The Cornish All Blacks dug deep to send old boy Graham Dawe and his Plymouth Albion side packing the short trip across the Tamar back to Devon. A 17-16 win and a welcome four points in Launceston’s battle to stay up in National League 1. The home side took an early lead as No 8 Tinus du Plessis scored off a lineout powering his way into the corner. Full-back Jon Fabian kicked a touchline conversion for a 7-0 lead. Albion re-grouped kicking two first half penalties by Ross Laidlaw to leave the home side 7-6 up at the break.
Laidlaw added a third penalty soon after half-time before Albion’s winger Emyr Lewis scored a fine try, which Laidlaw converted for a 16-7 lead. Laidlaw missed another penalty attempt, which was to prove crucial in the final analysis. The All Blacks brought on some fresh legs as they chased the game. Following a surge up the middle Ryan Westren was able to finish off the move for the All Blacks’ second try. At 16-12 the home side scented a win, into injury time and with Albion defending desperately, hooker Neil Clarke finally crashed over to score Launceston’s third try and a 17-16 lead, which they held on to until the final whistle to scenes of wild celebration at Polson.
Further to the east the second cross-border clash in National League 1 took place at Exeter’s impressive Sandy Park stadium, as the Cornish Pirates looked to put recent events off field behind them with a good performance at second place Exeter.
They got off to the best possible start with a Gareth Steenson penalty after only three minutes followed up by a try from Tongan Vunga Lilo who capitalised on an Exeter error. Exeter soon hit back with an opening try scored by lock Chris Bentley to trail 5-8. More joy for Pirates’ faithful was to follow as Steenson intercepted a pass to romp home and convert for a 15-5 lead. Tony Yapp kicked a couple of penalties for the Chiefs before half-time to leave his braves licking their wounds at 15-11 down.
The Chiefs stormed out of the blocks after the resumption scoring two converted tries in quick succession, first it was winger Josh Drauniniu, who made up for his earlier error in gifting Lilo’s try, picking off a pass from Tim Cowley to roar in at the posts. Barely sixty seconds later and Yapp was converting the Chiefs third try as Richard Baxter, playing his 250th league match for the Chiefs rounded off a fine passage of play from former Pirate, Junior Fatialofa. Yapp then claimed the Chiefs fourth try. Which he again converted to put his side in a comfortable 32-15 lead. Some turnaround in the space of fifteen minutes.
Throwing caution to the wind the Pirates set about trying to salvage something from the game, Steenson scored his second try of the game adding the conversion to cut the deficit to just ten points. Unfortunately some slack defence allowed the Chiefs in for a fifth try scored by flanker Tom Johnson, Yapp once again adding the extras. The scoring was completed when Rhodri McAtee scored the Pirates fourth try, converted by Ollie Tomas for a bonus point.
The Sandy Park crowd certainly had their money’s worth with one of the most cracking local derbies in a long while.
Redruth did themselves a power of good in their battle to avoid relegation from National League 2 with an 18-10 win at Blackheath, a result, which lifts them further away from the drop zone. Cheered on by a coach load of supporters who had driven up on the morning of the match, Redruth scored two tries through prop Darren Jacques and hooker Glen Cooper, Luke Cozens kicking a conversion and a couple of penalties. Club replied with a couple of tries through skipper Tom Basson and England Counties flanker Dave Allen. Sweet revenge following Blackheath’s win at Redruth earlier in the season.
Mount’s Bay made it a good day for Cornish clubs in the capital with a 27-17 win at Rosslyn Park to maintain their lead in National League 3 South. Winger Jamie Semmens led the try scoring with a hat-trick of touchdowns whilst Jon Marlin scored the other Bay try, Lee Jarvis kicked two conversions and a penalty. For Rosslyn Park lock Graham Corin, no doubt to great personal delight, scored Park’s first try with full back John Swords scoring the second, fly-half Richard Mahoney converted both scores and also kicked a penalty.
In Southwest One, it was another difficult afternoon for St. Ives as they lost at home to Cleve 61-3. Matt Thomas kicking a penalty for the Hakes.
In Southwest 2 west, a similar picture again for poor old Camborne as they lost at high-flyers Taunton 53-5, Cameron Bone scoring the only try for Town.
The picture is a little rosier in Western Counties West, Wadebridge Camels lie fourth following their 18-12 win at Hayle. Andy Cameron scored a couple of tries for the Camels as they went 10-0 up. McCarroll kicked a penalty to extend the Camels lead before the Lions hit back with a try from James Jago to leave the Camels 13-5 up at half-time. Dan Lumb scored the third Camels try in the second half, before Jago scored his second, which Trathan converted. Hayle pressed but couldn’t score again. A result which now leaves last season’ s promotion play-off side Hayle in the bottom three.
Bude put up a good fight at table toppers Paignton before losing 25-10, Rob Uglow and Matt Williams scored tries for Bude.
Any prospect of Minehead being daunted at playing on the large pitch at Penryn were well and truly laid to rest as they inflicted another defeat on the Borough winning 14-9 at the Memorial Ground. Alex Sutheridge kicked three penalties for Penryn.
Two late tries proved to be the undoing of London Cornish as they lost in London 3 SW to Guernsey on the island, Dickon Moon has sobered up enough to give us his considered report on the weekends events in the Channel Islands.
Newquay Hornets won the tussle between the top two in the Cornwall & Devon league winning 24-22 at Tavistock. James Ingles scored two tries for the Hornets with their other points coming from the boot of Ryan Johns, although Cullompton are menacing now in second place a point behind but with a game in hand.
There has been this week a lot of discussion about the coverage of rugby on BBC Radio Cornwall on a Saturday afternoon. It does seem that there are times when you want to screech at the radio as they cut away just as a match is getting exciting this certainly happened on Saturday during the Exeter Chiefs v Cornish Pirates game. There are also far too many occasions when wrong scores or incorrect information is given out.
What a pity that there is now little or no mention of any rugby outside the National Leagues, this was not the case until quite recently. Let us all hope that matters improve and quick, we after all fund the service through our licence fee.
Next Saturday sees the start of the RBS 6 Nations, I shall be at Murrayfield on Sunday to see Scotland take on France, my predictions for the first round of matches.
Ireland v Italy at Croke Park, a home win Ireland to win by a couple of scores.
England v Wales at Twickenham, despite Welsh hopes for a first win at HQ in 20 years I think England will prevail in a close match.
Scotland v France at Murrayfield, some interesting selections in the French 22, are we about to witness a renaissance of French flair? Something tells me Scotland may well nick this one in a tight encounter.