Plymouth Albion 5, Cornish Pirates 9
A POWERFUL performance from the Cornish Pirates in atrocious conditions at Brickfields helped them secure a season double over Plymouth Albion and leaves them on the verge of the play-off places going into the new year.
With ten games still to play in the Championship the Pirates are beginning to emerge from the mid-table pack and thoroughly deserved this victory in the cross-Tamar derby.
They dominated the set piece for much of the game with prop Alan Paver giving his opposite number Luke Cowan-Dickie a scrummaging masterclass, defended ferociously, and on an afternoon of gale-force winds and driving rain, took their chances when they came.
Two Kieran Hallett penalties midway through the first half and a third early in the second gave the Pirates a 9-0 lead before Cowan-Dickie scrambled over for an unconverted Albion try on the hour.
Home fly-half Paul Roberts missed three penalty attempts to compound the agony of the Boxing Day crowd. But Cornish Pirates head coach Ian Davies was in no doubt that the right team won.
"We deserved that," he said. "We dominated the first half without really getting the rewards for it because of a few errors by us – a couple of spilt balls and a couple of penalties – but in the second half when we knew it wouldn't be pretty, we dug in.
"Rugby is a man's game and the forwards dominated today. I think our pack totally outplayed Plymouth from one to eight and the subs who came on too."
He added: "That showed because Plymouth couldn't get any line-out ball in the first half.
"We had done our analysis and took them to the cleaners, while we had quality ball to play off and Kieran (Hallett) and Gavin (Cattle) managed the game really well. We should have been further ahead at half-time but we weren't.
"Taking the game away from Plymouth was massively pleasing for us and they offered very little.
"We knew it would be a battle up front and we worked hard on certain aspects of the referee because we knew his style, and I thought we adapted well to him."
While the game was far from a great spectacle for the holiday crowd, Davies was unapologetic. He said: "Rugby is about winning. It's not about being pretty all the time. Saracens are not very pretty, but they are very successful."
After struggling to threaten the Pirates offensively in the first half, Plymouth carried a stronger threat after the break.
But a poor kicking display in tricky conditions from Roberts, missing four out of four and costing his side a potential 11 points, kept Albion out of the game.
However, Davies had sympathy for Albion No.10. He said: "Paul Roberts will get the blame for their defeat, just like he did at the Mennaye.
"And it will have nothing to do with the other 14 men who couldn't get any ball or any continuity.
"Paul's a very good player and he had an off day with the boot, but the truth is that Plymouth lost today and this season against us they have lost two from two."
In a final desperate finale from Albion they were driven back from the Pirates try-line conceding a string of penalties and when the final whistle sounded, Plymouth found themselves back in their own 22.
"That made me smile inside as well as outside, which is unusual for me," remarked the Pirates boss.
"That summed up how well our maul had worked all game, because the only way Plymouth could get the ball was illegally, and the referee knew that too."