Rotherham Titans 14, Cornish Pirates 19
THE Cornish Pirates made it five wins in a row to set up a huge showdown on Sunday against league leaders Bristol as they battled past a predictably bruising challenge from Rotherham Titans at Clifton Lane.
After a huge effort from the Titans ground staff the game went ahead at the fourth time of asking. But it was the Pirates who began the brighter of the sides and having taken the lead and then lost it, they battled back to regain the advantage and then scrapped every inch of the way on a wintry Monday afternoon to keep it.
Forwards coach Ian Davies was clearly delighted with the win, but felt that the team could have made life easier for themselves.
He said: "It was a battle alright, but we did everything we could to lose the game."
"We missed 11 points with the boot, albeit in difficult kicking conditions, but we built the pressure and often failed to take our chances doing everything but scoring. We have to look at that but we knew it would be really tough here."
He added: "They are a big side with massive backs and forwards and we knew it would take a big defensive effort. That is what we delivered."
And Davies praised his forwards for their tireless effort. He said: "They worked really well, especially in the first half. Heavy legs then told in the second but we had a four-three split on the bench because of injuries to Laurie McGlone, Ben Maidment and Mike Myerscough, so we had to be cautious about replacements."
With only a minute on the clock Ceiron Thomas pegged Rotherham back deep into their own half with a fine penalty kick to touch and from the resulting lineout and drive the Pirates shunted the home pack over their own line. Dave Ward was credited with the all important touchdown.
Rotherham fought back immediately and excellent work by Tom Foden created space for lock Barney Maddison to score in the corner to level the match. Gary Law's excellent touchline conversion nudged the Titans into a two point lead, but it didn't last.
Just before the half hour mark the Pirates pack heaved Rotherham off their own ball at a scrum on their twenty-two and Tom Kessell claimed the loose ball before racing in to score.
Thomas landed a brace of penalties before the interval to make it 16-7, but also missed a sitter in front of the Rotherham posts.
Wing Grant Pointer did all the hard work, weaving to the line with a strong diagonal break but knocked on as he reached to touch down under pressure and the chance was gone.
Thomas slotted his third penalty early in the second half but Titans boss sent on the cavalry and within minutes former Plymouth Albion forward Robin Copeland had gone over for a second converted try for the Titans.
Suddenly, the Yorkshire side were playing with their tails up and the Pirates had to dig deep to hold them at bay. But a heavy downpour on an already muddy pitch doused the Titans' fire and the Pirates fought back into the game.
Thomas missed with another late penalty as the Pirates looked to make the game safe but with both teams battling each other to a standstill it was the Cornish side who hung on for a deserved victory.
Davies added: "We are getting to the play-offs now and Bristol on Sunday will be another step up. Then it's Moseley at home and they will be fighting hard.
"We think we will have to come back to Rotherham at some stage in the play-offs and psychologically this will be a big boost for us, because they are a tough side to beat."