Cornish Pirates 19 Jersey 1503/03/2014
Cornish Pirates 19 Jersey 15
The Mennaye Field, Penzance
by Tom Innes /*reproduced by kind permission of the Jersey Evening Post*/
Three tries in six minutes around half-time were enough to see Jersey's hopes of victory sink into the boggy turf of the Mennaye Field.
The men in red dominated the early stages, taking an early lead and guarding it tenaciously until close to half-time. After the break, and by this stage wearing blue shirts to replace their sodden brown garments, Jersey played with grit and determination and earned a losing bonus point for their strong finish.
Returning to action for the first time since November, and playing against his former club, fly-half Aaron Penberthy wasted little time in making his presence felt. After a second minute penalty award, one of a stream conceded by the hosts throughout the match, Penberthy drew some gasps from the crowd when he pointed confidently to the posts from half-way. The gasps returned when the ball dropped just over the crossbar to put the visitors ahead.
Both sides were trying to run the ball where possible, although handling errors were inevitable in the treacherous conditions. Jersey were most effective at this, helped by the Cornishmen's inability to stop incurring the wrath of the man with the whistle. Penberthy had an easier chance to double Jersey's lead but the ball drifted wide.
Jersey tackled aggressively and ran strongly at their opponents, with forwards Sam Lockwood, Latu Makaafi and Alex Rae especially prominent and Mark McCrea in the centre also going forward with intent.
Tactical kicking offered the chance to establish territory and force mistakes from the opposition - as long as it was accurate. Pirates nearly profited from two wayward Jersey kicks, one an extraordinary cross-field aberration by Grant Pointer that was run back with interest.
Having successfully repelled a number of Pirate raids, Jersey's try-line was eventually crossed when a penalty was kicked to the corner and a rolling maul rumbled over, with centre Junior Fatiolofa adding his weight to the forward drive and claiming the try.
The home crowd were relieved to see their side get on the board, especially when Kieran Hallett's conversion dropped in off a post. And by half-time is was a nine-point lead; the home side won scrum possession on half-way, number 8 Laurie McGlone was tackled by Jimmy Williams, but gave allowed opposing scrum-half Tom Kessell the space to burst clear downfield and feed supporting winger Kyle Moyle for the try.
The pitch condition didn't seem conducive to backs scoring tries, but Pirates had two of them, and within two minutes of the restart debutant full-back Max Bodilly was in on the act for a third. The local boy ran diagonally at Jersey's midfield, outpacing Elvis Taione and then surging past other defenders to the line.
Jersey had made four replacements by the 50th minute, replacing their half-backs and both props. Gradually the visitors established a platform from which to score more points. One drive was ruled to be held up and the resulting five-metre scrum ended with a Pirates penalty, but then a driving maul got Jersey close again and Alex Rae burst clear to score, although the cake was left uniced after a mediocre conversion attempt by Niall O'Connor.
The odds of another try shortened when Pirates prop Shane Cahill was sin-binned for bringing down another driving maul. Jersey's first attempt at another catch-and-drive failed after a botched line-out, but in the final minute O'Connor fired yet another penalty towards the corner, and this time Jersey's pack rumbled almost 20 metres towards the line before the maul again collapsed and referee Macdonald signalled a penalty try in what was to be the last move of the game.
Harvey Biljon pronounced himself moderately satisfied after
seeing his new team narrowly beaten by his former club.
Asked if he would have accepted a bonus point in defeat before the match, Biljon demured and said the sights of his squad had been higher. But after a bad spell around the mid-point of the game, when Pirates scored all their points, he was drawing significant comfort from the outcome.
"I was proud of the way the guys played today - this has never been an easy place for visiting teams, and the Pirates had marked it as a must-win and were very charged up," Biljon said. "But we had also set our own performance targets, and we performed well against this and showed real character to fight back and take a point."
In spite of the conditions, Biljon said the match would still be reviewed with further lessons to be taken forward into the final seven league matches of the season.
"Slowly but surely the team is improving, the new systems are
coming together and we are progressing in the right direction," he
Forwards: Sam Lockwood, Elvis Taione, Nick Selway, Nick Campbell, James Voss, Alex Rae (capt), Joe Buckle, Latu Makaafi. Half-backs: Jimmy Williams, Aaron Penberthy Backs: Mark Foster, Mark McCrea, Drew Locke, Grant Pointer, Jack Burroughs.
Replacements: Jon Brennan for Selway (HT), Sean McCarthy for Lockwood (43), Niall O'Connor for Penberthy (43), Nicky Griffiths for Williams (46), Dave Markham for Campbell (56), David Bishop for Locke (59), David Felton for Taione (69).
Shane Cahill (YC 74), Aaron Carpenter, Ben Prescott, Will Carrick-Smith, Darren Barry, Chris Morgan (capt), Alex Cheesman, Laurie McGlone; Tom Kessell, Kieran Hallett; Kyle Moyle, Junior Fatiolofa, Tom Riley, Kieran Goss; Max Bodilly. Replacements (used): Neale Patrick, Craig Holland, Tom Hendrickson, Jack Andrew; unused: Kieran Davies, Tom Channon, Joe Atkinson.
Referee: Greg Macdonald
Men-of-the-match: Max Bodilly (Pirates); Mark McCrea (Jersey)
Kickers: Hallett (Pirates) 2 from 3; Penberthy (Jersey) 1 from 2; O'Connor (Jersey) 1 from 2
Tries: Fatiolofa 36, Moyle 39, Bodilly 42
Conversions: Hallett 36, 42
Tries: Rae 61, Penalty Try 80
Conversion: O'Connor 80
Penalty: Penberthy 2