Pirates maintain unbeaten B&I Cup run with dogged victory over Ayr
Cornish Pirates 28, Ayr 21
A place in the quarter finals of the British & Irish Cup may have already been assured for the Cornish Pirates as they came into this penultimate Pool 6 qualifier against Ayr, but they had to work hard to maintain their unbeaten record.
The Scottish Premiership outfit went ahead after just two minutes as they defied the boggy conditions and swirling drizzle to fashion a three-on-one overlap down the left flank.
Full back Robbie Fergusson took the scoring pass from Kerr Gossman and Finn Russell's conversion gave the Pirates a sound warning that this would be no easy afternoon.
The home side were soon back in the game as they used their forwards' dominance to fashion good field position just short of the Scottish line and prop Jack Andrew maintained his try scoring form crashing over from close range. Craig Holland converted.
Holland and Russell exchanged penalties to keep the game tied before the impressive Ayr No10 banged over an effort from halfway on 20 minutes to nudge his side back into a narrow lead at 13-10.
Playing into the worsening conditions the Pirates seized back the initiative. Holland missed a penalty before a superb 50 metre driving maul underlined the home side's power up front.
Just before half-time skipper Aaron Carpenter bulldozed his way over the Ayr line for his team`s second try but Holland's conversion was wide. In stoppage time Russell notched his third penalty to snatch back the lead for Ayr.
The Pirates were quickly back in front early in the second half as Holland struck again and Ayr then conceded their third try of the afternoon on 50 minutes following the sin-binning of flanker Andrew Dunlop for killing the ball close to his line.
The Pirates kept the pressure on with further five metre scrums and as Ayr finally folded again referee David Proctor awarded a penalty try, converted by Holland.
Chances came and went for the Cornish side as they pushed on for a fourth and bonus point clinching score with Holland, Kyle Moyle and Mike Pope all denied by the slippery ball.
Holland made it 28-16 to the Pirates with a 58th minute penalty, but the final try of the afternoon was scored by Ayr. They turned over Pirates possession on their own 22 and a clearance kick left Pope all at sea wide on the right. Craig Gossman hacked on and ran in unopposed to dot the ball down in the corner.
The conversion was missed and the final point scoring chance of an entertaining game came just before the end as Holland was off target with a 40-metre penalty.
The Cornish Pirates are now seeded first with one round of qualifiers to go as they look ahead to the draw for April's next round of the tournament.
Their final pool game is in Belfast on Friday night against Ulster Ravens.
Cornish Pirates: Holland, Pope, Dancer (Riley 65), James (Hendrickson 65), Moyle, Sinclair, Kessell; Davies, Carpenter (capt) (Duncan 62), Andrew (Prescott 73), Patrick (Barry 62), Graulich, Parker (Channon 52), Atkinson (Cheesman 52), Phillips.
Scorers: Tries – Andrew, Carpenter, Penalty. Cons – Holland (2); Pens – Holland (3).
Ayr: Fergusson, C.Gossman, Bennett, Kelbrick (capt), K Gossman (McCluskey 64), Russell (Diez 54), McConnell (Jericevich 64); Reid (Rae 64), Scott (Walker 60), Cox (Hunter h/t), C.Brown, Templeton, Dunlop (sin bin 48-58), F Brown (Johnston h/t), McCallum.
Scorers: Tries – Fergusson, C Gossman; Con – Russell; Pens – Russell (3).
Yellow Card: Dunlop.
Referee: D Proctor (RFU).