Redruth’s pre-match promoting of this latest Cornish derby centred around the deck of playing cards, but it was the Cornish All Blacks who ended up trumps with Tony Yapp playing a last gasp joker with an ungainly drop-goal, which broke Redruth hearts and gave the Launceston club the league double over their Cornish rivals. More importantly for the East Cornwall side it was a fifth consecutive victory moving them up to third in the table as they go into next weekends vital clash with second placed London Scottish at Polson Bridge.
Despite the overnight freezing conditions the Redruth pitch was in fine fettle as kick-off approached. With the mid-winter sunshine conditions seemed ideal for a running game. However the occasion got to both sides and what ensued for the next eighty minutes was a tight cagey affair in which defences dominated, laced with plenty of passion and commitment, naturally in such a game boiling over from time to time, with thankfully nothing too distasteful.
The Cornish All Blacks kicked off playing down the slope with early pressure bringing the visitors a penalty chance as Redruth were penalised for not rolling away. Up stepped Yapp who coolly slotted his penalty, Redruth had been warned.
From the re-start Redruth earned a penalty chance as Launceston went over the top, but unfortunately Reds’ fly-half Brett Rule was unable to tie the scores as his effort went wide of the uprights.
Stung by this set-back Redruth threw everything at the Launceston defence with winger Lewis Vinnicombe making a dangerous run into the visitors 22 down in the Strawberry Lance corner.
Back came the visitors as play ebbed, with Yapp getting a second penalty chance as Redruth were penalised once more by referee Mr.Tutty at the breakdown, surprisingly the normally reliable All Black fly-half fired his effort wide.
Redruth found them selves under further pressure as lock Nathan Pascoe was yellow carded for a professional foul picked up by touch judge Lloyd Jackson on 14 minutes. Despite the numerical disadvantage it was Redruth who were next to score. Launceston’s scrum-half Ed Lewsey’s clearance kick from a scrum in his own 22 was charged down by his opposite number Mark Richards, the Redruth man gathered and scampered in to a huge cheer from the Redruth crowd, Rule added the conversion for a 7-3 lead.
Launceston powered back at the Reds putting the home side under torrid pressure until half-time, Yapp was again unsuccessful with another penalty attempt, whilst a powerful drive from Launceston’s No.8 Sam Hocking set up a great position for the visitors but once again the Redruth defence held with Rule’s tackle on Mal Roberts inspirational for his side, also in the line outs some fine work from Damien Cook and Matt Evans denied the Cornish All Blacks possession at vital moments. Despite the pressure Launceston couldn’t add to their score and turned around 7-3 down.
Redruth looked to take advantage of the slope second half putting Launceston under pressure but they couldn’t get the breakthrough, and were handicapped when losing through injury their influential full-back Paul Thirlby. Instead it was Launceston who got the next score as Yapp kicked a second penalty on 56 minutes.
It set the match up for a pulsating final quarter and you felt that the next score to either side would prove to be the match winner in such a tight contest. Both sides brought on their bench replacements as they seeked an edge. Yapp gave notice of intent as he miscued a drop-goal attempt, whilst another thumping Rule tackle this time on Cornwall captain Ryan Westren exemplified Redruth’s iron resolve. But it was Launceston who were on the attack, Steve Perry who had come on for Jon Fabian probed with his darting runs stretching time and again the Redruth defence, eventually Launceston drove deep enough into the Redruth 22 to set up Yapp for another drop-goal attempt, this time the fly-half’s effort staggered it’s way over the bar to take the spoils and silence the Redruth crowd.
After a difficult week struggling with a bout of swine-flu, this wasn’t the tonic that Redruth’s head coach was looking for, but he was quick to praise his opponents win “It’s hard to take but I feel that Launceston just about deserved the win today.
“I think the score was a fair reflection of the game. If you look at territory and possession they had large chunks of it . That’s not a slight on our boys we defended heroically, good on them, but the telling thing was that Launceston kept their nerve and for the last 15 minutes or so we were holding on.
