Cornish Pirates 25-17 victory over three time European Champions, Saracens, has been described as "an iconic moment" by joint head coach, Alan Paver.

This contest saw the Cornish Pirates welcome Saracens to the Mennaye Field for their opening game in this season’s belated Greene King IPA Championship. It was ‘Sarries’ first visit since 2003.

It was also the visitors first game since their relegation from the Premiership last season following repeated breaches of the salary cap.

Before the match, Jackson Wray, the oppositions captain, said his side was primed and ready to resist anything about to be thrown at them as they began their intended march back to the Premiership.

The Cornish Pirates were inevitably frustrated to be without recently named club captain Nicolas De Battista and Callum Patterson, both of whom had picked up injuries just ahead of the match.

Although without their regular England stars, Sarries still fielded a XV with 165 Test caps between them.

From the outset, Saracens applied early pressure and opened the scoring after just nine minutes with an unconverted try from Scotland's 48 times capped international winger Sean Maitland.

Penalties were conceded and the Pirates were tested looking into the glare of the sun under the high ball, but following good forays by lock Fa’atiga Lemalu, prop Marlen Walker and centre Shae Tucker, pressure created led to a penalty where the Pirates, through Luke Scully, opted to kick at goal. With a quarter of an hour on the clock the young fly-half stepped forward and duly delivered.

Play was pretty evenly contested at this stage and, as expected, was a very physical encounter.

Into the second quarter Pirates’ hooker Dan Frost made a strong carry before skipper Tom Duncan maintained the forward advance and crashed over the line for an unconverted try scored to the right of the Newlyn posts.

The home scrum was operating soundly and the line-out functioning particularly well with Lemalu and his young second-row partner Danny Cutmore leaping high. However, after Saracens hit back with another unconverted try, this time scored by wing Alex Lewington at the clubhouse corner, it was the visitors who held a 10-8 lead at the break.

With the Cornish flag flying high at the Mennaye post St. Piran’s Day, the county’s patron saint will have admired the effort and spirit so far displayed, and with just two points separating the sides the Pirates were very much still in the match.

Following the restart it was not long before the Pirates nudged ahead with a try scored by Frost, with Scully adding the conversion. Sarries, though, all but immediately bounced back to regain the lead when lock Tim Swinson scored a try which was converted Vunipola.

For the Pirates the line-out was still functioning well, whilst at scrum time all but total dominance was amazingly now displayed. Indeed, awarded a scrum penalty 34 metres out, it was the boot of Scully who on 64 minutes fired his kick high between the Penzance posts to give the home team a one-point lead.

The effort of the whole Pirates side was to be admired, and with bloodied man-of-the-match flanker John Stevens perhaps deserving special praise, even without a crowd present an atmosphere was created whereby thoughts were that the Pirates side had it in them to record an historic victory.

Both sides introduced replacements, but with members called off the Pirates bench having the most impact. Young wing, Tommy Wyatt, continued to uphold the Pirates effort with a fantastic kick and chase, and the result was ultimately put beyond doubt when scrum-half Rhodri Davies plucked a bouncing ball to run clear and score. Scully’s conversion opened up an important eight points gap, which is how it stayed for the final score to read 25-17.

Joint head coach Alan Paver, who was man-of-the-match when Saracens last visited the ‘Mennaye’ back in 2003 said: “This game was I feel an iconic moment – special. I am so pleased for the lads because the Covid period has been tough. We said though that we were going to bring meaning to the season, so to achieve that result today provides a special moment.

“It was such a pity we missed a full house shouting their heads off, but we know they were here in spirit and I hope they feel pride in what we managed to to achieve.

“The game was very physical, with heavy duty scrums and mauls, and I really enjoyed witnessing it. Facing such quality, having got the [players ready for the league and them having worked so hard, for them to dominate in areas witnessed was fantastic.”