Cornish Pirates 30 v Doncaster Knights 31
The Knights pulled off the most remarkable of come backs to record a 30-31 victory away at Cornish Pirates. The home side enjoyed the better of the game right up until the final ten minutes when the Knights rallied to score three converted tries to escape with all five points. The victory means that the Knights now have an unassailable lead at the top of Pool 4 and progress to the knock out stages of the British and Irish Cup.
It was the third game between the two sides of the season. The two previous fixtures, both at Castle Park, resulted in a win for both sides; the Knights in the Cup and Pirates in the league. When the first British and Irish Cup fixtures of the season rolled around in early October Clive Griffiths gave a statement of intent for the competition, saying him team were not there to make up the numbers and today the side qualify having dropped just one point in the five pool games to date.
Victories against the Pirates at their Mennaye home do not come easily, just ask Bedford Blues who were beaten 65-14 there just a fortnight ago. The Knights made five changes to the starting XV that defeated Bedford Blues the week previous with two players making their Knights debut in Piers Francis and WillGriff John.
The home side suffered a blow shortly after the whistle blew, as winger Luke Jones took a knock at kick off and was forced off injured. In his place came Gavin Cattle and Tom Kessell moved to the wing. The early stages didn’t see much in the way of attacks or scoring opportunity, this said it was the home side that enjoyed the lion share of possession. Most of the game was being played in the middle third of the field and when the Pirates did make their first venture into the Knights half they capitalized fully. A penalty in midfield was kicked to touch by fly half Laurence May, a well organized driving maul was established by the home side and hooker Rob Elloway was able to barge over for the game’s opening score.
The Pirates continued to control possession and seemed to be having quite a bit of joy in the early scrums. The Knights growing penalty count allowed May plenty of opportunities to pin Donny back into their own territory and desperate defending only seemed to produce more penalties. Ben Hunter bore the brunt of the Knights ill-discipline as referee Craig Maxwell-Key sent the hooker to the bin. May went back to the corner and with a man advantage the home pack set off driving toward the Knights line. Donny managed to halt the initial drive but a couple of phases later Pirates set up another maul and second row Will Carrick-Smith touched down.
The Knights produced a reaction of sorts having gone 12-0 down. A penalty in midfield gave Piers Francis a penalty that he booted long into the home 22m. With no hooker on the pitch Bruno Bravo took over line out duty and did so successfully, shortly after the home defences infringed and Dougie Flockhart took the opportunity to open the Knights score. The twelve point lead was quickly reestablished however as a scrum penalty gave May a shot at goal.
With fifteen men back on the field the Knights started to play with a bit of improvement and began to enjoy more joy at scrum time. A solid drive in midfield created a platform that Flockhart took advantage off, hitting a fine line to break through the Pirates defence. The winger was hauled down short of the try line but quickly recycled ball and a good carry from Phil Eggleshaw opened up space for George Catchpole to take advantage of. The centre did very well to burst through a half gap and touch down. Dougie added the extras.
It looked like the Knights might record a quick fire brace of tries when a well taken restart was carried forward by Alex shaw. The number eight carried deep up field before being brought down and the Knights forwards continued the attack. Having worked their way deep into the Pirates 22m the ball was spun wide but unfortunately Francis was unable to hold on to the ball and the hosts cleared.
With time almost up in the first half the Pirates rounded off a solid opening period with a third score, having accumulated a number of attacking phases they stretched the visiting defense sufficiently for winger Craig Holland to find a gap to score in the corner. May was off target with his conversion making the half time score 20-10.
The Knights changed ends at half time but continued to be on the wrong side of the referee’s whistle. The hosts continued to play in the same attacking vein in which they had played the majority of the opening forty minutes. Referee Craig Maxwell-Keys called over Skipper Foden as the Knights continued to be penalized and it was from penalties that the Pirates secured the four-try bonus point. A series of infringements saw the Pirates repeatedly go to the corner and eventually the Donny pack caved as Elloway went over for a second score. May made it a seven point score.
Now trailing by seventeen Griff rung in the changes and introduced Colin Quigley, Tomasi Palu and Matt Challinor. With a comfortable lead and four tries already scored it seemed that the Pirates relinquished a degree of their attacking intensity but still the Knights seemed incapable of producing decisive offensive play. The early home dominance of the home scrum had subsided but with quarter of an hour of second half action played the Knights pack were pinged at the breakdown and May looked to extend his side’s score. The stand off was on the money and the Knights trailed 30-10.
