Cornish All Blacks stun high-flying Hartpury students with resilient away display
This 26-18 victory over the second-placed Gloucester students at Hartpury was the All Blacks' sixth from seven National Two South matches and will put the rest of the league on red alert as the Cornishmen are gathering momentum.
Elated All Blacks head coach Cliff Rainford said: "It's probably one of our best performances of the season."
Although it ended two tries apiece, the All Blacks took a lead just before the interval that they never lost. Centre Lewis Paterson bagged the visitors' tries, with fly-half Jake Murphy, who had a masterful game, dropping two goals and the laser-boot of full-back Kieron Lewitt adding two conversions and two penalties.
Saturday's league loss was only the College's third this term and Launceston's triumph clearly shocked them.
Rainford puts his charges' revival down to three things – a settled side, the 20-man squad system, and sticking to the game-plan. He said of the Hartpury match: "Our defence was outstanding. As a unit we defended very well and that gave us turnover ball and a good platform to play off.
"We tried to stifle anything that Hartpury wanted to do. They have a strong pack and their backs like to run it wide. And we took our opportunities very well. Also, with Sam Chapman out with a broken finger, Neilson Webber came in at 12 and he gave us a lot of continuity in that area; and Lewis Paterson rattled in a couple of tries."
Things did not start well for the visitors with the College attacking with a will from the off and skipper and hooker Chris Fortey scoring in the first two minutes from scrappy play close in. The All Blacks replied immediately, working upfield to allow Murphy to drop his first goal. Fly-half Luke Cozens then extended the home advantage to 8-3 with a penalty, before some midfield play brought a lineout from which Murphy released Paterson, who was tackled on the line but stretched successfully for the try. Cozens snatched back the lead with another penalty, 11-10, before Lewitt retaliated with two in quick succession to give his side a 16-11 interval advantage.
With home blindside James Head off sin-binned, the visitors went for the kill. Two good 20-yard driving mauls, two three-quarter moves, and Paterson was over in the corner for Lewitt to add a fine conversion and give his side a 12-point cushion. Then All Black No.8 Josh Lord was carded and Hartpury too saw their chance, centre Seb Rodwell barging over and replacement fly-half Tim Stevenson adding the extras to narrow the gap to 23-18.
Murphy struck his crucial second goal and the visitors were two scores in front again. Hartpury came back hard in the last quarter, camping on the visitors' five-metre line, their pack scrummaging fiercely resulting in All Black scrum-half Richard Friend being sin-binned. But the visitors kept their cool and their shape, and held on.