Preview to Cornish Pirates (A) 02.03.14


Back to the back-yard of the former backs coach

You don't need to have a long chat with Harvey Biljon to realise that he's not a native of either Cornwall (aaaargghhhhh!) or Jersey (flett vowels ma' luv?). But there'll nevertheless be something of a homecoming for the South African this weekend.

HB Town
New Harvey

Harvey completes his second month since arriving for his new job in Jersey with a trip back to the Mennaye Field in Penzance; not only is it the place where he spent four-and-a-half years on the coaching staff, but it's the home-town of his wife, who was still living in the Pirates' back yard until she and the couple's two Cornish-born piratiños made the move to Jersey a week ago.

A popular figure during his stint in the south-west, Harvey will be assured of a warm welcome, although that doesn't mean the host club won't be mustard-keen to get the better of his new club on the pitch. Not only do Pirates have a league defeat at St Peter to avenge, and a cruel last-minute one at that, but they will be keen to assert their credentials as a top-half team, rather than a mid-table outfit.

The play-offs look a distant dream for sixth-placed Pirates, and even London Scottish in fifth are battling to keep in touch. But surely Director of Rugby Ian Davies isn't expecting anyone to fall for his claim that Pirates' main priority over the remainder of the season is the British & Irish Cup?

True, Pirates have a fine B&I record, and a realistic chance of silverware in this season's competition, but it might be a stretch to think that they're likely to be playing down league fixtures, especially those in front of their passionate home supporters.

Seeing Ealing having a visit from play-off contenders London Welsh this weekend, Jersey will be looking for a road win to pull away from the bottom side and potentially narrow the gap on 10th-placed Nottingham.

News from the Jersey camp

Jersey's team will be confirmed late morning on Friday (see HERE), but it looks likely that fly-half Aaron Penberthy (below) will return to the Jersey line-up against his old club, one of a number of ex-Pirates set to be involved - Drew Locke, Grant Pointer, Ben Maidment, Nicky Griffiths and Joe Buckle are the others.

A Penberthy

Any previous? A nap hand

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 by Sue Trower) - 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

Cornish Pirates 31 Jersey 20 (B&I Cup), December 2013 - match report HERE

Jersey 0 Cornish Pirates 24 (B&I Cup), December 2013 - match report HERE

The Pirates turned a potential 1-4 match points defeat at Jersey's hands into a 5-0 win thanks to two late converted tries at the Mennaye. The return leg at St Peter was not as close - the Cornish scored four tries between the 26th and 51st minutes and end Jersey hopes of progressing in the B&I

Pirates in 2013/14

The Pirates began the season in style, beating promotion favourites Bristol in the opening weekend double header game at Sandy Park in Exeter. It's been a somewhat frustrating league campaign since then, with Ian Davies' men unable to string together more than two successive league wins and registering draws against Nottingham (A) and Ealing (H) in contests they'd feel they should have won (but might have lost).

Pirates haven't won a league match in four attempts since Boxing Day, when a gritty 10-3 triumph was registered in the SW derby against Plymouth Albion.

A feature of the season has been an inability to keep hold of leads: four of the six league defeats thus far have come after Pirates held a half-time lead, including the game in Jersey.

As mentioned, the Pirates have a good record in the B&I Cup and five straight wins earned a quarter-final spot, and defeat in Belfast in round 6 didn't stop this tie being at home. Pontypridd are the visitors in early April for what should be a cracking rugby occasion between two hotbeds of rugby, with the winners knowing they have a home semi-final to look forward to four weeks later.

Harvey Nov 11 BT Hood Small
Old Harvey, (pic by Brian Tempest)

Scrum-half Tom Kessell is the Pirates' top try-scorer in the league this season, with eight so far. The home backs, coached for the first half of the season by H.Biljon esq, are a potent force this season and have scored more than three-quarters of their team's tries, the highest backs/forwards ratio in the division.

Kieran Hallett has kicked 91 points this season, including 21 penalties at an impressive strike rate of 80 per cent. One other stat of note is that of home league gates: Jersey rank fourth with a 2,053 average crowd, Pirates are fifth with 1,804 and Plymouth Albion a single spectator (or two medium dogs) behind on 1,803.

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. Stack's son John is a member of the Pirates' squad and after being an unused substitute in Jersey in November he made his debut the following weekend against Bristol.

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 Pirates v Jersey through the following channels:

• Preview on BBC Radio Jersey on Friday from 5.30pm, and live commentary on Sunday afternoon (available online and on your transistor-wireless device).
• Preview in Friday's JEP, more coverage in Saturday's paper (on sale from 7am) and full match coverage on Monday
• Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter and the 'Rolling Maul' rugby forum
• Match preview on Channel 103 on Saturday afternoon
• 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 Greene King IPA Championship this weekend

Round 17 kicks off at Brickfields, where the home side will be looking to recover from a sizeable defeat at Bristol last weekend. Visitors Nottingham will be keen to get points on the board ahead of a tricky March schedule during which the Green-and-Whites take on Rotherham and Leeds at home and travel to Cornwall, while the teams beneath them have games in hand.

Moseley host Bedford on Saturday in a game that's hard to call, while Ealing's attempts to break their home duck will face some stern opposition as London Welsh come to Vallis Way.

The Sky cameras make their first trip to Clifton Lane on Saturday; Roth supporters have been pointing out, with some justification, the slight of not having been chosen for a TV game this year, and will now hope to deliver against fellow play-off contenders in front of a national audience. Bristol will just want to keep up the momentum after achieving four wins in February and scoring 24 tries.

Leeds play London Scottish on Sunday with the Exiles needing to upset their hosts in order to revive their flagging play-off hopes.

Friday February 28
Plymouth Albion v Nottingham,19:45

Saturday March 1
Moseley v Bedford Blues 15:00
Ealing v London Welsh, 15:00
Rotherham Titans v Bristol Rugby, 16:45 (Live on Sky Sports HD)

Sunday March 2
Leeds v London Scottish, 15:00

And Finally

While the forecast isn't too bad in Cornwall, it looks like another wet one back home. All being well there'll be three games on the Island this weekend - Jersey Athletic against Chinnor at St Peter at noon on Saturday, LQ Lydian Lions against St Jacques at 11.30am (at LQ) on Saturday, and then Banks Ladies against Bracknell on Sunday at Grainville (k-o 12noon). Jersey Colts have an away game at Winchester on Sunday.

Fylde Celebs
Bill's in there somewhere (pic by Sue Armes)

There'll be some happy memories in the Duchy of Cornwall this weekend in the shape of Bill Beaumont, the RFU Chairman who last encountered Jersey when he presented the National One trophy at St Peter in April 2012, after the game against his old club Fylde, and was soaked in champagne for his troubles. Bill will be guest of honour at an eve-of-match dinner at the Mennaye, and one hopes his busy schedule will allow him to stick around to watch more Jersey celebrations on Sunday.

Enjoy your weekend's rugby!
Tom Innes

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