Twenty points behind and having been far from at their best all game, the Knights looked destined to return to South Yorkshire disappointed and, more importantly, pointless. The score stayed the same as the second half wore on and neither side looked particularly dangerous. With nothing to lose Doncaster began to blow caution to the wind and played with greater endeavor, one attack stretched the Pirates defenses and Paul Jarvis entered the line nicely. The full back looked to hand on to Bevon Armitage but a stray arm from winger Craig Holland stopped the pass and as a result he was sin binned.
The Knights momentum continued and having grafted hard through the pack to make hard yards up field the ball was spun wide. With numbers and space ahead the ball found it’s way to Dougie Flockhart and the winger raced over in the corner. The Scotsman had not left himself an easy conversion but made no mistake from the touchline, 30-17 with ten minutes left to play.
The try sparked The Pirates into action who went on the attack immediately from the restart, they quickly made their way into the Knights 22m and only superb defensive work prevented replacement center Tom Henderson from touching down. The ball was quickly recycled and with several defenders to cover Flockhart gambled and shot out of the line to make an interception, it paid off and he set off up field. Dougie made it into the Pirates half before full back Max Bodilly caught him but in support was Paul Jarvis who collected to touch down under the posts. Dougie converted, meaning the Knights were now in a position to leave with a losing bonus point with less than five minutes to play.
Having secured possession it looked like the Knights indiscipline would cost them once again as the Ref signaled for a penalty on the 22m, centerfield. May stepped up and pulled the penalty wide of the right upright giving the Knights a lifeline with two minutes left to play.
Donny mounted one final attack and were able to work their way up field with some telling carries. The pack eventually got to within a couple of yards of the Pirates try line, picking and carrying repeatedly but the home defenses held firm. That was until Club Captain Matt Challinor managed to fight his way over for a score reminiscent of the winning try at Tynedale last season. The try made the score 30-29 meaning Flockhart’s conversion would decide the game, as calm as you would like Dougie converted to seal a truly remarkable come back victory.
Cornish Pirates XV: 15 Max Bodilly, 14 Luke Jones (Gavin Cattle 1’), 13 Alex Dancer (Tom Henderson 61’), 12 Rheon James, 11 Craig Holland, 10 Laurence May, 9 Tom Kessell (Oliver Snook 75’), 1 Jack Andrew (Jamal Ford-Robinson 61’), 2 Rob Elloway (Dean Brooker 72’), 3 Francisco Deformes (Alan Paver 40’), 4 Will Carrick Smith, 5 Darren Barry (c), 6 Joel Conlon, 7 Joe Atkinson (Chris Morgan 55’), 8 Matt Bolwell.
Replacements: 16 Dean Brooker, 17 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 18 Alan Paver, 19 Chris Morgan, 20 Gavin Cattle, 21 Oliver Snook, 22 Tom Henderson.
Tries; Rob Elloway 13’, 48’ Carrick Smith 21’, Holland 39’
Conv; May 22’, 48’
Pens; May 29’, 55’
Sin Bin; Holland 65’, Barry 79’
15) Paul Jarvis, 14) Dougie Flockhart, 13) George Catchpole, 12) Bevon Armitage, 11) Rhys Williams, 10) Piers Francis, 9) Bruno Bravo (Tomasi Palu 50’), 1) Richard List (Jack Bergmanas 65’), 2 Ben Hunter (Villiame Veikoso 40’), 3) WillGriff John (Colin Quigley 50’), 4) Tyler Hotson (Matt Challinor 50), 5) Jon Phelan, 6) Phil Eggleshaw, 7) Will Foden © (Latu Makaafi 71’), 8) Alex Shaw
16) Colin Quigley, 17) Villiame Veikoso, 18) Matt Challinor, 19) Jack Bergmanas, Blank) Latu Makaafi, 21) Tomasi Palu, 22) Paul Roberts.
Tries; Catchpole 33’, Flockhart 70’, Jarvis 74’, Challinor 80’
Conv; Flockhart 34’, 71’, 74’, Flockhart 80’
Pens; Flockhart 25’
Sin bin; Hunter 20’,