TOO many errors and missed chances led to a 32-17 home defeat for Cornish All Blacks at the hands of a determined Southend side on Saturday.
The Launceston side were outplayed in all areas of their game and any glimmer of hope that they were back in the running was short-lived as Southend played throughout with an urgency that showed they wanted to win.
A second home loss in the trot will be a worrying wake-up call for the Polson Bridge side, who linger just above the National Two South relegation battle zone, but head coach Cliff 'Spike' Rainford is not ready to press the panic button yet.
“It didn’t go very well today,” he said. “We just made too many errors. There were chances but unfortunately we managed to not complete those chances that we got and that’s the difference between winning and losing. Southend just wanted it more. They wanted it more than we did.
“But we’ve got to not look at the league too much. There’s only 15 or 16 points between the top and the third from bottom and there were three teams on 49 points. We can’t hit the panic button just yet but we’ve got to make sure we maximise everything we do from now on.”
The Cornish side were far from being on top form against Southend. Despite notching three tries, they missed a host of chances to score and failed to take advantage of three yellow cards handed out to the visitors.
They looked close to scoring in the opening minutes but advantage was given away when they conceded two penalties in close succession. Fortunately Bradley Burr missed a penalty kick, but it did not take long for Chris Vaughan to make a break before passing the ball to Samuel Nash, who touched down for the first of Southend’s five tries.
They extended their lead with a penalty kick by Burr, followed soon after by another try, this time by Craig Strachan. Burr converted.
All Blacks made it easy for their opponents with sloppy tackling and at times a weak defence. Try number three followed for Southend when Thomas Gannon found touch on the outside wing.
Play moved down the field and Sisa Naqasima scored a converted try for the hosts before half time, but at the whistle they trailed 20-7.
There was some good rugby played by All Blacks at the start of the second half. BJ Chapman passed to Kyle Speare, who powered down the field only to fall just short of the try line.
The home side gained momentum and Naqasima found a gap to score his second try of the game. But within minutes Southend were back on the try line and Daniel Cleare went over for his team’s fourth try.
Southend were one man down after a yellow card but, instead of turning it to their advantage, the Launceston men knocked on and threw their chance away. An organised visiting side scored another try thanks to replacement Simon Pierce as full-time approached.
The hosts managed to make it to the line in time added on as Jamie Salter pushed his way through for a last-minute try, but they had left it too late for any hope of a comeback.
The disappointment was etched on the faces of the home side’s players but the win was welcomed by Southend skipper Mark Billings, who said: “This is my 11th season with Southend and I can’t remember winning down here. It’s a hard place to come down to.
“To win today, with three yellow cards, was great. We’ve still got a lot to work on but it was just a totally different intensity here, the boys worked really hard. There was a die-hard attitude and we didn’t want them to score.”