Cornish Pirates back on track with home victory
Cornish Pirates 21, Leeds Carnegie 8
IT WAS never a classic and only fleetingly did we see glimpses of play which could be justifiably called pretty, but on the first day of winter the Pirates and Leeds served up an enthralling contest in often appalling weather which ended in a much needed home win.
The Pirates had not won at home in the Championship since beating Plymouth Albion on September 9, in what was until now their last real success in this competition.
But after two morale-boosting cup successes in recent weeks they had enough guile and skill to take their chances here and hold off a determined Yorkshire side.
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Two tries from Matt Evans and Gary Johnson during an opening quarter largely dominated by Leeds did the damage as the Pirates gave their visitors a resolute lesson in the art of taking your chances.
Fly-half Kieran Hallett kicked the rest of the points with Leeds, albeit resurgent in the second period, only able to claim a solitary Jacob Rowan try as testament to their efforts.
All of which left Pirates head coach Ian Davies happy with the result but irritated with aspects of his team's performance.
He said: "It was important to get the win and Leeds didn't get a bonus point, which was good, but in the second half we were a bit inaccurate and allowed Leeds back into the game.
"They have got a lot of pace in their back three and we defended well but then fuelled them by giving them a lot of possession."
He added: "We lost control after half-time when we had talked about giving away less penalties. I felt that a yellow-card would come against Leeds because every time we got into their half they conceded penalties, but lo and behold we gave away five in eight minutes which was stupid and gave them momentum.
"Leeds are a young side who thrive on momentum and energy and like I said we fuelled it."
The Yorkshire side began the game brightly with former Pirates scrum-half James Doherty keen to force the pace and full-back Stevie McColl ever dangerous in hitting the line at pace with the ball in hand.
However, they didn't capitalise on their possession and territorial dominance and instead were hit by two classic counter punches from the Pirates. The first came after Laurie McGlone had stolen Leeds ball in the Pirates 22 and linked well with Ben Maidment whose determined chip ahead caused a retreating Josh Griffin all sorts of problems. Matt Evans ripped possession clear for the second time in the move and skated home for his seventh try of the season. Then at the end of the first quarter Tom Riley's pass close to his own line eluded a rush defence and off-loaded to Jack Nowell who raced 60 metres down-field before linking with Phil Burgess.
Quick recycling led to skipper McGlone feeding Gary Johnson for his first try of the season and the Pirates were off and running.
Worsening weather and heavy drizzle slowed the pace of the game and increased the error count on both sides, but Leeds wrestled back control of the game in the second half, although all they could muster was an unconverted Jacob Rowan try.
Davies paid tribute to his front row who bossed the scrum for much of the game, but felt that his team's line-out work was poor.
He dismissed the suggestion that former Pirates lock Mike Myerscough had been the cause of that problem.
He said: "Not at all. It was poor drill from us and they will get an absolute roasting for that in training."
But Davies defended his team's recent results. He said: "The perception is that we aren't playing well, but we have played four away from home. Newcastle are different gravy and we never win at Bristol. We aren't playing badly and people forget that we have had ups and downs for the four years we have been together."
"It will take time but we will get there. You can't fault the endeavour and passion of the players here."