BRITISH & IRISH CUP POOL A MATCH
By Bill Hooper, at the Mennaye Field, Penzance
The Cornish Pirates got their defence of the British and Irish Cup off to a winning start with a 54-31 win over Scottish Premiership side Currie in a thoroughly entertaining Pool A match at the Mennaye on Saturday afternoon. The game originally scheduled to be played at Currie’s Malleny Park was switched to the Mennaye during mid-week when it became clear that the Scottish venue would be unfit to play on due to the heavy snow in Midlothian.
It was a game that will have left both the Pirates’ high performance director Chris Stirling and Currie’s head coach Ally Donaldson frustrated by their respective side’s defensive performances, not many side’s come to the Mennaye and score 31 points and in Currie’s case it was the more remarkable – in that they had to endure a very early start to fly down Saturday morning from snowbound Edinburgh and that they had played no rugby in three weeks – since their Scottish Premiership win over Melrose on November 20th!
The Pirates began the match the stronger, fly-half Rob Cook spurned an early penalty chance before supplying the scoring pass for winger Wes Davies’ try after just 6 minutes the fly-half’s conversion giving the Pirates just the start they looked for.
From the re-start the Pirates were guilty of giving away a penalty to allow Currie’s New Zealand centre, normally a full-back, Hayden Abercrombie the chance to immediately pull three points back.
Cook and Abercrombie then swapped penalties as both sides fell foul of referee Luke Pearce. The Cornish Pirates upped the tempo to score a second try on 15 minutes with hooker Rob Elloway burrowing over in the clubhouse corner following some good work from Rhodri McAtee and man-of-the-match Mike Myerscough.
Currie continued to look dangerous in the backs with half-backs Richard Snedden and Matt Scott proving a handful, whilst out wide the back three of Andy Turnbull, Alex Dunbar and Tom Brown showed plenty of renowned Scottish pace.
A third penalty success for Abercrombie saw his side chip away at the Pirates’ lead before the homeside lit up the dank afternoon with a sublime third try on 25 minutes, which saw a break by Cook finished off by the dynamic blond duo in the Pirates’ mid-field with Drew Locke turning provider for Matt Hopper to score again towards the clubhouse corner.
The game continued to ebb and flow as Currie hit back with a fine try of their own following a fine move that saw lock Ryan Wilson get over in the old Western National Corner.
Cook kicked a second penalty to give the Pirates a 23-14 lead at half-time.
The second half was barely a minute old when the Pirates had scored their fourth try, a burst from mid-field by scrum-half James Doherty was followed by a chip forward into the 22, the wicked bounce eluded the Currie cover allowing McAtee to collect and run in, Cook’s indifferent kicking continued as the conversion went wide.
Back came Currie with Brown putting in a fine run to set up Scott for their second try with Abercrombie adding the conversion for 28-21.
The Pirates looked to the bench to bring on some fresh legs amongst the replacements Ben Gulliver back from his loan spell at Leicester Tigers.
The Cornish Pirates pulled away again with McAtee scoring his second try of the afternoon with Locke again turning provider.
Abercrombie landed a fourth penalty to bring his side back to 35-24 to harbour hopes of at least getting some reward for their long trip to Cornwall.
The Pirates had enough to keep their visitors at bay with a sixth try scored by Jonny Bentley as they game moved towards the final quarter.
A tap and go by Currie saw the quicksilver Brown rewarded with a try as the full back cut back to score a fine try near the posts which Abercrombie converted for 40-31, but that was as close as the visitors were to get as the Pirates finished off with two more tries, a cross-field kick from Bentley was gathered by Davies who put in full back Grant Pointer for the Pirates’ seventh try in the old Western National Corner with Bentley adding the conversion, the Kiwi was on target again as he added the extras to his countryman Blair Cowan’s try following a big drive by the forwards.
The good sized crowd showed their appreciation to both sides for a real Christmas cracker of a game.
Cornish Pirates 54 pts
Tries – Davies, Elloway, Hopper, McAtee (2), Bentley, Pointer, Cowan, Conversions – Cook (2), Bentley (2), Penalties – Cook (2)
Currie 31 pts
Tries – Wilson, M Scott, Brown, Conversions- Abercrombie (2), Penalties – Abercrombie (4)
Cornish Pirates: G Pointer, W Davies, M Hopper, D Locke (S Winn 59), R McAtee, R Cook (J Bentley 59), J Doherty; P Andrew (C Rimmer 69), R Elloway (T Cowan-Dickie 66 R Elloway 72), J Currie (A Paver 51), I Nimmo (B Gulliver 51), M Myerscough, K Marriott (capt) (C Morgan 61), T Holmes, B Cowen
Currie: T Brown, A Dunbar, H Abercrombie, A MacMahon (A Binikos 39) A Turnbull, M Scott (J Smith 64), R Snedden (A Whitingham 77); J Cox (R Merriles 51), S Simonsen (F Scott 51), A Hamilton, R Wilson, G Temple (A Adam 30-31) (A Best 76), M Cairns (capt), M Entwhistle, R Weston
Referee: Mr Luke Pearce (RFU)
Pirates-man-of-the-match: Mike Myerscough