Cornish Pirates move into play-offs places with four-try win over Doncaster Knights
Cornish Pirates 31 Doncaster Knights 18
at Mennaye Field
Cornish Pirates moved back into the Championship play-offs places after a 31-18 bonus-point victory over Doncaster Knights yesterday.
The Knights may be battling relegation but the Pirates' ability to engineer try-scoring opportunities in a Mennaye Field mud bath should not be underplayed.
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The game was in doubt during the hours leading up kick-off, but both teams were happy for the match to go ahead despite the weather in west Cornwall, where four seasons were often seen in as many minutes.
Fortunately, that was also the number of tries Pirates produced, with hooker Darren Semmens scoring twice before Laurie McGlone and Matt Evans added the other two.
Pirates took the lead within the first five minutes, despite the early loss of prop Alan Paver to injury on his 300th appearance for the club. A catch and drive was finished by Semmens, but there was a mass brawl before fly-half Kieran Hallett could add the conversion.
Referee Matthew Carley showed two yellow cards – one for the Pirates' McGlone and the other for Doncaster prop Thomas Davies.
The Knights were also up for a fight with the ball in hand and they set up a rolling maul of their own in response. And although they were held up at the first attempt, hooker Rhys Buckley applied the finish at the second time of asking. Wing Doug Flockhart was unfortunate to miss the conversion, misjudging the crosswind marginally.
Pirates then extended their two-point lead to five with a well-taken penalty from distance by Hallett.
It was just as well he did as his side were soon on the receiving end of another powerful drive from Doncaster. Pirates pulled it down as it lurched towards their try line but Buckley soon added his second try of the game to level the scores.
Flockhart was again unable to add the conversion but traded penalties with Hallett as the half drew to a close with a second yellow card for Pirates when Darren Barry pulled down a Knights line-out.
Another drive try from Semmens put Pirates back in front and they went further ahead through Hallett's penalty as the hour mark approached.
McGlone finished another drive to score Pirates' third try of the game but the bonus point try came with just five minutes remaining after some excellent play in midfield from full-back Wes Davies to set up an Evans chase into the left corner.
Canadian international Evans then made way for new loan signing Ashley Smith, who could hardly have picked less suitable conditions for his debut. But the London Welsh man did enough to suggest he could be a valuable player for Pirates until the end of the season.
There was also still time for Knights to score a third, unconverted try, with another forwards move touched down by replacement Sam Pailor.