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2006 Re-visited

By Woll
March 15 2009

REMEMBER 2006 - The Cornish Pirates came close to achieving a notable win at Leeds, only to lose out at the death when the home side found a way back from the end of the plank. How they managed it depends on your viewpoint of course, but on balance the Tykes will consider themselves fortunate to dig out a 'get of jail card' from nowhere.

The Pirates though will rue the missed kicks, one of which obviously would have sealed it, and they will have to learn how to kill off these better teams when they have them at their mercy.

Leeds of course are no Quins of last season; they've lost shed loads of players since relegation from the Premiership; appear to have an injury crisis, and with youngsters being thrown into the fray could be excused for a season of damage limitation and building for the future. But they are no mugs and anyone who takes them lightly will be punished. This is a club, with a new stand [sound familiar?] and a Premiership feel still about the place, even if they play second fiddle to their league cousins, and struggle for support. Even so, a crowd of a little over 2000 with a noisy contingent of Cornish fans making themselves more than heard for a good deal of the time, awaited kick off with anticipation for an intriguing contest.

The Pirates kicked off towards the new Carnegie Stand and immediately had the Tykes under pressure. Struggling to clear their lines, they eventually cracked and conceded a first minute penalty, but Alberto's attempt went narrowly wide. This had fired a shot across the Yorkshiremen's bows about our intentions and any early nerves must have been settled. Encouraged by this the visitors sought more and such was the intensity only six minutes later, Leeds openside Dunbar found himself binned for some misdemeanor missed by the writer. Innocence in this can be claimed as at this point I was involved in 'discussions' with ground security as to what I and Woll Jnr were actually allowed to do with our pitchside passes. Could we take pictures discreetly, but not here or there; or could we cheer on the team, but not both! Talk about jobsworths, but at least they were polite about it, even if it was farcical?!?

Anyway, it wasn't until Dunbar returned to the fray that we even realised he had been off! By which time Di Bernado had ammended his earlier miss and slotted over a penalty to break the deadlock, only for this success to be outdone by a well taken try by Hepworth two minutes later following the first real attacking sequence of play by Leeds. Hinton missed the extras but this flurry of scoring wasn't over as from the kick off the Pirates again put the home defence under pressure. Possession was regained inside the Tykes' 22 and space created for McAtee to squeeze through to regain the lead at 8-5. 'Bert' repeated his earlier miss with the conversion to the left of the posts as he looked, but the vibes suggested everything was all in hand. Maybe the home fans' impatience with his preparation had got to him, but I timed it two minutes later when Leigh levelled it with another penalty, and it took a few seconds longer ...whatever.

As expected this was brewing into the expected tight match with the Pirates definitely edging it and looking the more dangerous once they could recycle the ball into their backline. Defensively too, they looked the more astute, and other than the try and one other occasion when Leeds attacked the line at pace, seemed to be under control.

With good cause it was the Cornish fans making the noise as the half hour mark passed; the visitors still generally controlling things but not able to apply the killer blow. Then Paves was invited to watch from the sidelines for what must have been in the officials eyes [dodgy sight if you ask me] persistant offending around the breakdown and the Pirates were down to 14. Leeds huffed and puffed but their pack found it difficult to bully our remaining seven forwards and had to make do with another Hinton penalty to regain their lead.

The Pirates' tackling though was immense and best summed up by McKeen's hit on Biggs as he tried to clear his own lines. On impact he was only going one way and that was backwards as Stan caught him so sweetly you could feel the breath of the winger create a breeze out on the nearby moors! The resulting penalty for holding on saw Bernie easily cancel out the deficit on 35 mins.

Despite being the man down, the half was seen out with the Pirates in the ascendancy, even coming agonisingly close to adding to their try count, but without further reward. 11-11 didn't tell the whole story but it would surely do and bode well for the second half?

