A tremendous start to 2008 with all four Cornish National League clubs earning wins. Pride of place must go to Launceston, the Cornish All Blacks ended 2007 bottom of National League 1 with the spectre of a swift return to National League 2 looming ever larger. The win against Rotherham will be a massive tonic for the men in black. Despite falling behind to a try by Titans skipper Neil Cochrane converted by Jamie Lennard, the All Blacks mounted a majestic fight-back in the Polson mud, centre Peter Fisher scored the first try before half-time to leave the home side trailing 5-7 at the break.
In the second half Launceston maintained the onslaught, riding their luck at times, but then they are due their own fair share of it, before replacement lock Dave Simms charged down an attempted Titan’s clearance then winning the race to the touchdown to secure the all-important second try for a 10-7 win, which lifts the Cornish side from the foot of the table. Launceston are in National Trophy action next week at League 2 side Nuneaton, whilst taking nothing for granted a good win there will set them up nicely for their trip to Moseley and then the home game against an off colour Plymouth Albion.
The Cornish Pirates’ win at Sharmans crossroads on Saturday 27-23 condemned the Midlanders to the foot of the table. Coach Jim McKay made a few changes from the previous week’s side, though in the end the Pirates were made to work very hard for their win, which once more saw the try-scoring bonus point go a-begging. Olly Thomas who again started at fly-half in preference to Gareth Steenson opened the scoring with a penalty. The lead was soon increased as Canadian scrum-half Ed Fairhurst seized the opportunity to score the visitors’ first try, Thomas slotting the conversion for a 10-0 lead. Paul Knight then kicked a couple of penalties as the home pack built up some momentum. It remained 10-6 to half-time.
With the weather closing in the Pirates nicked the opening score of the second half as winger Rhodri McAtee scored in the corner following some fine play, Thomas’ conversion stretched the Pirates’ lead to 17-6. An early Bees penalty saw the deficit cut by three. Unfortunately the Pirates then had prop Peter Cook yellow-carded, the Bees took full advantage scoring two converted tries through flanker Andy Daish and lock Mark Gabey to take a 23-17 lead, shades of Coventry the previous week. The Bees then had a player lock Alex Davidson sin-binned, the Pirates soon capitalised. Steenson now on for Thomas, exploited an opening to romp over under the posts, converting his own score the Pirates led by a point. Knight missed a penalty attempt for the Bees whereas Steenson as cool as cucumber slotted a penalty for a four point lead 27-23. The Pirates defence held firm during the closing stages to secure the win.
In National League 2, Redruth were in a charitable mood as they gifted their opponents three tries during the opening quarter of an hour to find themselves trailing 17-3, all the Reds had to show was a Gareth Griffiths penalty! In a game, which they desperately needed to win it was the worst possible start for the home side. Redruth started the fight back when Southend were reduced to fourteen men with a try scored by centre Rudolf Meredith, Griffiths kicking the extras. The fly-half chipped away at the visitor’s lead with a second penalty. Another Southend player was required to spend ten minutes on the sideline, as the Reds began to slip into top gear with the irrepressible Mark Bright powering through the opposition to score Redruth’s second try of the afternoon, Griffith’s conversion saw the Reds take the lead 20-17, they never looked back from then on.
Paul Thirlby scored the Reds’ third try soon after half-time, the bonus point try was scored by centre PJ Gidlow with that man Bright once again at the heart of the action. Griffiths kicked a third penalty and the conversion to a penalty try award as the Reds finally put the seal on the performance required on the day. A win, which lifts the Reds on points difference out of the bottom three.
Mount’s Bay kept the momentum going at the top of National League 3 South with a fine win at Havant 24-0. The Cornishmen were disappointed at not grabbing the try-scoring bonus point, as did their closest rival Cinderford whom they now lead by just three points. Lock Richard Carroll scored the opening Bay try, which Lee Jarvis converted before adding a penalty for a 10-0 lead. Bay grabbed a second try just before the break thanks to hooker Jamie Semmens again Jarvis added the extras for a 17-0 lead.
Jarvis made way for Marek Churcher during the second period. Havant frustrated Bay during the second period, eventually the home side had a player in the bin and the Bay were then able to exploit their advantage scoring a third try through winger Tyron Child, full-back Tim Mosey kicked the conversion, however Bay had to settle for just the four points.
In Southwest 1, St. Ives entertained Oxford Harlequins but there was no New Year celebration as the Hakes slipped to yet another defeat 20-8, Matt Thomas kicked a penalty and player-coach John Navin scored a try.
In Southwest 2 west, Camborne slipped to a 21-12 defeat at Brixham, the Cherry & Whites despite trailing to an early Fisherman’s penalty, scored a try through lock Ryan Smith. Camborne scored a second forward’s try through flanker Sam Bartle converted by Dave Mankee for a 12-3 half-time lead. That was as good as it got for Town as the heavy Brixham forwards ground out the win during the second half in the mud.
In Western Counties West, Hayle gave an heroic display in denying Ivybridge with an 8-7 win at the Memorial Park, lock Will Penny scored the Lions try after 15 mins, Ivybridge hit back to score a converted try before half-time. Ben Eddy’s penalty proved to be the only score of the second period giving the Lions a precious win.
Leaders Paignton proved too strong for challengers Wadebridge Camels winning 31-7 at Queens Park, Sam Stone scored the Camels try with Sean Hawkey kicking the conversion.
Bude let slip the advantage at Sidmouth after leading 10-3 at half-time thanks to tries from Mark Dennis and Paul Williams to lose 12-10.
Penryn’s game at Tiverton was called off due to a waterlogged pitch.
In the Cornwall & Devon league, Newquay Hornets remain in top spot following a 28-8 win over Wessex . Hornets’ scrum-half Ryan Johns kicked a penalty and then converted his own score for a 10-0 lead. Johns kicked a second penalty before half-time for a 13-5 advantage. No 8 Lee Woodhatch scored a second try for the Hornets, which Johns converted for 20-8, before the irrepressible Johns scored a second try. Fly-half Simon Horton added a drop goal to complete the Hornets haul.
A depleted Truro lost at home to Tavistock 26-10, Joe Williamson scored the City side’s try with Scott Martin adding the conversion and a penalty.
Falmouth didn’t get any joy from their trip to Cullompton losing 26-5, skipper Tim Gay scoring the Chief’s only try.
Up in London 3 SW, London Cornish got 2008 off to a fine start with a 23-14 win at Andover (Dickon Moon’s fine report can be found in the TASC forums).