Seats of your pants, nail-biting, gripping, pass the cardiac arrest tablets, the Championship Play-Offs are passionate, absorbing and give the end of season that final twist to make it something to savour.
Apparently gates are down up and down the country as some supporters appear to shun the new format well at the half way stage they are missing some of the most compelling rugby I’ve seen for a very long time…..Forget the Premiership this is were the real action is!!!
The Cornish Pirates Pool A is finely balanced with Bristol, Pirates and Bedford all tied on 9 points. With Bristol travelling to play Plymouth Albion and Bedford hosting the Pirates both games are at 3pm next Saturday, supporters blood pressure levels and nerves are in for another torrid afternoon!
And so to Sunday’s thriller at Camborne, no crowd apathy here as almost 3,500 enjoyed the Easter sunshine albeit stiff breeze to see if the Pirates could down the unbeaten Blues.
The Pirates got off to a cracking start and took command early on with a first try from skipper Gavin Cattle. An attacking scrum near the Bedford line saw No.8 Blair Cowan break before Cattle took the pass to dive over in the Park Gate corner, full-back Rob Cook added the conversion and a subsequent penalty a couple of minutes later for a 10-0 lead.
Instead of building on a such a fine start it was Bedford who hauled themselves back into contention. A couple of penalties from former Albion favourite James Pritchard pegged the Cornishmen back before half-time as they found themselves down to fourteen men as hooker Dave Ward incurred the wrath of referee Rowan Kitt. With 40 minutes on the clock a late attack from the blues saw a perfect kick ahead from Pritchard into space allowing winger Luke Fielden to show a fine turn of speed to score in the scoreboard corner. Half-time 11-10 to Bedford and much for the Pirates’ coaches to pounder on at half-time.
However, it was the Blues who carried on in the same vein, a penalty kicked to the corner saw the Blues pack set up a fine maul that was eventually driven over the line with No.8 Paul Tupai getting the pat on the back from his team, Pritchard’s conversion putting Bedford in an 18-10 led, which to that point was well merited on the balance of play.
With play in to the final quarter and fresh legs appearing off the bench, the Pirates upped the tempo, quick ball to the right saw an opening with lock Mike Myerscough setting up Cook for a try on 64 minutes, Cook’s conversion left the Pirates chasing a one point deficit.
The drama and tension mounted as the moments ticked by, a Cook penalty attempt rebounded off an upright anguished cries all around the ground, however the Pirates were steadily building a head of steam for a rousing finale. Further Pirates’ pressure saw a penalty awarded near the line, suddenly Cattle tapped and went, darting over in a flash of brilliance to huge roars of approval (and relief) from the Camborne crowd, Cook’s conversion giving the Pirates a four point advantage at 22-18.
Despite a desperate final surge from Bedford to pull out the win they looked certain to achieve mid way through the second half, the Pirates line held firm “They shall not pass” and they certainly didn’t. The final whistle brought a huge roar that even Lord St. Leven must have heard down on the Mount!!
After the match Chris Stirling was delighted with the result, but conceded that his side had much to work on before the return at Goldington Road next Saturday, ” Any game in the play-offs is going to be hard, full credit to our boys they stuck at the task and came out with the points. We conceded to many turnover balls and our discipline let us down at a crucial time, eleven penalties during the first half cost us any momentum and any go forward”.
Special guest for the afternoon at Camborne was RFU Tournament and Competitions Director from the RFU Terry Burwell. It was interesting to get some insight from Terry about the way the Championship has gone this season and how they (RFU) see the current format going forward. There was also some interesting observations about the vexed question of dual registered players and of course how to overcome the blight this season of clubs and their financial predicament in the Championship, the British and Irish Cup, and other rugby related topics were covered in and interesting interview which will no doubt be appearing in the local press and media over the next few days.
The fixture planners in National League One decided that the Cornish All Blacks and Tynedale would have to go on a prolonged Easter trek. Whilst Tynedale at least had the relative luxury of a Saturday night in Newquay (if you like that sort of thing!), then Launceston were arriving back in Cornwall on their coach in the wee small hours. Both sides shared one thing in common defeat at the end of their mamouth excursions.
Tynedale arrived in Redruth boasting a fine run but sadly for them it all slid to a grinding halt in the mud and rain of Redruth as the Reds’ gave one of their finest performances of the season to beat their Easter visitors 24-14 scoring four tries, Chris Fuca, Craig Bonds, Matt Bowden and Mark Bright all crossed for the Reds with Adryan Winnan managing a couple of conversions in the appalling conditions. A moral boosting win for the Reds and all their supporters after the trials and tribulations of the past few weeks and months this season.
Despite scoring four tries at Blaydon’s Crow Trees ground the Cornish All Blacks could only bring back a try-scoring bonus point on the long-haul back to Cornwall in the early hours of Easter Sunday. Tom Rawlings, Sam Hocking, Neil Bayliss and Nathan Hannay made it an afternoon for the forwards to remember in the try-scoring stakes. Tony Yapp adding three conversions in the 35-26 defeat.
A few rearranged league matches were also played, in Tribute Southwest 1 West, St. Ives fielding a weaker side than normal in view of Easter Monday’s Skinners Brewery CRFU Cup semi-final against Truro, lost 21-18 at Ivybridge. The Hakes did score three tries through Raphael Baragwanath, Neil Turner and Tom Nicholas, with Ian Morgan adding a conversion.
In Tribute Western Counties West, Bude again with an Easter Monday cup semi-final on their minds sent an under-strength side to Kingsbridge and lost 84-0.
Truro edged a tight affair at the Sportscentre over Newquay Hornets 9-5, Grant Thirlby kicked three penalties for Truro, whilst Kellithorn scored for the Hornets.
In the Skinners Brewery Cornwall Clubs Cup semi-final 2nd leg, Helston made the final against Roseland on May 3rd with a 18-7 win over St. Just
Cornwall Clubs XV had a narrow 14-12 win over Redruth Albany, who are celebrating their 80th year.
Old Dunstonians enjoyed a win in their second Easter tour match against Falmouth winning 7-5 at the Rec.
Saltash entertained their French friends from Buzancais with the French winning 25-22.