On a most pleasant and atmospheric August evening the Cornish Pirates deservedly took the scalp of visiting Exeter Chiefs, writes Phil Westren.

Rob Baxter’s Devon side arrived at the Mennaye Field with a mix of Premiership and international stars, and aspiring young talent. However, in opposition a well-prepared Pirates outfit were keen to make a mark and follow up their 44-7 win at Aberavon Wizards, which they did, with another impressive pre-season performance.

There were only four minutes on the clock when the Pirates registered their first try on the night. Scrum-half Alex Day and flanker Josh Caulfield led the advance and when the ball was spread right it was centre Callum Patterson who dived in at the clubhouse corner. A first try in Pirates colours for the former Ulsterman, he was later named man-of-the-match. Fly-half Will Cargill was unable to add the extras.

It was a dream start, but one soon to get even better when hooker Sam Matavesi scored by the Penzance posts. Cargill this time duly converted and on the quarter hour mark also landed a fine penalty from near 40 metres to give the Pirates an incredible 15-0 lead.

The Chiefs endeavoured to respond with Argentina international Santiago Cordero impressing on the wing, but for the moment the Pirates held firm thanks to a crunch of a tackle made by wing Robin Wedlake.

Midway through the first half the visitors rallied to get points on the board thanks to a score from No. 8 Tom Lawday. Dual-registered with the Pirates last season, his try at the Newlyn gate corner was converted by fly-half Joe Simmonds.

Were the Chiefs about to find their flow to impact more on the game? Well, if they were then the Pirates showed no signs of caving in and scored next when Matavesi displayed power once more for a converted try.

In the build to half-time Exeter managed though to respond, Lawday again a try-scorer following Cordero’s telling run and him then notching a hat-trick. This followed the Pirates losing full-back Kyle Moyle to the sin bin, with Simmonds’ third conversion making it 22-21 at the break.

For the second half, and with the floodlights coming into their own, the Pirates wore their new ‘Tribute’ purple away shirts. Catching the eye, replica versions will surely sell well.

As for important concentration just on the rugby, the Pirates continued to impress at the start of the second period and on 52 minutes extended their lead – and how! Pressing inside the Chiefs ‘22’ the ball found the hands of prop Christian Judge who cast eyes immediately on the line. His was then a sudden burst - with bulk, and in no mood to be stopped, his converted try opened up an eight points gap.

Both sides introduced replacements and Exeter’s hopes were occasionally raised through the continuing efforts of Cordero, his fellow wing James Short and the centre pairing of Michele Campagnaro and former ‘Pirate’ Tom Hendrickson, but all to no avail. There was also a lengthy break in play after replacement Sam Morley fell worryingly injured, leading to him being stretchered off the field.

In remaining time, the Pirates continued to hold tight, their defence impressive and keeping a clean sheet in the second half. Then, at the sound of international referee JP Doyle’s final whistle, celebrations for home supporters began - this a game one and all will take pride of place in the memory bank.

Speaking after the match, coach Alan Paver said: “The contest provided a wonderful occasion with the balance of both teams about right and the game played in the right spirit.

“We were very thankful to Exeter for coming down to fulfil the fixture on such a special evening and the response from supporters was immense.

“As for our performance I thought it was strong and competitive and to come out on the right side of the score was the cherry on the top. But, to be honest, it was more about the occasion with everyone having pulled together to make it an enjoyable evening. The win was nice, yes it was special, but it wasn’t the main focus.”

Cornish Pirates: 15 Kyle Moyle, 14 Robin Wedlake, 13 Rory Parata, 12 Callum Patterson, 11 Harry Strong, 10 Will Cargill, 9 Alex Day; 1 Christian Judge, 2 Sam Matavesi, 3 Jack Andrew, 4 Toby Freeman, 5 Brett Beukeboom (capt), 6 Josh Caulfield, 7 Matt Bolwell, 8 Tom Duncan.

Replacements: Billy Keast, Dan Frost, Tyler Gendall, Nodar Cheishvili, Danny Cutmore, John Stevens, James McRae, Maliq Holden, Matt Evans, Harvey Skinner, AJ Cant, Jake Ashby.

Yellow card: Moyle

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Sal M’Boge, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Tom Hendrickson, 11 James Short,10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Stuart Townsend; 1 Moray Low, 2 Elvis Taione, 3 Jack Owlett, 4 Toby Salmon, 5 Wilhelm Van Der Sluys, 6 Richard Capstick, 7 James Freeman (capt), 8 Tom Lawday.

Replacements: James Kenny, Jack Innard, Alfie Petch, Rus Tuima, Sam Morley, Joe Elderkin.


Cornish Pirates – tries: Patterson, Matavesi (2), Judge; cons: Cargill (3); pen: Cargill

Exeter Chiefs – tries: Lawday (3); cons: Simmonds (3)

Referee: JP Doyle

Cornish Pirates’ St. Austell Brewery Man-of-the-Match: Callum Patterson