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
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
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
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,
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
Why not get yourself a Hot Pot (Curry or Chilli served with rice) in the supporters marquee £8 per pot.