CORNISH Pirates recorded another superb championship victory to continue their impressive run of five league wins on the trot, writes Phil Westren. 

Playing Bedford Blues away always presents a tough challenge, and from a Pirates perspective, nothing less was once again expected. Billed ahead of the weekend as a fourth versus second clash in the Championship, after this scheduled Round 12 fixture kicked off at 4pm it was the Pirates, playing down the ground’s notorious slope in the first forty, who took an early lead thanks to a penalty successfully struck by Tom Pittman.

This was a match once again played in front of the usual expected big home crowd who saw their hooker James Fish limp off all but from the start. A former Northampton ‘Saint’ who played briefly for the Pirates back in 2017-18, he was replaced by Jacob Fields.

A second and slightly easier penalty kick opportunity taken by Pittman missed the target, but with Pirates’ tackling impressive, as once again was their scrum, from yet another penalty kick opportunity Pittman made it six-nil to the visitors.

Falmouth Packet: Lock Will Britton and prop Lefty Zigiriadis typify the Pirates defensive effort.Lock Will Britton and prop Lefty Zigiriadis typify the Pirates defensive effort. (Image: Brian Tempest)

Spurred to respond, the first points for the home side came in the seventeenth minute. Spurning an opportunity to kick at goal when a penalty was whistled, from a kick to the corner and a following driving maul, with backs also adding support, Bedford’s skipper and former ‘Pirate’ Alex Day scored a try, to which fly-half Will Maisey added the conversion, albeit it off a kindly post.

Despite going behind, the Cornish Pirates maintained positivity, and would soon set a spirited attack. There was sound approach work by such as skipper Alex Everett, his fellow flanker Will Gibson, full-back Will Trewin, and number 8 Hugh Bokenham, before alert scrum-half Alex Schwarz spotted a gap and dummied to score a converted try.

The Blues looked to all but immediately hit back, only to be denied by a thumper of a tackle by Pirates’ centre Joe Jenkins, making his second appearance for the Cornish side on loan from Bristol Bears. Then, when Bedford’s Maisey struck a penalty attempt at goal, his effort on this occasion bounced back into play.

Was luck with the Pirates? Perhaps yes, but in what would prove a terrific final few minutes of the half, their rewards were thoroughly deserved.

Falmouth Packet: A happy Joe Jenkins after scoring his important tryA happy Joe Jenkins after scoring his important try (Image: Brian Tempest)

Jenkins first snapped up a loose pass some 40 metres out and ran to the posts for another converted score, and after further good work by Schwarz and always threatening wing Matt McNab, Bedford flanker Luke Frost was shown a yellow card for lurking offside.

The Pirates once again kicked to the corner and a potent driving maul to the line ended with hooker Morgan Nelson identified as the try-scorer. Pittman’s conversion was on the button, and the immediate blow for the break saw the Pirates hold a healthy 27-7 halftime lead.

It was expected that the proud and gifted Bedford side would show their mettle in the second forty, and they did, with wing Dean Adamson, a proven prolific Championship try-scorer, not long adding to his acquired considerable tally. Maisey added the extras.

Such a score concentrated the Pirates’ minds, as there was still work to do as they also sought a bonus point-proving fourth try.

Midway through the half a Maisey run looked to have created a certain try for the Blues, but somehow the determined Pirates got back to disrupt the sudden attack. Then awarded a penalty, they were able to relieve a period of mounting pressure.

Falmouth Packet: Besides kicking goals Tom Pittman proved determined in the tackle areaBesides kicking goals Tom Pittman proved determined in the tackle area (Image: Brian Tempest)

One more score for the Cornish side would likely see them safe, and it looked very much on when in full flight McNab took off on a fine run, only to be tap-tackled.

Bedford counter-attacked twice, only for forward passes to gift possession back to the Pirates who, despite scoreless thus far in the second half, were fully focused to hold out for victory.

Dean Adamson and his fellow winger Sean French, a Cork-born ex-Munster man, were clearly dangerous operators in home ranks, and it took a vital tackle by Robin Wedlake to thwart what appeared a scoring opportunity.

Falmouth Packet: Bedford's skipper and former 'Pirate' Alex Day is unable to prevent hooker Morgan Nelson scoring for the Pirates.Bedford's skipper and former 'Pirate' Alex Day is unable to prevent hooker Morgan Nelson scoring for the Pirates. (Image: Brian Tempest)

Adamson might well have scored again if he could gather the ball, and from a penalty kick for the corner Bedford earned a chance to make it over the line from attacking line-out. With no immediate joy the Blues might have felt a little frustrated, however following a yellow card shown to lock Steele Barker, and another penalty kick to the corner, scoring from driving maul a try somehow looked a cert, and in the developing mist it was.

Replacement scrum-half James Lennon was the man who made it to the line, and with a pressure conversion coolly slotted by Maisey there were suddenly just six points in it.

Could the Pirates’ 14 men hold out in the final few minutes for what would be another outstanding victory, in what was once again a truly nail-biting affair? Well, they hadn’t managed to trouble the scoreboard operator in the second period, but the answer would be ‘Yes’, as they also admirably hold onto second place in the Championship.