“We decided to try and win by defending, they decided to try and win by attacking. We kicked poorly at the end. It didn’t help losing Paul Thirlby with an injury, Paul’s kicking game was a crucial loss at that time of the game
On the manner of the loss to a late strike from Tony Yapp, Hambly continued “If you pay that sort of money you get that sort of player. We’ve got a guy who has come through our colts, they have got a guy who is a former England A international, that’s the haves and have-nots of modern day rugby. Fair game to them but Brett Rule can hold his head up against Tony Yapp today that’s for sure. It would be wrong to single anyone out all the guys worked so hard. You can never be too upset if everyone gives 100 per cent. No one can say today that he hasn’t played well or that he hasn’t tried.
Despite leading 7-3 at the break Hambly knew his side needed an early score in the second half to have a chance of winning “I just wanted to get a score, I said at half-time I didn’t want to win by defending, I wanted to win by attacking. I thought we started the first fifteen minutes of the second half on top but we just couldn’t break their line, a couple of bad choices by our guys in crucial areas probably cost us. A little bit more nerve a little bit more sense we probably could have just nicked it, difficult to criticise anyone but Launceston just about shaded it.
“We will look at next Saturday’s trip to Esher we are disappointed but we will re-group, that’s the half-way mark for us in the season, I hope we can go on and win the rest of our home games this season and pick up one or two wins on the road and finish in a respectable place in the league table.”
Jon Hill Launceston’s head coach was understandably delighted with his side’s final flourish to pinch the win “What a way to win a derby game, you couldn’t have scripted it better, that’s what Tony Yapp is there to do. He had a bit of an off day with the boot in the first half but completely made up for it during the second period.
“He took those opportunities, I think that’s our first drop-goal of the season as well. There are people at our club harping on about drop-goals winning games for quite sometime so perhaps that might quieten them a bit for now.
On his side’s overall performance Hill was a little less happy “I don’t think it was a great performance from us we made a lot of errors, we had a lot of opportunities towards the end of the first half when we were camped in their 22 for about 15 minutes Redruth’s tight defence was phenomenal, it was really good, very hard to break down hence they have nilled us in terms of scoring tries today. That for me was disappointing because I felt at the end of the first half had we taken those opportunities we could have been points up, but we weren’t.
“The first 15 minutes of the second half were pretty dead we struggled to get any form of pace into the game, I thought the arrival of Steve Perry totally changed the perspective of the game, he put the ball into the wide channel, we started to play with a little bit more freedom and in the end reaped the rewards because of that.
“We’ve been so focused on this one game that I haven’t yet set any goals for the New Year, this one game has certainly ruined my Christmas and New Year I haven’t been able to get this fixture out of mind for weeks, that’s what Redruth v Launceston games are all about it’s such a huge occasion and it means so much to Cornish people and it means so much to us as a rugby club to come through this with a victory is fantastic.
Hill however has to set his sights now on the visit of second place London Scottish to Polson on Saturday “It’s going to be a huge test for us against a side riding high, but we have to remind ourselves that we’ve won the last five games on the bounce, it’s a while since we lost at home (Esher) and we must go into that game full of confidence.”
Redruth 7 pts
Try – Richards, Conversion – Rule
Yellow Card – Pascoe
Cornish All Blacks 9 pts
Penalties – Yapp (2), Drop-goal – Yapp
Redruth: P Thirlby (N Simmons 43), L Vinnicombe, C Bonds (M Gidlow 68), S Evans, C Morris, B Rule, M Richards; D Jacques (Cap’t), O Hambly, S Heard (P Joyce 64), D Cook, N Pascoe (R Carroll 54), M Evans (H Stupple 68), C Fuca, M Bright.
Cornish All Blacks: J Fabian (S Perry 55), J Luff, R Westren, M Roberts (Cap’t), K Lewitt, T Yapp, E Lewsey; T Mathias, D Semmens (J Salter 66), B Pow (N Bayliss 66), D Kimberley (B Hilton 51), B Jenkins, J Lord, T Rawlings (M Rawlings 71), S Hocking.
Referee: Mr. M Tutty (RFU)
Redruth man-of-the-match: Brett Rule