Rugby: Cornish Pirates throw away victory as mistakes prove costly
HALF an hour into this Greene King Championship thriller in South Yorkshire Rotherham Titans were staring down the barrel of a thrashing at the hands of the Cornish Pirates.
After a pulsating start to a game, which will live long in the memory of those who watched it, the Pirates ran in three converted tries inside ten minutes and deservedly led 24-3.
Craig Holland's sublime interception on half-way, Tom Riley's brilliant dart from a scything Alex Dancer burst, and Tom Kessell's snipe under the posts had silenced Clifton Lane.
One more score and a bit more composure from Ian Davies' troops may have made the task ahead of the Titans mission impossible, but instead the Titans sneaked back into the contest with tries of their own through Lawrence Pearce and Jack Roberts before half-time and the Clifton Lane crowd stirred.
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A sluggish start to the second half from the Pirates brought two more tries for Rotherham inside the first ten minutes, with hooker Ben Sowrey and wing Mike Keating touching down.
The Titans had turned a 21-point deficit into a 29-24 lead and now the Pirates had to chase the game. In muddy, drizzly conditions they did but the only further scoring in a bitter battle was two penalties apiece for Juan Pablo Socino and Holland.
The Argentinean fly-half, once a transfer target of the Cornish Pirates, then missed a simple place kick in stoppage time which would have denied the Pirates even a losing bonus point. That would have been harsh on the Cornish side and head coach Ian Davies agreed.
"It was a cracking game of rugby with 30 points in each half and plenty of entertainment for the crowd," he said. "We deserved to get the losing bonus point and I was glad Juan Pablo (Socino) missed the kick at the end because that would have been rough justice.
"We certainly played a lot of good rugby and I actually don't think that Rotherham were the better team on the day. I thought that they were very ordinary and we lacked a little bit of composure, made some key errors in the second half, and that cost us the game."
He added: "We didn't get a lot of good field position in the second half and played a lot of rugby in the middle third. Both sides were camped there really and we didn't get a chance to put pressure on them.
"I don't think there was any particular thing that changed in the game to turn it against us, but the crowd were very silent at 24-3 and then very vocal when they went in front.
"Pressure builds and there were a lot of young boys on that field who probably have not had such a verbal barrage as they were getting and it is part of their development."
"The disappointing thing, to use football parlance, is that we couldn't put our foot on the ball. We wanted to play high tempo and so did they which led to a lot of mistakes from both sides."
Davies described the defeat as a "blow" to the Pirates play-off chances, admitting that his team were "drifting away from the top four after giving Rotherham five points."
He added: "It is probably where we are because we are a good top six team who on our day play like a top four team. We are not out of the race and unlike England in Australia we are batting pretty well, but we are making life more difficult for ourselves because these are the games we have to start winning."