Pirates grind out four-try victory in Mennaye mud
Cornish Pirates 31, Doncaster Knights 18
THE Cornish Pirates climbed back into the Championship play-off zone as they scored four tries against bottom of the table Doncaster in a mudbath at the Mennaye Field.
Heavy overnight rain and persistent showers before kick-off left pools of standing water on the playing surface despite the best efforts of the ground staff, threatening to wreck the celebrations of Alan Paver's 300th game for the club, before both teams agreed to start the game in the hope that the weather would not worsen.
As it transpired the weather relented although both packs of forwards turned the playing surface into a swamp well before half-time and Paver's big day lasted just eight minutes before he was forced off through injury.
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However, by that time an early converted Darren Semmens try from the first of several successful driving mauls by both teams, coupled with yellow cards for Laurie McGlone and Knights prop Tom Davies, after a 22-man brawl provided plenty of incident.
Doncaster battled hard throughout the first 40 minutes in attritional conditions scoring two tries of their own through hooker Rhys Buckley, but Kieran Hallett's boot kept the Pirates moving forward and it took a Dougie Flockhart penalty just before the break to tie the game at 13-all.
In the second half the Pirates were much better, employing a more direct approach. The introduction of Ben Maidment for Phil Burgess was a game-changer and after Semmens bagged his second try, Hallett kicked a third penalty to put the home side two scores ahead.
Laurie McGlone capped a man of the match display with his team's third try as they brutally poured over the Knights line from an attacking five-metre scrum, before Matt Evans sealed the bonus point win with a fourth try three minutes from the end after twinkling feet from Wes Davies and an incisive break by Ben Mercer.
Doncaster grabbed a late consolation try through Sam Pailor but it was too little too late and they remain rooted to the foot of the table.
Pirates boss Ian Davies admitted that he was pleased with the result, but warned that his team need to perform much better in the coming weeks if they are to keep their play-off hopes alive.
He said: "We had to change the game plan because of the conditions, because you couldn't pass the ball more than five metres and kicking out of hand was difficult as the ball got heavier, but even though the forwards were good certain aspects from them were really disappointing."
"We got away with it a bit because we will play much better teams than Doncaster, and I mean no offence to them, and we need to up our attitude."
He added: "Conceding three tries through driven mauls was like a knife through the heart so the forwards will feel my wrath this week for that.
"Our decision-making wasn't particularly great and we tended to kick in the air rather than along the floor to make them work harder. We just gave them easy catches.
"You could say that we were rusty after not playing for three weeks but the boys are professional rugby players. That is their job. Maybe we started too well with the early try because after that we went off the boil a bit."
Davies admitted that the closeness of the first half was a concern bearing in mind the awful conditions: "The worry was that the referee might call time after 60 minutes, so we knew we had to start the second half really well. We did that.
"I think the pitch is now dead for the season. That is it. If we get a lot of rain this week it could now make it really difficult for us against London Scottish next week."