Second half fightback earns Cornish Pirates welcome win
Cornish Pirates 17, Moseley 14
THE Cornish Pirates returned to winning ways in the RFU Championship as they ground out a narrow victory over relegation threatened Moseley on a freezing cold Sunday afternoon at the Mennaye Field.
Icy temperatures and a strong south-easterly gale made open rugby and accurate kicking difficult and in the end both teams settled for a largely attritional affair dominated by both packs of forwards.
Moseley implemented their route one style of play from the start and took an early lead through former Pirates full-back Ollie Thomas as he slotted a 30 metre penalty, but the home side responded after 16 minutes with wing Matt Evans scoring his 12th try of the season from the first sustained spell of Pirates pressure.
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Thomas then added a second penalty with Aaron Penberthy missing a long distance effort for the home side and the score stayed 6-5 to Moseley right up to the interval.
Twice Moseley opted for field position from penalties well within Thomas' range, while indecision in midfield too often caused their play to become lateral and error-strewn.
Pirates lock Gary Johnson was sin-binned for fighting five minutes before the break, but the Pirates resisted a series of attacking scrums close to their line.
Thomas landed his third kick early in the second half after debutant Pirates hooker Will Tanner was penalised at a scrum, but the Pirates responded positively, increasing the tempo of the game and eventually taking the lead.
Lock David Lyons felt he had scored against his old club when a driving maul crashed over the Moseley line, but minutes later the Pirates spun the ball wide from an attacking five metre scrum and wing Ashley Smith claimed his first try for the club. Penberthy added a sublime conversion from the touchline to make it 12-9.
Phil Burgess then led a Pirates breakout from an overthrown Moseley line-out, forcing Thomas to concede a penalty in front of his own posts. Gavin Cattle's quick tap released Smith again and the loan signing grabbed his second score.
From the restart the Pirates knocked on, allowing Moseley to build pressure which resulted in a 12-man driving maul powering over the Pirates' line. Prop Ethan Waller was credited with the try but Thomas missed the conversion and the Pirates held out in a scrappy final quarter to claim the win.
Head Coach Ian Davies declared himself pleased to see his team get back to winning ways and admitted that confidence in the camp had been damaged by recent defeats.
He said: "A win is a win and confidence was not particularly high after recent performances.
"We set ourselves some targets for this game, some we got and some we didn't, but afterwards it was good that the boys were still disappointed even though we had won.
"We know we have now got a big three weeks coming up which could make or break our season. We spoke all week that they would come with a big maul and a big scrum and we have frailties there at the moment. But I thought we defended well and kept them out."
Davies was delighted that his team came through a tough passage of play just before half-time when they repeatedly halted an attacking Moseley scrum while Gary Johnson was in the sin bin.
He added: "The attitude there was really pleasing because they wasted six and a half minutes just trying to push us over.
"We held them out and that could have been a huge turning point if they had scored a try there and really put us under the cosh. Instead we went in just one point behind."
Davies paid tribute to his team's work rate and defensive drills. "I was pleased with those aspects because we kept pushing them back and forcing errors," he said.
"On the whole that was probably our best defensive performance of 2013, but I'm also disappointed that we didn't get the four-try bonus point."