Pirates Preview (A - Cup) 07.12.13


Ben, Bodes and the B&I

Jersey may have a squad stuffed with former Pirates players, but one Cornishman will be conspicuous by his absence from this Saturday's British & Irish Cup game.

Redruth-born Ben Harvey resigned from his role on Wednesday evening (full story HERE for those who've not been paying attention), with the Island of Jersey still coming to terms with the departure of a figure who was pivotal in taking Jersey from the fifth tier of English rugby, when he was appointed in April 2008, to the second.

Bodes 2a

The timing of Harvey's departure, after a short break to the mainland during which said he had reflected on his future and made the decision to step down, left a new man in temporary charge. Steve Boden (pictured above), the former Doncaster hooker who joined Jersey in summer 2012 and took on a coaching role 12 months ago, will be Interim Coach for the immediate future, and his first job is to select and motivate a side for the trip to Cornwall.

The Cup is a competition that Pirates take seriously - they won it in 2009/10 - and both sides will know that a double over the next eight days (the return fixture is at St Peter on December 14th) could leave one of them very well-placed to qualify for the knock-out stages on this competition. Especially the Pirates, who have a maximum 10-point haul from two games this far, but also Jersey who have claimed six points from the games with Ayr and Ulster Ravens.

Saturday's match kicks off at the unusual time of 7pm, with the home side hoping to attract the Cornish rugby fraternity with a £5 offer for anyone who is a member of a Cornish rugby club or has a ticket or programme from a match in the county that day.

Events of the week, and the challenge of composing three pre-writes for games against the same side in less than a month, may rob this preview of a little of its joie-de-vivre, and necessitate a certian amount of recycling, but hopefully there's something for readers to sink their gnashers into.

News from the Jersey camp

Rather than rotation, injury concerns may be the prime reason that Jersey field a number of changes, particularly in the pack, when their squad is announced at 12noon on Friday (details now available HERE )

Any previous?

Jersey 6 Pirates 20, Sept 2012 - match report HERE

Pirates 28 Jersey 24, Apr 2013 - match report HERE

Pirates Jersey

Jersey 27 Pirates 25, Nov 2013, pictured above - for the second time this season, Jersey conceded three tries at St Peter within approximately 20 minutes. As against Bristol, the Islanders fought back, this time to greater effect. Trailing 10-19 at the break, Jersey scored a try on the hour through Mark McCrea and then another by Tom Brown with four minutes to go making it 22-25. Niall O'Connor added a superb conversion, and then a penalty with the last kick to win it. Match report is HERE

Pirates in 2013/14

A superb start for the Cornishmen in the double-header at 'Shandy Park', defying the odds with a 23-21 triumph over a side tipped for the top, Bristol. The gloss came off with a home defeat by Leeds, 17-20, but was then re-applied with four straight wins, over Ealing and Moseley in the league and over Ulster and Ayr in the B&I.

Pirates came a distant second to all-conquering London Welsh at the Kassam (41-6) but then won two tough encounters at home, scoring 16 points against London Scottish (who got 8) and Bedford (13).

After returning from Jersey, Pirates hosted Bristol, who hadn't won at the Mennaye since 2004 (a play-off win at Camborne was their only success). And they still hadn't after heroic defence in the closing minutes by the Pirates repelled the invaders to the tune of 21-15 (tries by Kessell and a Goss brace).

Last weekend Pirates went to Meadow Lane. It was 10-all at the break and the scoreline remained tight, the visitors, thanks to two Evans' tries and one by Elloway, edged ahead 24-27 in the dying minutes. In early October Nottingham trailed Jersey by a similar margin, won a penalty and went for an attacking lineout, but failed to score. This time Matt Jarvis went for the sticks and the hosts tied the game as the FT whistle blew.

History of the Pirates

The early days of rugby in West Cornwall saw Penzance and Newlyn as rival clubs who waged some feisty battles on the pitch to determine local bragging rights. Penzance, formed in 1876 and Newlyn, who started in 1894, actually stopped playing each other from 1929-32 because of public order concerns.

However the entente became rather more cordiale towards the end of the 1930s and in 1945 the clubs merged, playing their first game against Guy's Hospital on September 22nd of that year.

The 1950s was a golden era, with crowds of 5,000 or more not uncommon, and two P&N players, John Kendall Carpenter and John 'Ginger' Williams being capped for England in the 1951 Calcutta Cup.

In 1969 the legendary prop Brian 'Stack' Stevens made his England debut, going on to earn 25 caps including a try in the incredible away win in New Zealand in 1973 - worth seeking out on Youtube. Stack's youngest son John, 18, a back row player, was selected in the Pirates' squad to face Jersey last month, although he didn't make it onto the field (his league debut came against Bristol the following week).

