Cornish Pirates complete the double over Swansea
at St Helens
The Cornish Pirates remain on course to secure a home quarter-final in the British and Irish Cup after claiming their first tournament victory in Wales with a second win inside six days over Swansea.
The Welsh Premiership side, currently bottom of their league with just one win all season, fought bravely before succumbing at the Mennaye Field 27-9 in the opening game, and the Pirates travelled to Wales expecting a similar dogfight. They were not to be disappointed.
Heavy rain had left the pitch sodden and a large pool of standing water behind the posts at the City End of the ground, while Swansea's young guns felt they had done enough on their trip to Cornwall to give them real hope of springing an upset in their own back yard.
For their part the Cornish Pirates gave a debut to recent signing from St Ives Kyle Moyle, and just before Laurie McGlone led the team out for his 100th club appearance they learned that Dundee had beaten Carmarthen Quins in the day's other Pool Three fixture – a result which only heightened the importance of a win here on Welsh soil.
But in torrential rain it was the All Whites who sprung a major surprise, taking the lead after just 52 seconds with the opening try of the game.
Turnover ball spilt by the Pirates midway inside the Swansea half suddenly gave home scrum-half Aled Lewis a free run down the left flank and he outpaced the cover to score in the corner. Sam Davies converted from a wide angle for a 7-0 lead.
The Pirates responded quickly, taking control of the game up front and winning a penalty which Kieran Hallett missed from 40 metres. Such was their dominance that it was only a succession of handling errors and poor execution in advanced positions which kept the scoreline unchanged until Hallett finally struck with a penalty on 24 minutes.
With Swansea being forced to absorb more and more pressure, and only the trusty boot of Davies capable of relieving the pressure, it was only a matter of time before the Welsh side succumbed. That they did after a needless yellow card for flanker James Bija will have only frustrated their coaches even more.
Bija became involved in a scuffle with Pirates skipper Gavin Cattle to earn his ten minutes in the bin and from the resulting penalty and line-out the Pirates' pack drove Kyle Marriott over the line.
Hallett added the conversion for a 10-7 interval lead and then increased the advantage with a second penalty early in the second half as the Pirates tightened the screw.
Davies pegged them back again after the Pirates switched off from the restart and conceded a penalty inside their 22, before Hallett hit his third penalty between the sticks after the Swansea pack infringed at the breakdown in front of their own posts.
Lock David Lyons came close to adding a second try as he looked to round off a fine break by Hallett and Ben Mercer, only to be bundled into touch by Nathan Brooks as he reached out to score.
With the game on a knife edge the Pirates forced Swansea back to their own line yet again as the decisive passage of play in the game unfolded.
Six scrums just five metres from the Swansea line had yielded no victor as possession ebbed and flowed on the put-in and referee Nigel Correll was kept busy. Then suddenly Cattle sniped into the narrowside and fed wing Tom Bedford who stepped inside the tackle of Brooks and dotted down in the corner. Hallett converted.
Moments later the Pirates scored again as full-back Wes Davies claimed a wayward chip ahead from Ben Roberts and launched a swift counter-attack.
He offloaded to Bedford who then linked with a strong run from Tom Riley and the centre's delightful inside flick-pass to Rob Elloway set up the hooker to canter home from 15 metres for the third Pirates try.
Hallett's conversion made it 30-10 but as the weather again deteriorated the Pirates' search for a fourth and bonus point-clinching try became frustrated despite the introduction of the impressive Moyle.
Lock Darren Barry was sin-binned for killing the ball during a rare Swansea attacking foray deep in added time, but the Pirates will now move on to their home clash with Dundee in mid-January as they look to guarantee their berth in the final eight of the competition.