The Reds made the best of atrocious conditions to gain a hard-fought win and move above their visitors into second place in the Championship table.
Force eight northerly winds and squally showers swept across Stade Santander International, with a biting windchill that left the temperature feeling barely into positive numbers. Such conditions threatened to make the game a lottery, but home supporters were delighted to see their side’s efforts enabling them to stay in control rather than relying on good fortune.
Both sides were able to put pressure on their opponents during the first half and draw penalties, the visitors conceding eight penalties in the first half to their hosts’ six. But it was the Reds who dominated territorially while Pirates did not make a single incursion beyond the 22-metre line at the pavilion end of the ground.
The Reds looked to get ahead through use of attacking lineouts and their powerful rolling maul, but while Eoghan Clarke linked well with his jumpers to ensure set-piece possession, Pirates’ defence of the maul was highly effective. Not only was the maul halted on at least five occasions, but in most cases the Reds were unable to recycle the ball and therefore conceded possession.
Pirates were able to clear their lines for the most part but when scrum-half Tom Kessell fired a clearance kick straight out of play to give the Reds a 22-metre lineout late in the half, the pressure was cranked up further. A kickable penalty was declined in order to kick again for the corner and this time the maul did gain momentum.
As the maul rumbled towards the try-line and almost the entire Reds’ team piled in, the maul was sacked, leading to a penalty try. The officials also conferred and, after some apparent uncertainty resulting from the Pirates’ predominantly white numbers on their white shirts (as pictured above), selected Danny Cutmore as the culprit and sent him to the sin-bin as the remaining 29 players left the arena to warm up in the dressing rooms.
The visitors survived Cutmore’s absence without further concession when the game resumed, and enjoyed one of their best spells of territory which almost led to a try for Tommy Wyatt only for the final pass to be ruled forward.
Having soaked up some pressure, the Reds cleared their lines and started to raise their game at the other end via a series of close range scrums which culminated in number eight Wesley White picking up and charging over from close range (pictured below).
The home side were able to control the game thanks to the commitment of their forwards and the astute kicking game adopted by half-backs James Mitchell and Sam Leeming.
Another burst by White almost led to his side’s third try, but when he was tackled just short a cynical attempt to slow down quick ball by Pirates led to a penalty in front of the posts – stroked over by Leeming – and a yellow card for replacement Shae Tucker.
Pirates did not give up and after a great run by Lewis Pearson through the middle, the ball was worked quickly right for Robin Wedlake to score in the corner, with Jersey’s Brendan Owen earning a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on in the build-up.
Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon praised the efforts of his entire squad, coaching staff and medical team.
“We were building pressure and to get the score just before the break was huge,” he said. “We were able to capitalise on the situation early in the second period and I thought we showed great composure against a team who we knew wouldn’t give up.”
Pirates Co-coach Alan Paver had no qualms about the result.
“There were up to a dozen key moments when Jersey were on top and I think that made them worthy winners,” he said. “I was pleased with how we finished and the energy our replacements brought, but the final scoreline reflected the game.”
Pictures by Rich Chapman (top/middle) and Jacquie Ranieri (bottom)
JERSEY REDS: Owen (YC 71); Simmons, Roberts (Holgate 65), Barnes, Brown; Leeming, Mitchell; Flynn (Godfrey 68), Clarke, Longwell (Yendle 65), O’Connor, Cook (Thompson 73), Argyle (Humfrey 60), Wynne (c), White. Unused: Doolan, Elliott, Pittman
CORNISH PIRATES: Penny (Dawson 75); Wedlake, Parata (Tucker 57, YC 64), Elderkin, Wyatt; Robson, Kessell; Andrew (Walker 51), Channon (Blackmore 65), Schickerling (Rodman 65), Caulfield (Pearson 65), Cutmore (YC 40), Bolwell, Kiri Kiri, Duncan (c) (Montgomery 65). Unused: Bazalgette.
REFEREE: Neil Chivers. Assistants: Dean Richards, Simon Adams
Half Time: 7-0
Tries: Penalty try 40, White 54
Penalty: Leeming 64
Try: Wedlake 71
Why not get yourself a Hot Pot (Curry or Chilli served with rice) in the supporters marquee £8 per pot.