Cornish Pirates make hard work of beating bottom side
at Mennaye Field
The Cornish Pirates returned to winning ways with a 34-18 Championship victory yesterday, but they were made to work harder than expected against bottom side Esher.
It was tough on the visitors who left Cornwall still without a league point this season while the Pirates took five from another mixed performance at Mennaye Field.
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The Cornish side, whose five tries yesterday came from Mike Myerscough, Rob Elloway, David Doherty (two) and Tom Kessell, move up to second in the table behind Bristol despite their defeat to Bedford Blues at home and a draw at Nottingham in their previous League outings.
"It certainly wasn't a five-point performance today," said Pirates forwards coach Ian Davies. "We controlled the set-piece and did some really good things, but we also did some really dumb things. It was a real rollercoaster display.
"Looking at the scoreline, it seems like we've done enough. But if they'd come away with two league points or more, nobody would have been surprised. I thought Esher played well but we never got out of third gear."
It was not the smartest of starts from the Pirates, who gave away two penalties in the first two minutes. The second came within kickable range for Esher full-back Rob Kirby and he put his side in front despite a strong cross-wind.
A testing high ball then put home full-back Rob Cook under pressure deep in his own 22. He managed to hack the ball clear, but Esher came back and battered the Pirates' defensive line before hooker Kevin Corrigan found a gap to score the game's opening try.
It took the Pirates 14 minutes to mount a serious attack. A penalty was kicked into the corner by Cook, and although Esher halted a catch-and-drive try, they were powerless to stop lock Myerscough touching down after peeling off the back of the ruck for an unconverted touchdown.
When Pirates took the ball forward, they generally did so with greater pace and precision than the visitors. Indeed, the Pirates' second meaningful break led to a second home try, finished off with a series of quick passes out to winger David Doherty who touched down in the left corner.
However, Esher pulled in front again with another Kirby penalty and caught the Pirates off-guard with a fine breakaway try from Phillip MacKenzie, converted by Kirby.
Pirates launched a sustained response with five minutes of the half remaining, but their rolling maul was repeatedly pulled down.
Referee Michael Tutty eventually produced a yellow card for visiting prop Oliver Mines and a home score soon followed through hooker Elloway with Cook converting.
It was Cook who had the first opportunities of the second half after electing to aim for the posts with two penalties. The first was missed but the second put his side into a two-point lead.
Despite the greater firepower at their disposal, Pirates struggled to translate their superiority into points early in the second half.
Esher, meanwhile, were growing in confidence and running the ball from deep in the face of a changeable wind. Replacement winger Sam Edgerley made a huge impact after his half-time introduction with his consistently thrilling runs.
The England Sevens man frequently highlighted the Pirates' inability to make their tackles count. Fortunately, David Doherty was in clinical form for Pirates and scored his second of the day when he slipped between two Esher men in front of the posts for the fourth, bonus-point try, converted by Cook.
And the game was finally put beyond Esher in the first minute of stoppage time when replacement scrum-half Kessell crossed from close range with Cook again converting.
Davies knows his side will need to a more complete 80-minute performance at fourth-placed London Welsh next weekend. He said: "We just didn't twist that knife when we needed to today and we allowed them some hope throughout the game. It is things like that we've got to eradicate as we move towards the end of stage one of the season."
Cornish Pirates: Cook; Pointer (McAtee 55), Locke, Hill (Suniula 57), D Doherty; Thomas, J Doherty (Kessell 69); Andrew (Rimmer 55), Elloway (Cowan-Dickie 75) Brits (Andrew 66) (Elloway 74); Myerscough, Nimmo (McGlone 69); Morgan, Burgess, Maidment (Cowan 69).
Scorers: Tries – Myerscough, Elloway, D Doherty (2), Kessell; Conversions – Cook (3); Penalty – Cook.
Esher: Kirby (Renwick 79); Walker, P MacKenzie, Wright, Loizides (Edgerley 40); Atkinson (Ingall 60), Stuart-Smith (J MacKenzie 70); Mines, Corrigan, Boot (Gething 51); Parker, Kench; MacFarlane (Gething 39-41) (Synnott 58), Stitcher, Goodman. Replacement (not used): Mackie.
Scorers: Tries – Corrigan, MacKenzie; Conversion – Kirby; Penalties – Kirby (2).
Yellow card: Mines.
Referee: M Tutty (RFU).