Former Cornish Pirates plunder three tries to dent Cornish side's play-off hopes
at Cross Green
Leeds Carnegie drove a dagger into the heart of the Cornish Pirates play-off aspirations as a strong second-half display in their 37-25 win at Cross Green all but ended their quest for a top-four Championship finish.
The Pirates fell behind to a first-minute penalty from on-loan Harlequins fly-half Rory Clegg but responded strongly.
Grant Pointer linked well down the right flank with Ashley Smith and the wing took play right to the Leeds line where a desperate Stevie McColl tackle halted him.
However, patient recycling and the power of the Pirates front row saw Paul Andrew burrow over the try line.
Kieran Hallett missed an 11th-minute penalty as he slipped but the fly-half made amends moments later, capitalising on a Phil Nilsen knock-on on the Leeds 22. Hallett dribbled the ball through the home cover and then raced under the posts to touch down. His conversion put the Pirates seemingly in control at 12-3.
However, a steadily rising penalty count against the Pirates and the impressive kicking of Clegg began to edge Leeds back into the contest and two penalties midway through the half saw them visibly grow in confidence.
Centres Oli Goss and Fred Burdon were proving a real handful with their elusive running and only the width of a post prevented Clegg levelling the scores with a penalty.
Leeds lost French prop Damien Tussac to the sin-bin just before the interval as referee John Meredith ran out of patience with the persistent infringing by both sides, but Hallett's penalty was quickly cancelled out by a Clegg 45-metre effort leaving the Pirates 15-12 ahead at the break.
The second half belonged to the Yorkshire side. Clegg missed an early penalty before McColl scythed through the Pirates defence and charged down the left flank with the line at his mercy. Then, inexplicably, he dropped the ball and the chance was gone. The respite lasted four minutes.
The introduction of former Pirates scrum-half James Doherty re-energised Leeds and he created space for another ex-Mennaye man, lock Matt Smith, to gallop home from 15 metres for a rare try.
Clegg made it a seven-point home lead on the hour with another penalty and then punished Ian Davies' men again four minutes later. This time Pirates lock Darren Barry had been harshly penalised for going off his feet at the breakdown on his own 22. The second row appeared to legally strip the ball at a ruck but replacement referee Tom Foley thought differently. Now the gap was ten.
The introduction of Aaron Penberthy gave the Pirates more direction in midfield and he struck a long-range penalty to edge the Pirates back into losing bonus point territory.
Wing David Doherty scorched home with six minutes left for his 12th try of the season as he finished a splendid blindside move before Smith hurt his former club in the fourth minute of stoppage time from an unstoppable driving line-out.
The Pirates grabbed a late consolation through wing Matt Evans. The Canada international raced through a static home defence from 22 metres out after Gavin Cattle's pass had created space. Penberthy kicked the conversion from in front of the posts.