Close defeat for the Pirates


Following the postponement of their home match versus Doncaster Knights, for their final game in 2022 the Cornish Pirates travelled to Hartpury for this Friday evening match. A scheduled Round 11 fixture in
the RFU Championship, this seventh versus eighth clash in the league was expected to be close, and it was, but with the home side edging the result.

For this floodlit encounter at the Alpas Arena, back to fitness wing Robin Wedlake was making a return to action, plus it was good to see Garyn Smith, who has been luckless with injury this season, included among the replacements. With Ruaridh Dawson presently unavailable, Tom Kessell was named at scrum half, whilst the late withdrawal because of illness of fly-half Arwel Robson meant a call off the bench for Harry Bazalgette.

With no shortage of travelling support to provide suitable seasonal and vocal cheer, the Pirates unfortunately got off to a less than ideal start. Giving an early penalty away at the breakdown, their hosts would make them pay, as after kicking to the corner the ball was moved swiftly wide from the resulting line-out, thus enabling wing Brad Denty to score the game’s opening try. Centre Jimmy Williams added the extra two points with a successful conversion.

It took some time for the Pirates to settle into the match, but when they were awarded their first penalty an opportunity to score duly evolved. After Hartpury has been caught offside, Bazalgette fired one kick to touch following which the Pirates made more ground with some purposeful ball carrying. Pressure created led to another penalty being awarded, with Bazalgette’s second kick out of hand now taking the Pirates to within five metres of Hartpury’s line. A chance for points was clearly very much ‘on’, only for hopes to be dashed when the line-out didn’t function properly and their hosts regained possession.

Play that ensued was evenly fought, as the Pirates settled into the contest, whilst just before halftime they would suddenly then level matters. Skipper John Stevens firstly booted the ball up field, his fellow backrower Seb Nagle-Taylor also chased to apply suitable pressure, and in a spark of a moment it was full-back AJ Cant who charged the ball down and followed up to score. Bazalgette was successful with his conversion attempt and the teams shortly after trotted off at the break with the scores level at 7-all.

Sudden rain greeted the players back onto the field for the second forty, and although the Pirates were under the cosh for a spell, they would actually soon take the lead thanks to a first penalty of the match kicked by Bazalgette.

Hartpury would all but immediately hit back, however, as after flanker Sam Lewis used space to advantage it was supporting scrum-half Matt Jones who scored a try which was converted his halfback partner Tommy Mathews.

Recent calls from the Pirates have been to strive for 80-minute performances, and it was evident that the endeavour was there, with another successful penalty strike from Bazalgette narrowing the deficit to just one point as play entered the final quarter of the match.

A strong factor in Hartpury’s play was their driving maul, which they used well to earn penalty awards that ultimately led to a try being scored by replacement hooker Luke Stratford. Matthews added the conversion and shortly after also kicked a penalty to open a nine-point gap.

The Pirates had by now already lost replacement scrum-half Alex Schwarz to the sin bin, but after Bazalgette kicked another fine penalty to make it 22-16 there was at least still hope. Conjuring up a converted try would achieve victory, but at the end time ran out and it was a case of settling for losing bonus point.

Speaking at the end of the match, Cornish Pirates’ joint head coach Gavin Cattle commented: “It was tight and little in it, but I just thought Hartpury got the upperhand in the set piece and that gave them the edge. We also gave away certain penalties at line-out time, which perhaps comes down to
interpretation, and is something we need to look at as coaches, as we do for all areas of our game.

“Looking for pleasing aspects, we put in some solid defensive sets and keeping in contention were helped by a good performance from Harry (Bazalgette) who not only kicked some fine penalties but also kicked well out of hand.

“Ultimately, like most matches, there were crucial moments in the game and although good fortune at present appears against us, we stayed in the arm wrestle but just couldn’t quite get the required ascendancy.”

Hartpury: 15 Noah Heward 14 Brad Denty 13 Will Butler 12 Jimmy Williams 11 Sam Smith 10 Tommy Mathews 9 Matty Jones (21 Oscar Lennon, 63); 1 Joe Wrafter (17 George Kloska, 60) 2 Will Tanner (16
Luke Stratford, 60) 3 Alex Gibson (18 Mike Summerfield, 54) 4 Jack Davies 5 Dale Lemon 6 Sam Lewis 7 Harry Short 8 Joe Howard (captain).
Replacements (not used): 19 Danny Eite 20 Jake Holcombe 22 Mathew McNab 23 Harry Tarling.

Cornish Pirates:   15 AJ Cant 14 Robin Wedlake 13 Rory Parata (23 Garyn Smith, 50) 12 Joe Elderkin 11 Tommy Wyatt 10 Harry Bazalgette 9 Tom Kessell (21 Alex Schwarz, 73); 1 Olly Adkins (17 Marlen Walker, 56) 2 Will Crane (16 Max Norey, 62) 3 Matt Johnson (18 Harvey Beaton, 56) 4 Cory Teague 5 Will Britton (19 Josh Williams, 60) 6 Alex Everett 7 John Stevens (captain) 8 Seb Nagle-Taylor (20 Rusiate Tuima, 50).
Replacement (not used): 22 Carwyn Penny.

Yellow card: 21 Alex Schwarz (77)

Hartpury – tries: 14 Brad Denty (02) 9 Matt Jones (55) 16 Luke Stratford (69); cons: 12 Jimmy Williams (03) 10 Tommy Mathews (56); pen: 10 Tommy Mathews (72).
Cornish Pirates – try: 15 AJ Cant (38) con: 10 Harry Bazalgette (39)

pens: 10 Harry Bazalgette (52, 63, 75).

Referee: Alex Thomas Assistants: Ian Bibey & Peter Brunt
Attendance: 800