Pirates -Logo -250

The Pirates (the nickname was upgraded to a proper name in 2005) have continued to have a sprinkling of internationals, although in recent years it's been a more cosmopolitan affair, including Victor Olonga (Zimbabwe), Villi Ma'asi (Tonga), Heino Senekal (Namibia) and Stan McKeen (Canada). Hooker Rob Elloway, was twice capped for Germany, the land of his birth, in 2009-10.

When league rugby began in 1987/88 the Pirates (P&N) were in the Cornwall and Devon League, but the club had a steady run of success culminating in their arrival at level two in 2003. So far, that's as high as they have reached, although there remain great ambitions to emulate Devon neighbours Exeter and establish a Cornish presence at the top level of the English game.

Building a stadium is a key factor in the Pirates top-level ambitions, and after a long campaign the Stadium for Cornwall in Truro was granted planning permission last April. There's still a long way to go, but it is hoped that the green light from planning authorities may help the club clear the major financial and other hurdles which remain.

Following the game

Don't forget that you can keep up-to-speed with news from Jersey v Pirates through the following channels:

  • Preview on BBC Radio Jersey on Friday from 5.30pm, followed by a special programme on the events of the past few days, and live commentary on Saturday evening (available online and on your transistor-wireless device).
  • Preview in Friday's JEP and full match coverage on Monday
  • Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter and the 'Rolling Maul' rugby forum
  • Reports and match action on Channel TV online and on Monday evening at 6.15pm; and on BBC Channel Islands on Monday evening at 6.30pm

The British & Irish Cup this weekend


Something has to give in Pool 1 as pool leaders and defending champions Leinster 'A' go up against their nearest rivals Cross Keys. Keys are one of only two Welsh sides (Ponty are the other) to reach the semi-final stages of the cross-border competition. Both sides have nine points after recording wins in their first two games. Moseley play Ealing Trailfinders at Billesley Common, the visitors looking to build on success on the road, or should I say across the water, last weekend.

Pool 2 pacesetters and defending Welsh Premiership champions, Ponty welcome in-form Championship side London Scottish to Sardis Road. A 3,400-strong crowd turned out to see the Valley Commandos' last B&I Cup fixture: a commendable 29-22 win over London Welsh that gave Cardiff Blues-bound coach Dale McIntosh a fitting send-off. Scottish are second in the pool, which will also see London Welsh and Edinburgh Academicals play each other at Old Deer Park.

Pool 3 is shaping up to be the tightest of pools with just two points separating all four sides. Bedford's narrow win over Llanelli in round two - their first victory of the season - puts them level on points with the Scarlets. The improving Blues will go into the game in buoyant mood after becoming the first side to beat London Welsh in the Championship this season. A first-ever meeting with Rotherham Titans awaits Llanelli in round 3, while Bedford head to Ireland to play Connacht Eagles.

For the second year running, Plymouth Albion and past winners Munster A are paired together in Devon. This Pool 4 tie is sure to be a keenly-awaited affair as both sides are unbeaten and top the pool with nine points apiece. Munster won 26-22 at Brickfields in the pool stages of last year's competition. Nottingham are away to Stirling County.

Aberavon face three B&I Cup games in quick succession after their original tie against Bristol was abandoned (the one where the crater opened up on the pitch) and rescheduled between the Wizards' two games against Pool 5 leaders Leeds Carnegie. Bristol are at home to Gala prior to their trip to the Talbot Athletic Ground on Tuesday December 10th.

Friday December 6
Moseley v Ealing Trailfinders, KO 19.30
Plymouth Albion v Munster 'A', KO 19.45

Saturday December 7
London Welsh v Edinburgh Academicals, 14:00
Leinster A v Cross Keys, 14:30
Pontypridd v London Scottish, 14:30
Connacht Eagles v Bedford Blues, 14:30
Aberavon v Leeds Carnegie, KO 15:00
Stirling County v Nottingham, KO 15:00
Ayr v Ulster Ravens, KO 14.30
Llanelli v RotherhamTitans, KO 15:30
Cornish Pirates v Jersey, KO 19:00

Sunday December 8
Bristol Rugby v Gala, KO 14:00

And finally

In local rugby this weekend, LQ Lydian Lions travel to Guernsey to take on St Jacques on Saturday. On Sunday the Banks Ladies host Aylesford at Grainville at 1pm, while Jersey Colts are away at Winchester.

It's been a week for heart-warming stories involving kids. Maybe it's the time of year. There was the touching tale of five-year-old Faith in Cambridge, after her one-child wrecking mission on a trip to John Lewis, while right here on the door-step, Jersey players joined children from Robin Ward at the General Hospital on a special Father Christmas charter flight organised by Flybe. Story and pics available HERE

Enjoy your weekend's rugby!
Tom Innes

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