Seemingly so, as the visitors picked up where they had left off and extended their lead through a well created and nicely taken drop goal from the the Italian/Argentine stand off on 42 mins. Mr Paver returned to the fray around the same time, as did Betty who'd been replaced by Anderson in Alan's absence from the front row. There followed some ten minutes of status quo with the Pirates seemingly having things in control and Leeds lacking any real answers, particularly when Hinton made his third miss of the game which may have sparked former Pirate, Richard Welding's introduction. He received a warm enough welcome from home and travelling fans alike, but his presence didn't have the desired effect and with the hour mark drawing ever close Di Bernado gleefully took the opportunity to extend the lead further to 17-11 with a marvellous penalty from around the half way line. Soon after we saw the introduction of Chris Cracknell who replaced Sam Betty who'd given his all.

Even so it was clear that such a thrilling if sometimes scrappy match was to be won, the Pirates needed a larger margin than this to make sure. As if on cue, Hinton found target again with his third penalty to reduce the deficit to three and further jangle Cornish nerves which were by now beginning to show.These were calmed a little with ten minutes remaining when Bertie slotted his fourth penalty to regain a six point lead but at 20-14 the next score would settle and/or win it surely?

The Pirates sensing this turned up the heat and began to turn the screw even tighter in search of a match winning score. Ball retention was good but Leeds were managing to slow down play at the breakdown which referee, Wigglesworth decided not to punish. Despite this the line beckoned and the pressure began to tell on the home side as discipline and concentration began to fray. This was highlighted as the Pirates surged forward again after a second drop goal attempt went begging and forced a home lineout close to their own 5m line. Such was the disarray that the Leeds hooker took the throw while the backs were still discussing how to deal with it. A knock on ensued and from the resulting scrum the Cornishman battered the line trying to find a way through. This ultimately came to nothing when McAtee knocked on himself with a second try beckoning.

Leeds at last cleared their line and for the first time in a long while pushed forward themselves and began to look dangerous. The Pirates defence looked to be holding until three minutes from time according to the scoreboard clock, when the Tykes conjured up something from nothing to breach the line for a second time through Hepworth. Hinton's boot found it's target with the conversion and against the run of play they may just have stolen the points.

There was time left but the tension was rising as the Cornishman restarted knowing they needed that ball and quickly. To their credit they did and they set about the task of setting up one final scoring attempt. With the tackles flying in from the home defence the Pirates' pack ground their way towards as good a position as they could. In hindsight maybe they should have shown a little more patience and looked to get a bit closer, but then it's easy to say that from the touchline. From a similar position to where he'd sent one sailing between the posts at the start of the half, Di Bernado was presented with a chance to score another drop goal which wasn't struck as cleanly and went low and slightly wide.

The scoreboard clock now stopped and went out without displaying minutes 79 and 80, and clearly now we were playing what injury time the officials deemed necessary. The chance though had gone and there was no way back left. Leeds did what was necessary to stifle any further Pirate play but it was all in vain for the visitors as the whistle finally blew. The relief in the home support was palpable and in sharp contrast to the utter disbelief with their rivals. They must have known this was a victory nicked from under the Pirates' noses but then why should they care? A win is a win.

With despair etched on the Pirates players' faces as they made their way back to the changing room, it should be noted of their willingness to acknowledge the travelling support. I mention this as I recall the critisism they received some ten months previously after the Quins game. Tonight they were visibly gutted but made the time to shake hands, thank fans for coming to see them, and apologise for losing. In such a circumstance I'd have wanted to just get inside and punch a locker door or two. But these guys knew they'd seen a win slip from their grasp but were humble enough not to let their own frustrations take over. I defy anyone to suggest that the players are not proud of the badge or don't wear their hearts on their sleeves.

A fourth consecutive bonus point for the Cornish Pirates maybe little compensation, but could prove vital as this season progresses. Albion may well sit pretty on top at the moment having earlier in the day disposed of a poor Otley side to remain the only undefeated team in the division. But I suspect by the latter stages of this campaign, any team remaining in the title race may have already lost four or five times at least, such is the closeness of the challengers so far. On this performance the Pirates should be in the mix, though they will have to find that extra degree of ruthlessness that was missing tonight.

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2006 Re-visited
Unofficial Pirates (IP Logged)
15/03/2009 23:14
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