Cornish Pirates 7, Jersey Reds 8

In a match that always promised to be both closely fought and enthralling, it was a penalty from the boot of former ‘Pirate’ Aaron Penberthy that proved decisive, writes Phil Westren.

Harvey Biljon’s Jersey team arrived in Cornwall on the back of a 41-21 league match victory against Doncaster Knights the previous weekend, whilst it will also be remembered that they won 33-10 against the Pirates on home soil in October.

Adding extra flavour to this particular encounter, however, was that at the quarter-final stage of the Championship Cup the Pirates had more recently knocked Jersey Reds out of that competition with a narrow 17-13 win in Jersey.

A late change in the Cornish Pirates backline from the one that started at Nottingham last time out, saw the withdrawal of right-wing Robin Wedlake because of sickness. His place was taken by Dan Koster who was originally named among the replacements, with AJ Cant the player called onto the bench.

In the pack there were various changes made by the Pirates from the combination that ran out against the ‘Green & Whites’. A fit again Marlen Walker was named at loose-head prop and, with Toby Freeman returning from his recent suspension to partner skipper Brett Beukeboom in the second-row, there was a move to the blind-side flank for Josh Caulfield. Another returnee, Matt Bolwell, was selected at ‘7’.

A hefty shower at kick-off time not only drenched the keen rugby-playing schoolchildren who formed the Guard of Honour but also made it a little slippery underfoot. Making his second Championship match start though, Cornish Pirates’ full-back Maliq Holden was again quick into the action, coolly gathering a high ball and up to the task of also making a good touch find.

All the early pressure was applied by the Pirates, but without accumulating points on the board. The line-out also failed to function, probably not helped by the windy conditions.

Midway through the first half, on what felt like their first visit deep inside the Pirates ‘22’, the visiting Reds wasted little time to take their opportunity. A controlled driving maul set the play, from where scrum-half Will Homer sniped blind for an unconverted try at the old Western National corner.

The Pirates, to their credit, were quick to respond, the ball worked through several pairs of hands before wide out left No. 8 Tom Duncan did well to plant it firmly down. Fly-half Will Cargill also followed up with a well-struck and successfully slotted conversion.

Both sides deserved credit for their efforts, skill levels at times high but there also inevitable errors in the testing conditions.

Approaching half-time, a scrum penalty awarded the Pirates lifted both the team and the crowd, whilst industrious hooker Dan Frost made a particularly strong and determined carry. There was every hope that the Pirates could extend their lead, but at the whistle they had to settle for just a narrow 7-5 advantage.

If the wind wasn’t difficult enough for the kickers, Cargill also had to contend with kicking into a blinding sun when two penalty attempts narrowly missed the target early in the second half.

Play continued to be evenly fought, with there at the same time a hope that the Pirates could hold out for victory. Sadly, for the home team’s followers, this did not materialise. Fresh legs clearly made an impact for the Jersey boys, as was certainly the case reference Cornishman Penberthy. Indeed, with his first touch of the ball, and with the wind perhaps eased a little, he delivered what would prove the killer blow.

It was one of those games that could have easily gone either way, as the narrow 7-8 final scoreline confirms. Seeking consolation, the Pirates at least acquired another bonus point, their 17th of the season - comfortably more than any other team in the division. They are also still fifth in the Championship.

Cornish Pirates: 15 Maliq Holden, 14 Dan Koster, 13 Rory Parata, 12 Javier Rojas Alvarez, 11 Matt Evans (AJ Cant 79), 10 Will Cargill (Harvey Skinner 67), 9 Alex Day (Alex Schwarz 67); 1 Marlen Walker, 2 Dan Frost (Sam Matavesi 70), 3 Tyler Gendall, 4 Toby Freeman, 5 Brett Beukeboom (c), 6 Josh Caulfield, 7 Matt Bolwell, 8 Tom Duncan (John Stevens 70).

Replacement (not used): 17 Jack Andrew 18 Danny Cutmore.

Jersey Reds: 15 Leroy Van Dam, 14 Koch Marx, 13 Apakuki Ma'afu, 12 Mark Best, 11 James Newey (Sam Rodman 47, James Newey 60), 10 Brett Herron (Aaron Penberthy 67), 9 Will Homer (Liam Howley 63); 1 Roy Godfrey (Harry Morley 63), 2 Charlie Maddison (Jack Macfarlane 63), 3 Sam Rodman (Leeroy Atalifo 47), 4 Jerry Sexton (capt), 5 Charlie Beckett (Dave McKern 72), 6 Kyle Hatherell (Janco Venter 76), 7 Rory Bartle, 8 Janco Venter (Conor Joyce 67).

Yellow card: Atalifo.


Cornish Pirates – try: Duncan; con: Cargill.

Jersey Reds – try: Homer; pen: Penberthy.

Referee: Dean Richards (RFU)

Attendance: 1,547

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