By Phil Westren, Cornish Pirates’ Media
Cornish Pirates 24 Rotherham Titans 26
This match provided a fascinating contest at the Mennaye Field, as the Pirates, who looked off par for much of the match, made an admirable recovery to almost sneak victory at the very end.
In front of the home crowd, Cornish Pirates’ hooker Rob Elloway deserved the honour of leading the team onto the field, for what was proudly his 200th appearance for the club.
The visiting Rotherham Titans have made the play-offs in the last two seasons, and they were always going to be formidable opponents, remembering too that it is as far back as November 2012, that the Pirates last tasted victory against their Yorkshire opponents.
Indeed, under the cosh in early exchanges, plus incurring the wrath of Premiership referee Luke Pearce, the Pirates went 6-0 down in the opening quarter. Visiting fly-half Will Goodwin posted the first points of the match with a successful penalty, which was then followed up by a long-range effort from centre Jordan Davies.
On this day, however, with conditions just perfect for running rugby, the scoring of tries was surely inevitable, and as the match progressed this did prove to be the case. However, for the first forty there would be one only, Jordan Davies following up his three points with five more as he dived over near the Newlyn posts. Goodwin’s conversion made it 13-0, which is how it stayed to the break.
Powerful ball carrying from the Titans had repeatedly forced the Pirates back, as did their kicking game, for whom scrum-half Dan White gave the ball plenty of air. The visitors deserved to be ahead, leaving the Pirates with very little to cheer about. They had simply given too many penalties away and also made more than their share of handling mistakes. Looking for a plus, it was the form of full-back Toby May, who once again displayed a mix of confidence and courage under the high ball.
Following club captain Chris Morgan having been injured in Jersey the previous weekend, stand-in skipper Alex Cheesman was no doubt bitterly disappointed with his side’s first half display. The second period would at least provide a chance for the Pirates to up their performance.
On the resumption of play, a successful penalty kick from fly-half Kieran Hallett at last got the Pirates on to the scoreboard, but all but from the restart Rotherham made it a 13 points gap once more thanks to Goodwin slotting his second penalty of the afternoon.
The Yorkshire outfit then extended their lead and sent alarm bells ringing with a converted try scored by centre Joe Barker, though with the Pirates making a number of changes and displaying extra purpose and energy, a hoped for comeback was soon under way.
Making a habit this season of getting over the whitewash, following a drive to the line Cheesman was identified as the try-scorer. It was an impressive third in just three games, to which replacement Will Cargill added the extras.
A further penalty score from Goodwin appeared to put the visitors back on track, but the Pirates were quick to confirm their rejuvenation when another eager replacement, flanker John Stevens, sniffed and took his chance to cross to the right of the Newlyn posts. With Cargill’s second conversion making it 17-26, interest levels were, at a stroke, ramped up.
That the Pirates had got back into this match was of considerable credit, as their fitness also came to the fore. They were surely in with a chance of securing a losing bonus point, and if time permitted perhaps even a win was now possible.
With a sudden try from centre Tom Riley, and another fine conversion by Cargill, there were just two points in it, but the Pirates had to ultimately settle for this narrow defeat.
Terrific near the end, having reacted to early disappointments, a level of encouragement will have been gained.
Cornish Pirates: 15 Toby May, 14 Kyle Moyle, 13 Tom Riley, 12 Rheon James, 11 Craig Holland (Jack Arnott 58), 10 Kieran Hallett (Will Cargill 52), 9 Alex Day (Mike Pope 52); 1 Jack Andrew (Adam Jamieson 78), 2 Rob Elloway (Tom Channon 58), 3 Adam Jamieson (Marlen Walker 58), 4 Laurie McGlone, 5 Marcus Garratt (Will Graulich 48), 6 Sam Simmonds, 7 Joe Atkinson (John Stevens 58), 8 Alex Cheesman (capt).
Rotherham Titans: 15 Sean Scanlon (capt), 14 Jack Hayes, 13 Jordan Davies, 12 Joe Barker (Andy Davies 64), 11 Curtis Wilson, 10 Will Goodwin (Will Owen 63), 9 Dan White; 1 Toby Williams (Robin Hislop 5), 2 Charlie Maddison (Darran Harris 55), 3 Mark Tampin (Lewis Thiede 68), 4 George Oram Tom Holmes (63), 5 Barney Maddison, 6 Max Argyle, 7 Ali Birch (Tom Calladine 63), 8 Tim Cree.
Cornish Pirates – tries: Cheesman, Stevens, Riley; cons: Cargill (3); pen: Hallett.
Rotherham Titans – tries: Jordan Davies, Barker; cons: Goodwin (2); pens: Goodwin (3), Jordan Davies.
Referee: Luke Pearce (RFU)