Pirates suffer semi-final heartbreak in Wales
Cross Keys 20 Cornish Pirates 16
For the second season in succession the Cornish Pirates bowed out of the British & Irish Cup on Welsh soil as they fell to a strong and battling display from Premiership outfit Cross Keys, writes Dick Straughan.
The valley side had billed this game as the biggest in their 127 year history and came out of the blocks fighting as the Pirates struggled to make any impression on the game in the opening quarter.
Fly-half Steffan Jones landed an early penalty backed up moments later by a fine try from wing Kristian Baller. A poor Gavin Cattle pass in midfield left Ceiron Thomas under huge pressure leaving Keys centre Leon Andrews to snatch possession and put Baller in at the corner.
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Jones converted and then banged over a penalty leaving the shell-shocked Pirates 13-0 down after just 14 minutes.
A Rob Cook penalty followed by a penalty try for the Pirates as the home side illegally pulled down a driving maul on their own line released the grip on Chris Stirling`s side.
Having converted the try Cook levelled the scores early in the second half as Cross Keys recovered from a double sin-binning.
But a moment of brilliance from Baller as he hit the line at pace and forced his way under the posts for a second try proved decisive as Jones made no mistake adding the extras.
Cook`s third penalty cut the arrears to four but in a dramatic finale the Welsh side clung on to seal their cup final date with Munster at the end of the month.
Davis, Baller, Andrews (L.Williams 59), P.Williams, Trowbridge, S.Jones (N.Williams 80+9), Dyer; Cornock (Gould 15-21, sin-bin 39-49), Price, M.Jones, Lampard (Rawlins 68), Hodge (sin-bin 29-39), Peebles (Gould 40+2 – 47, Trayhern 77) Nash (capt), Groves
Replacements (not used) – Sollis, O.Jones
Tries – Baller (2)
Cons – S.Jones (2)
Pens – S.Jones (2)
Yellow Cards – Hodge, Cornock
Cook, Evans, Suniula, Hill, D.Doherty (Kessell 80+6), Thomas, Cattle (capt); Storer (Rimmer h/t), Elloway (Ward h/t), Paver, McGlone (Smith 72), Myerscough, Morgan, Burgess, Marriott (Maidment 72)
Replacements (not used) – Brits, Cooper
Try – Penalty
Con – Cook
Pens – Cook (3)
Referee – C.Rudkin (SRU)