Rugby: Cornish Pirates up and running in pre-season tournament
THE Cornish Pirates opened their pre-season fixtures in an entertaining triangular tournament at Polson Bridge featuring hosts the Cornish All Blacks of National League One and South West One new boys St Austell.
Three 40 minute matches yielded a total of 15 tries for the watching crowd and while each of the contests ended true to the form book, there were plenty of positives for all three camps to take from the day.
Cornish Pirates boss Ian Davies said: "It was really pleasing and whilst there were mistakes, we set out a goal to play with intensity and did that really well.
"We had a good run out against opposition whom we didn't know a lot about and conversely they didn't know how we were going to play. So from that point of view we are all very pleased."
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The Pirates fielded largely different sides for their two games, nullifying the threat of the All Blacks in a comfortable 26-0 win before cutting loose against St Austell, scoring eight tries without reply. Young backs Luke Jones and Craig Holland caught the eye while Canada captain Aaron Carpenter proved a menace in both games, and flanker Chris Morgan returned to action after nearly a year on the sidelines with an arm injury.
Davies added: "We can work on the accuracy, but we certainly created chances and it was good to see the new boys taking charge. The communication was fantastic.
"In defence, though, we have still got guys using their old clubs' systems rather than ours, so we need to work on that along with basic handling errors."
The Cornish All Blacks enjoyed plenty of possession against the Pirates but struggled to find a cutting edge in attack and were then pushed hard by St Austell, clinging on for a 10-5 win in the persistent drizzle.
Back row Mike Rawlings said: "The first few games are always a bit shaky but we took a lot of positives out of today. We have got a lot of young players coming through and had some key players missing but the boys really stepped up."
He added: "The boys were a bit rusty in defence against the Pirates and we conceded points through individual errors. You are always going to miss tackles in your first game but our line-out and scrum went well.
"We knew St Austell would be dangerous because of their loose forwards-orientated game and we had to change our game plan. We need to make sure we adapt to that style of play quicker than we did here."
For St Austell, it was a story of what might have been. Their afternoon ended with a heavy defeat to the Pirates but they pushed the Cornish All Blacks to the wire, losing by five points in a game where handling errors on the home try-line in the first and last minutes cost them the chance of springing an upset.
"We took a lot of heart from our standard of play and felt we were competitive throughout," said coach Paul Hayes. "Our fitness levels were good and with several regulars missing, the squad as a whole performed well."
He added: "The game against Launceston was very even which pleased us and we were competitive against the Pirates and made them work for their tries.
"All our set plays went well especially against Launceston where I felt we were a little unlucky not to get a reward for our driving and mauling game."