Cornish Pirates dig deep for victory against Carmarthen Quins
Cornish Pirates 44, Carmarthen Quins 32
FIVE tries and five points from their opening British & Irish Cup Pool game would indicate on paper at least a job well done by the Cornish Pirates, but the truth of a pretty scruffy game is somewhat different.
After an insipid and error-strewn first half display from the Cornish side featuring little cohesive play and no real threat to Carmarthen Quins, the Welsh Premiership side led 20-13 and the prospect of a huge upset was on the cards.
Converted tries from flanker Aidan Laxton and hooker Richard Wilkes had done much to cancel out an early effort from Tom Cheesman and some accurate boot-work by the dependable Aaron Penberthy.
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As the stone-faced Pirates left the field at the interval to the audible frustrations of their own supporters, action was needed in the changing room and assistant coach Harvey Biljon admitted that no punches were pulled.
"We were angry, to be honest," he said. "We were tired of making stupid mistakes and stupid decisions.
"It was time for the boys to step up, the forwards to concentrate on their roles and responsibilities and the backs to put the ball in front of the forwards."
He added: "It was a frustrating first half because we put pressure on them and then our own unforced errors put them in positions where they could score points."
The harsh words clearly worked though as the Pirates came out of the blocks in the second half, showing a real sense of direction and purpose which quickly snuffed out the optimism of a direct Carmarthen side.
They rattled up 28 unanswered points to make the game safe going some way to appease their coach.
"I was very happy with the response and happy that we were focused," said Biljon. "But I was still disappointed that we let them in for two late scores.
"They didn't threaten our line in the second half until that point and we have to look at this week why we keep putting our foot on the pedal and then taking it off."
He added: "We have to be ruthless and when teams start to go we have to keep building on that pressure and momentum."
In fairness the early departure of skipper Chris Morgan with a broken arm and the harsh sin-binning of fly-half Penberthy for an innocuous breakdown offence on the half-way line did little to help the Pirates.
But the response had to be a big one to take back the contest. And it was.
The Pirates dominated the first half hour of the second period, penning the Quins back into their own territory while having a virtual monopoly of set piece ball.
Two tries from scrum-half Tom Kessell and one each from Laurie McGlone and Wes Davies, all converted by Penberthy, made it 41-20 with ten minutes to play.
The Quins had also lost Darren Daniel to the sin-bin after a ridiculous straight-arm smash on JJ Kilmartin and the job was done. Almost.
The Welsh side claimed two late tries, through Harries and James, which dampened the celebrations of the home support and handed the Quins a losing bonus point.