All Blacks turn on style against Southend for first home win
The Cornish All Blacks showed they have the potential to challenge at the top of National League Two South this season in an excellent 38-6 home win over Southend.
The Launceston side produced four tries from Ben Hilton, Liam Yeo, Jamie Tripcony and Lewis Paterson in a victory that proved comfortable after they overcame a troubled start.
The Cornishmen surrendered the lead within two minutes to a Jack Jones penalty, saw hooker Tom Hurdwell leave the pitch through injury and lost flanker Mike Rawlings to a yellow card in a those traumatic early stages.
With skipper Tom Rawlings forced to move from the back row to the front row after Hurdwell's exit, many at Polson Bridge were fearing another frustrating afternoon.
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All Blacks, to their immense credit, responded to adversity well and built themselves a lead, first through pragmatic use of full-back Kieron Lewitt's boot and then some excellent running rugby to take the four-try bonus point by the end of the second half.
They were also aided by a remarkable 80-minute performance from prop Martin Rice. The former Plymouth Albion forward was playing his first match since April 2010 and his contribution was considerable.
However, it was arguably Mike Rawlings' sin-binning that kicked his team into life. Within moments, they scored the scored the first try of the match when lock Hilton finished a catch and drive move with Lewitt converting.
The full-back then scored three penalties in the lead-up to half time to ensure his side took a 13-point advantage into the second half.
And it was at this point when the home side turned on the style with an impressive try. Lewis Paterson started the move with an incisive break before fellow centre Toby Borrow showed pace and power in a charge to the left corner. He also demonstrated excellent awareness at the crucial moment, handing the ball off to wing Liam Yeo to finish for an unconverted score.
The hosts came under pressure for a spell but defended well. And after they weathered the Southend assault, a third breakthrough came following Mike Rawlings' driving run through a gap in midfield. Possession was maintained and replacement Jamie Tripcony was able to add the final few yards with Lewitt converting.
Southend were a threat at various times but they were frustrated by the home side's stubborn defence once more, so much so that Jones' flash of temper saw him shown a yellow card.
The bonus point try came with eight minutes remaining. An astute pass from fly-half Jake Murphy for Paterson set the back on his way and he was never going to be caught.
Lewitt added the conversion before Southend's woes were compounded by a second yellow card, this time for wing Dan Cleare for a professional foul.
Tom Rawlings said: "It's good to get a performance under our belt and a first win at home in style. We're playing some good attacking rugby and it is a good spectacle for our supporters."
The All Blacks travel to Clifton this weekend. Tom Rawlings added: "Clifton did the double on us last season and we want to put that right."