Jersey 27 Cornish Pirates 2516/11/2013
Jersey 27 Cornish Pirates 25
Greene King IPA Championship
by Tom Innes
Cornish Pirates, never behind until the final minute, were left stunned as Niall O'Connor's last-ditch penalty from 45 metres completed an astonishing Jersey comeback.
The Jersey fly-half held his nerve to slot the winning kick, crowning an impressive final quarter by his side, who scored 17 unanswered points to achieve victory.
"Kicking goals isn't a matter of percentages, it's about landing a kick when it counts, when you need to win a game and no-one else in the ground would want the job," said Jersey's Director of Rugby Ben Harvey. "Niall showed great courage and trusted his technique, and it's a reward for all the hard work he puts in."
Harvey admitted the late comeback didn't disguise a below-par performance from his side.
"We made a huge amount of unforced errors which lead to turnovers, and by doing that we put great pressure on ourselves. We have played a lot better this season and lost, but this is still a massive result for us and should give the players a great deal of self-belief."
Jersey were in the ascendancy in the opening minutes, launching a series of drives using both backs and forwards, but were unable to make an impact on the scoreboard. The Pirates were more clinical when they gained their first foothold in Jersey territory and after a period of pressure Tom Kessell scuttled over the line.
The scores were soon level thanks to a try from Joe Buckle, the Jersey flanker taking a long cut-out pass from scrum-half Nicky Griffiths and breaking through to the posts.
Pirates soon went back in front with two quick tries. First the impressive Kieran Hallett chipped ahead, regained possession and off-loaded to Kessell for his second score, and then pacy approach work from the visiting backs stretched Jersey's defence to breaking point, Junior Fatiolofa eventually crossing. The centre's try was close to the posts, but Hallett was unable to add the conversion.
The remainder of the first half featured yellow cards for opposing front row men Dave Young and Rob Elloway after a bout of handbags, and just one further score, a late Jersey penalty for O'Connor.
Pirates stretched their half-time lead to 15 points early in the second period thanks to two Hallett penalties and it appeared the men from Cornwall could be away and clear. But Jersey rallied and when Mark McCrea powered over from close range, belief levels among the home team and their supporters rocketed.
Hallett had one further attempt at goal, which he missed, but in the final 10 minutes the visitors changed tactics and kicked a penalty to the corner in search of a bonus-point try.
Jersey surged forwards and replacement Tom Brown eventually crossed with four minutes remaining. A sublime touchline from O'Connor narrowed the deficit to a single point and set the stage for the dramatic finale. The Pirates were attempting to see out time, but some fine work at the breakdown from Joe Buckle forced the crucial penalty, and O'Connor did the rest.
"We were expecting an emotional reaction from Jersey in the second half - they had some impressive impact from the bench and that made a real difference," said Pirates Backs Coach Harvey Biljon. "We'd put ourselves in position to win the game and were looking to close it out - we failed to do that and our young squad will have to learn the lessons from that."
Biljon picked out the impact of Jersey's replacement scrum-half
Jimmy Williams; Harvey agreed that Jersey's bench had made a
difference, hailing the work of both Tom Brown and Nick
Jersey: Locke, McCrea, Pointer (Foster 47), Bishop, Dawson, O'Connor, Griffiths (Williams 40); McCarthy, Felton, Young (Selway 54), Campbell, Rae (capt), Makaafi (Brown 59), Buckle, Maidment. Replacements not used: Fidler, Voss, Penberthy
Cornish Pirates: Holland, Pope, Hendrickson,
Fatialofa (Riley 61), Goss, Hallett, Kesell; Andrew (Cahill 42),
Elloway (Channon 60), Prescott (Joyce 70), Patrick (Graulich 77),
Barry, Morgan, Cheesman, Parker. Replacements not used:
Referee: Matt Carley
Stats Box (home team first)
Pens conceded 14-10
LO Won 8-9
LO Lost 3-4
Scrums won 8-5
Scrums lost 2-2
Sin bins 1-1
Star Man: Alex Rae (Jersey)
Tries: Buckle 16, McCrea 59, Brown 77
Conversions: O'Connor 16, 59, 77
Penalties: O'Connor 39, 80
Tries: Kessell 12, 19, Fatiolofa 22
Conversions: Hallett 12, 19
Penalties: Hallett 44, 54