PLAYING this Championship Cup semi-final under Friday night lights at the Mennaye Field, the Cornish Pirates succumbed to an ultimately narrow defeat against favourites Jersey Reds, who just a week before were crowned league champions.

After an atmospheric build up ahead of kick-off, the game started in ominous fashion for the Pirates, as an attempted grub kick bounced off Jersey legs which led to wingman Will Brown racing some 40 metres to pounce on the ball at the scoreboard corner.

Fly-half Russell Bennett added the extras.

Falmouth Packet: Will Gibson tests Jersey's defence.Will Gibson tests Jersey's defence. (Image: Brian Tempest)

To their credit the Pirates responded in positive fashion and, after wing Will Trewin gathered skilfully and made a burst down the right wing, the Pirates held territory from where two catch and drives were set.

Backs joined forwards on both occasions, and the second ended with hooker Will Crane scoring his fourteenth try (in all games) this season. Fly-half Arwel Robson was luckless with his conversion attempt from out wide.

A spell of kick tennis followed, whilst the play of Trewin and his fellow winger Arthur Relton caught the eye when making important tackles. As for ball carrying, a third Cornish-bred player, Ben Grubb, was proving a willing performer.

Falmouth Packet: Under Friday night floodlights Will Britton secures tidy line-out ball.Under Friday night floodlights Will Britton secures tidy line-out ball. (Image: Brian Tempest)

Jersey Reds are league champions for a reason, with their set piece very strong, and after applying pressure near the Penzance posts it was ex-Munster hooker Eoghan Clarke who scored their second converted try.

Approaching the break, after the visitors suddenly lost the services of their South African former Worcester Warriors centre Scott Van Breda to the sin bin, in time remaining the Pirates were swift to benefit from numerical advantage. Centre Rory Parata made an initial break, and Relton then put on the burners to score a converted try at the Newlyn posts.

So, a 12-14 halftime scoreline indicated there was very little in it, with the Pirates in closer contention than likely many would have predicted.

Falmouth Packet: Young Cornishman Ben Grubb was once again a willing ball carrier.Young Cornishman Ben Grubb was once again a willing ball carrier. (Image: Brian Tempest)

As per the first half, the second period did not start well for the Pirates. Jersey’s lock forward James Scott was a little frustrated not to have scored a try at the Newlyn gate corner, but maintaining pressure the visitors were awarded a penalty try and Pirates’ replacement prop Marlen Walker was also issued a yellow card for a technical offence.

This was a fully committed contest - one with no quarter given - and occasionally serious injuries can arise. Sadly, this proved to be the case and a length delay in play ensued after Jersey’s replacement lock Tom Everard unfortunately broke a leg.

On the resumption of play it was not long before the Pirates narrowed the gap when Parata scored a converted try at the Penzance posts, only for the islanders to hit straight back when Brown notched his second converted try of the night.

Falmouth Packet: Will Trewin makes an early dash down the wing.Will Trewin makes an early dash down the wing. (Image: Brian Tempest)

From the restart, an unfortunate knock-on saw a scoring chance go begging, but by maintaining full focus and commitment the Pirates would near the end at least score a deserved bonus point providing fourth try. Parata was again to the fore as he ran down the right, with Stevens then taking up the challenge and passing inside to replacement scrum-half Alex Schwarz. Keen to quickly add the extra two points, full-back Carwyn Penny was unable to add the conversion.

Although Jersey ultimately deserved their win for being just a little more clinical when it mattered, speaking at the end of Friday night’s encounter, Cornish Pirates’ joint head coach Gavin Cattle was rightly proud of his team, saying: "Yes, we had disruption in the build up to this game, which was unfortunate, and all we could ask from the lads was to put their best foot forward.

Falmouth Packet: Ruaridh Dawson runs with fellow replacement Morgan Nelson in support.Ruaridh Dawson runs with fellow replacement Morgan Nelson in support. (Image: Brian Tempest)

"They did that, and the effort was outstanding, as has been the case for the whole squad since Christmas.

"Despite some adversity, it just shows if you get a good group of men together, they can achieve good things, and although accepting we couldn’t quite get the desired result on the night against a very good Jersey team, they should all feel proud of themselves.

"Togetherness, working for each other, and players wanting the shirt to perform are traits that we have witnessed from our squad, with Arwel (Thomas) a perfect example tonight.

Falmouth Packet: The home crowd admired the effort made by the Cornish Pirates.The home crowd admired the effort made by the Cornish Pirates. (Image: Brian Tempest)

"His availability following a recent injury was in doubt, but he showed his character and determination to put his hand up and play, and he made the full 80 minutes, which was a great test of character.

"Thanks once more are also expressed to our supporters. We are fortunate both home and away, and I loved the way they got behind the team once again and lifted the atmosphere."