WITHOUT a fixture for three weeks, the Cornish Pirates looked forward to welcoming Caldy to the Mennaye Field on Saturday, and it showed in what was ultimately a convincing and thoroughly deserved victory, writes Phil Westren. 

The Cornish Pirates starting XV showed several changes from the one that ran out against Bedford Blues last time out. In the backs Will Trewin moved from wing to full-back with Matt McNab taking the number 14 shirt, whilst a fresh halfback pairing combined Alex Schwarz and Bruce Houston, the latter making his fly-half debut for the Pirates.

As for the forwards, Lefty Zigiriadis and Matt Johnson formed the propping duo, Hugh Bokenham partnered Steele Barker in the second row, and there were starting places for number 8 Ben Grubb and blindside flanker Alex Everett, who also skippered the side. Pleasingly back to fitness to take a place on the bench was club captain John Stevens.

Falmouth Packet: Lock forward Hugh Bokenham, who scored the Pirates' opening try, is also pictured winning clean line-out ball.Lock forward Hugh Bokenham, who scored the Pirates' opening try, is also pictured winning clean line-out ball. (Image: Brian Tempest)

Getting off to an encouraging start, with just six minutes on the clock the Cornish Pirates soon opened up a 14-0 lead. Aussie lock Hugh Bokenham was first to score at the Penzance posts, followed soon after by an interception and run in by wing Matt McNab. Both tries were converted by their debutant ‘10’, Bruce Houston.

The ’Ravers’, as Caldy are nicknamed, looked to make a prompt response, and awarded a series of penalties went close to scoring with ball in hand. Eventually, however, they opted for a kick at goal from in front of the Newlyn posts, that was duly slotted by full-back Sam Rogers.

Keen to hit back, the Pirates did so with real purpose and intent. Houston slotted a penalty kick down the right-hand touchline and, after pressure was applied from the resultant catch and drive, referee Mr. Sellwood was quick to award a penalty try.

Maintaining pressure on the throttle to secure a bonus point providing fourth try was not long coming, with number 8 Ben Grubb and centre Joe Elderkin to the fore before man of the match scrum half Alex Schwarz suddenly burst clear to score another converted effort.

To lead 28-3 midway through the first half naturally delighted home supporters, but there was credit to the visitors for getting back into contention before the break. They had a useful ‘combo’ in skipper and number 8 JJ Dickinson and the experienced Chris Pilgrim at scrum half, and through applying pressure on the Pirates would gain reward when hooker Matt Gallagher scored two tries, the second of which was converted by Rogers for the score to read 28-15 at the interval.

Falmouth Packet: Number 13, Ioan Evans, is congratulated by colleagues after scoring one of his two tries.Number 13, Ioan Evans, is congratulated by colleagues after scoring one of his two tries. (Image: Brian Tempest)

So, overall, it had been an entertaining and competitive first forty, but what would the second half bring? Well, the Pirates were clearly keen to continue in positive mode and their mindset was quick to show. Centre Ioan Evans scored a converted try at the Newlyn gate corner, before Houston, who had been faultless off the tee, scored an intercept try to which he just inevitably added the extras.

There was also a second converted try from Evans in what proved a drawn out second period because of injuries, and at the very end Caldy scored a consolation try – and what a try! From deep inside his own half, wing Will Robinson chipped ahead, gathered, and overall ran some eighty metres to the Penzance posts. It was the final such scoring effort on an entertaining afternoon, which was converted by replacement Lewis Barker.

Yes, it had been a damp and dull mid-November’s day, but with a surprisingly large home crowd who turned up for this contest, the team had rewarded their presence with what in certain ways proved a very encouraging performance, albeit one agonisingly short of the 50 mark.