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Jersey Reds can’t repel on-point Pirates

Rugby | Published:

CORNISH PIRATES deservedly retained second place in the Greene King IPA Championship with a rare league victory at Jersey Reds’ Stade Santander.

Jersey Reds lock Kyle Hatherell drags down Cornish Pirates centre Callum Patterson at St Peter Picture: ROB CURRIE (26926771)

Although they did not seal victory until the dying seconds – a try from winger Robin Wedlake denying their hosts even a losing bonus point – few of the excellent crowd of 1,500 could argue against Pirates plundering the four points.

Games between the two teams have nearly always been tight and this was another in the balance right up to the death, with Jersey pushing hard for a try in the Scoreboard Corner that, if converted, would have put them in front with time almost up.

But a slight, if telling, edge that Pirates had on Jersey’s pack told at the crucial moment. With home fans banging the boards for the first time as they sensed a sensational end to a battle that had produced few clear-cut opportunities, penalties to touch and lineouts led to rare Jersey possession in the visitors’ 22.

With the Pirates’ line so close Jersey chose to throw near the front of a lineout, with hooker TJ Harris’s delivery being safely taken down. But Pirates had sniffed the opportunity and had their defensive drive for the touchline going almost immediately. It was an awesome piece of defensive determination and they drove the Jersey pack over the sideline before celebrating as if they had scored a try. In effect, it was as good as a try as it signalled the end of Jersey’s bid to gain yet another last-gasp league win over the Cornish side.

Pirates secured possession from their lineout and edged up the field to safety, before mounting a studied attack, via a lineout in the Bowl Corner, across the field to Wedlake. He made good use of the most space a winger had been allowed all day to touch down in the Airport Corner. Cargill added the unnecessary extras, to leave Jersey nursing a 13-point loss and their first home league defeat to Pirates since their Championship debut in 2012, though Pirates have won at St Peter in cup competitions.

It had looked, oh so different early in the first half.

Jersey had already threatened before centre Rodney Iona’s progression through in midfield allowed Namibia World Cup man Janco Venter the smallest of gaps to burst through. The towering, yet fleet-footed, No 8 was caught short of the line, but twisted, turned and shot his arm out to ground the ball on the Airport side of the Jersey Bowl end. Superb effort – and Jersey missed him when he went off injured later on in the half.

Brendan Cope added the conversion and a sunny day had gotten even sunnier.

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Pirates were not for panicking, however, and never looked like folding, as much as Jersey tried to put them under pressure. The lack of space available to Jersey’s two lethal wingers, Leroy Van Dam and Alex Morgam, when they did see the ball, marked Pirates out as a side that meant business.

But when a Cope central penalty from 30 metres, earned from a scrum, sailed through the posts at the Jersey Bowl end, the Reds’ 10-0 advantage looked exceedingly promising. Surely from this base a victory could be assembled.

But no, it was Pirates who seemed to take the initiative, wresting back control in an almost stealthy manner – a sign of a good and confident side. They pushed Jersey deeper and deeper, without opening them up, but hooker Tom Cowan-Dickie was held up over the home line after being driven over by his increasingly determined pack.

As it was, Pirates were forced to make do with a Will Cargill penalty in front of the Jersey posts to get themselves on the scoreboard before the break.

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Hopes that Jersey might come out of the traps the faster soon faded after the turn-around, after a double blow. Reds’ skipper Josh Bainbridge’s challenge was deemed high and although never in red-card territory, it did draw a sin-binning yellow from referee Adam Leal . . . and a further reduction in the home lead after Cargill’s resultant penalty bisected the posts.

Now just 10-6 to the good, Jersey’s 14 men rose to the challenge to keep that precarious lead intact until their skipper returned, but that solid work was soon undone as replacement forward Tom Channon finished a lenghthy attack by surging over by the posts to give his side an 11-10 lead.

Cargill added the extras and with Jersey now coughing up the ball or generally losing the battle on the ground, the visiting kicker gave his side a six-point cushion with another penalty.

Jersey were offering little in terms of penetration, although the general battle remained exceedingly tight. It still could go either way, though Pirates looked the better bet. And so it proved, though Jersey’s late excursion into the Pirates’ 22 could have made for another memorable entry to add to the clubs’ joint history.

Jersey’s first opponents in the Championship in 2011, they have now met each other on 19 occasions, with the Reds’ winning ten times to Pirates’ nine.

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