty minutes seemed like forever.

“The first half was excellent when we executed all that we talked about in the week – holding the ball well, moving the ball well, and making our defence really solid.

“At half-time we said we have got to come out hard and fast and get that bonus point, but it wasn’t to be, which was our fault. We made errors that we don’t normally make and that’s not taking anything away from Nottingham because they rode the momentum and put us under pressure.

“It was a real wrestle come the end and it is something we must learn from, but at least we came away on the right side of the score.”

Cornish Pirates: 15 Kyle Moyle, 14 Robin Wedlake, 13 Rory Parata, 12 Shae Tucker (Nicolas De Battista 68), 11 AJ Cant, 10 Will Cargill, 9 Rhodri Davies (Alex Schwarz 47); 1 Marlen Walker (Will Norton 47), 2 Dan Frost (Tom Channon 53), 3 Sam Rodman (Jack Andrew 53), 4 Fa’atiga Lemalu, 5 Brett Beukeboom (captain, Danny Cutmore 67), 6 Josh Caulfield, 7 Will Wilson (Antonio Kiri Kiri 62), 8 James McRae.

Replacement (not used): Javier Rojas Alvarez. Yellow card: Fa’atiga Lemalu.

Nottingham: 15 Jack Spittle, 14 David Williams, 13 Harry Strong (Luke Peters 50), 12 Will Simonds, 11 Ben Foley, 10 Shane O’Leary, 9 Alex Crocker (Harry Graham 35); 1 Tom Hill (Jamie Jack 57), 2 Luke Cole (captain, Ben Brownlie 62), 3 Karl Garside (Oisin Heffernan 44), 4 Llewellyn Jones (Ollie Chessum 54), 4 Danny Qualter, 6 Tui Uru (Seb Cecil 78), 7 Will Owen (Josh Poullet 52), 8 Jordan Coughlan.


Cornish Pirates – tries: Parata, Wilson, Frost; cons: Cargill (3).

Nottingham – Williams, Qualter; con: O’Leary; pen: O’Leary.

Referee: Sara Cox (RFU)

Tribute - Man of the Match: Rory Parata

Glengoyne - Try of the Match winner: Dan Frost

Attendance: 1541