Second-half rally fails to save Cornish All Blacks from shock defeat at Southend
Southend 20 Cornish All Blacks 17
It's amazing how the threat of relegation on one side and complacency on the other can turn form on its head – and that's what happened at Warners Bridge Park where Southend posted a shock 20-17 National Two South victory over the Cornish All Blacks who had won eight of their previous nine matches.
By half-time the visitors were 13-3 adrift and, when they did recover something like their usual powerful momentum, they found they had left it too late.
Head coach Cliff "Spike" Rainford said: "We were probably expecting to win and I think that made us less focused than we should have been. Southend are obviously desperate to avoid relegation and we somehow got sucked into their game. We just had an off day. Occasionally you do."
On top of this, the All Blacks had quite a few opportunities to score, especially in the second half, but squandered them. They were also missing the metronomic boot of fullback Kieron Lewitt, who was ruled by injury. Add to this a referee who seemed to some to be unclear when to award a penalty try and you have recipe for defeat.
The All Blacks, on the attack early on, won a penalty award in the fifth minute. It was a difficult kick from about 35 metres wide out but fly-half Jake Murphy landed a fine goal. Fifteen minutes later the Essex club's backs mounted a handling move which ended with left wing Mark Billings touching down in the corner; and when there was hesitation between the All Blacks' halfbacks and a kick from Murphy failed to find touch, Southend ran it back at them, breaking tackles, and their No.8 Daniel Legge scored, again wide out.
Full-back Andrew Frost kicked a penalty in front of the posts and All Blacks' lock Ben Hilton was sin-binned for coming in at the side, the Essex men 13-3 up at half time.
From the re-start the visitors got into rhythm and began slowly to narrow the gap, their driving forward play having a telling effect, although it took them 25 minutes to add to their score. They won a lot of early possession and territory, and Murphy had another penalty shot but missed, before they battled to the home line and, after several driving mauls which Southend brought down, were awarded a penalty try which Murphy converted to make it 13-10.
But Southend were determined to maintain their first half effort, kicked a penalty downfield and won a line-out and another penalty. Their scrum-half Sam Arnott was about to tap it when the referee signalled him to wait. The All Blacks were caught napping as, instead of waiting, Arnott tapped, made the line, and was awarded a try, Frost adding the extras to make it 20-10 with ten minutes left.
The All Blacks again battled to the line. Time and again Southend brought down the driving maul in front of the posts. Three of their pack were sin-binned but still the referee would not award a penalty try. Finally, in the 80th minute, Hilton crossed for Murphy to convert for 20-17. The All Blacks came yet again but it was too late.
This shock defeat will be a wake-up call to them ahead of the local derby with Redruth at Polson Bridge next Saturday.