Cornish All Blacks back on track with home victory
Six tries and a five-point win: you can't argue with that – the Cornish All Blacks, in the words of their coach, are "back on track". A 39-21 victory at Polson over Clifton, sets the Cornish club on the winning trail again.
The Bristolians, tenth in the National Two South table to Launceston's seventh, had beaten the Cornishmen in their three previous encounters, so the rot had to be stopped. It was – in the end.
Up to the hour mark the visitors gave as good as they got, trailing by only four points, 25-21; and they never bowed the knee.
Initially, what their pack lacked in technique it made up for in weight (their Michelin-man props were almost as wide as they were tall) and early on its juggernaut power gave the All Blacks a lot of trouble in the tight; and the visitors' backs were rangy, fast and dangerous, particularly in the first half.
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However, the All Blacks' well-honed technique in scrum, maul and ruck eventually had the heavy visitors in all sorts of trouble in turn, while the home backs too were a formidable unit in attacking versatility.
Scrum-half Richard Friend released them time and again with long, perfectly weighted passes, wing Richard Bright was always looking for attacking opportunities and scored two tries, lock Barrie-John Chapman was a key figure in attack, with No.8 Josh Lord another who excelled (a pity he ended on a down note, red-carded for punching during a melée of fisticuffs and cardings in the 85th minute).
Both sides attacked continually from the kick-off. In a counter-attack All Blacks' skipper, flanker Tom Rawlings, constantly in the right place, broke down the middle, linked with Neilson Webber and the centre released Bright to race over.
Clifton hit back immediately, a fluent three-quarter move ending with full-back Ben Foley cruising over wide out and converting. Home fullback Kieron Lewitt landed a penalty to snatch back the lead after sustained rucking and running almost saw Bright over again; and just before the half hour two relentless, 15-yard driving mauls to the line saw Lord break off to score and make the half-time score 13-7.
Right from the re-start Chapman stormed down the right, Rawlings was there to take it on, and from a ruck lock Ben Hilton crossed for Lewitt to add the extras. Back came the visitors, their scrum-half Callum Braley making an incisive run through and No.8 Thomas O'Keefe scoring for Foley to convert.
A pinpoint-accurate cross-kick from home fly-half Jake Murphy was beautifully taken by Bright on the right and the wing blitzed over for his second try to make the score 25-14.
Home prop Neil Bayliss was sin-binned for deliberately coming in at the side and there was a flurry of replacements on both sides before the visitors hit back again, awarded a controversial penalty try in front of the posts, despite their hooker being forced right up and out of the drive. Foley converted to reduce the arrears to 25-21.
It was still anybody's game.
However, in the last ten minutes the home pack took control: a line-out, a drive infield and replacement hooker Tom Hurdwell was over, Lewitt, now on song with the boot, converting for 32-21.
Then Bright shot away and almost bagged his hat-trick, and finally – before the injury-time eruption of ill-discipline on both sides – the All Blacks' pack capped victory with an unstoppable pushover which ended with a penalty try, Lewitt's boot again adding two more points.
Coach Cliff "Spike" Rainford said happily: "Our main objective was to get back to winning ways and get five points, and that's what we did. We feel we're back on track."