TAKING to the road to play their first away league game of the season, the Cornish Pirates ultimately ended the match having put in an impressive performance against a team that ahead of the contest was genuinely considered an in-form side.

The Pirates, who were comfortable 61-22 winners on their last visit to the Bedfordshire side’s Dillingham Park ground back in March, expected matters to be considerably closer this time around, noting that in their previous two outings this season ‘The Mob’ (the Ampthill team’s nickname) followed up an impressive 34-24 win at home to Coventry with a 36-10 points victory at London Scottish.

There were just two changes in the Cornish Pirates starting XV from the one that ran out at home to Caldy seven days earlier. In the backs, wing Frankie Nowell was making his first outing in the league, and in the pack fit again skipper John Stevens, who featured as a replacement against Caldy, was named in the ‘7’ shirt.

The home side started strongly, as they proceeded to dominate early on with a fifth minute try scored by their powerful young Saracens’ hooker Samson Adejimi, which was converted by Welsh fly-half Gwyn Parker.

The Pirates looked to respond with a score of their own, and it was not long in coming. Scrum-half Alex Schwarz was busy about, and with space ultimately created it was debutant wing Frankie Nowell, with a bandaged head, who dived over the line for an unconverted try.

A second converted try for Ampthill was scored by their skipper and former ‘Osprey’ Morgan Strong, before in the 25th minute Cornish Pirates’ fly-half Bruce Houston stepped forward to narrow the deficit with a successful penalty kick.

Overall, it had to be said at this stage that the Saracens boosted Ampthill looked a very able outfit, with scrum-half Charlie Bracken, an England under 20s player and the son of former England international Kyran Bracken, a livewire.

As the clock ticked to halftime, a kick from Houston enabled the Pirates to apply pressure close to Ampthill’s line, and from the resulting driving maul it was hooker Morgan Nelson who scored the team’s second try. The conversion attempt from wide out was a challenge but Houston nailed it perfectly to nudge the Cornish side ahead. However, the lead for the Pirates did not last long, because in the final minute Parks kicked a penalty that made the score 17-15.

Clearly this was a contest that at this stage in the cold, dry and winter sun conditions was too close to call.

Back to the action, Adejimi threatened to score for the hosts early in the second period, as he had and did in the first half, but the Pirates held the threat and, in a flash, suddenly worked their way up field. Prop Matt Johnson impressed on the hoof and it was number 8 Ben Grubb who then maintained the momentum by bouncing off two defenders to cross for a converted try.

For the Pirates, the scores marked a fine opening to the second forty, but it got even better when at maul time hooker Nelson secured a bonus point providing fourth try. Houston, a former Ireland under 19s international, once again nailed a less than easy conversion.

It was perhaps too early for the Pirates to feel over-confident, and especially so when Ampthill hit back almost immediately with a converted try scored by Bracken.

This match was providing a most entertaining contest, and one naturally enjoyed by Nelson who next broke off a driving maul to secure his hat-trick. Of interest, he is the leading try-scorer for the Pirates this season, with 11 x five pointers to his name overall, whilst his hat-trick was also a repeat of a feat achieved away at Ampthill in the league last March.

Into the last quarter, with replacements aplenty, the game was closely contested before the Pirates surely put the result beyond all doubt when centre Joe Elderkin scored the team’s sixth try of the afternoon. Assured off the tee for a second week running, Houston’s conversion extended the Pirates lead and then, for good measure, he landed a penalty for the final scoreline to read 24-46.