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Heartbreak at Headingley

Leeds 33 Pirates 9

By woll & woll jnr
March 29 2009

The past month has been as mad as the March Hares who seem to take great daylight in punching out each others lights at this transitional time of the year. Unpredictable results have become the norm (and why not?!); twists and turns in the race for promotion come and go; and drama & intriugue off the park both amuse and disgust in equal measure.

No wonder then that our furry friends can be excused from putting their gloves down, distracted inititally by hints of a white flag poking out from the teepees in the west no doubt, to witness a heroic performance from the Cornish Pirates that deserved an awful lot more than they came away with.

The visitors morale coming into this game had taken a lot of knocks, not least following two straight home defeats at the start of the month that had finally scuppered any serious chance of improving their league position, let alone a top four finish. Some quarters no doubt expected a capitulation, thus allowing Leeds to get their league campaign back on track with ease and regain top spot in the process. The latter of course was the end....with three injury time tries from Barrow, Bluckett & Paul, but this was in no way a 33-9 game.

The blood spilt (literally) by the men in red, black and white came from honest endeavour and was epitomised by Evans' two visits to the sidelines for needlework amongst others, as the Cornishmen stood their ground valiantly. As the sun which had shone throughout began to lower to the west, it seemed as if a losing bonus point would be held on for as a minimum, or, if one moment of brilliance could be engineered by a Pirate in their willingness to run from deep, be rewarded with an extra point for the draw or who knew what....

It wasn't to be of course as the levy was breached with 79 minutes on the clock and Cornish hearts were trampled on with relish, as the Carnegies then threw everything for the bonus point; including skipping the odd conversion. Earlier however and the small band of Pirates faithful who made their presence felt throughout, even dared to think the impossible.

For nearly half an hour only Di Bernado's 2nd penalty separated the teams as Leeds for all their huff 'n' puff couldn't pierce the Cornish 22 for love nor money. Their set piece too was a shambles with Rawlinson, for all his ground gaining runs, unable to hit a barn door with a dustbin lid. Or so it seemed.

The Pirates indeed had opened the scoring with a peach of a penalty from Jones; close to the touchline and just inside Leeds territory, with barely three minutes passed. Former Pirate, di Bernado predictably responded five minutes later with a penalty awarded for not rolling away from the tackle area (3-3).

Away from the tee and the game until Hinton's try to and fro'd between both 22's without actually seriously threatening incursion within either. It was interesting if unspectacular, as both backlines settled for being tested under the high ball, with Winnan in particular passing these examinations with ease. No surprise there then.

Then came the first error in the Pirate defence which the Yorkshiremen pounced upon, allowing the full back to dot down to the left of the posts with the help of a suspiciously forward pass en route. The trip on Fairhurst as he went to collect the ball from another awry Leeds throw-in just prior added further salt to an open wound, probably inspiring further, Morgan's subsequent rallying of the troops under the posts as di Bernado dissected the uprights for the third time. It was the stuff of legend. A colourful descriptiveness that shocked the hardened natives under the scoreboard with it's ferocity, but it's effect was immediate and sufficient to quieten the home fans who'd only just became animated.

Refusing to rollover meekly, the last ten minutes of the half were mainly spent towards the new(ish) Carnegie East Stand as the Pirates threatened a score of their own. With Winnan now gaining in confidence and running at the defence, this enabled wide men Tuohy and (7's World Cup Winner) McAtee to use their pace. The Big Boys were having some fun too, with Heard having easily his best game of the season to date, making some big carries with a safe pair of hands, and could so easily have added five himself.

That he didn't, or more to the point Morgan, who appeared to have done so legally enough; began more and more to look to be down to the man in the middle and his sidekicks; who seemed intent on penalising the Pirates whenever they came within 10m of the tryline. It can feel like that some times even if the truth is somewhere in between.

A second Jones penalty reduced the arrears to seven just before halftime (6-13), and only a try saving tackle by another ex-Pirate Welding on Blair Cowan wide on the left, denied the visitors chance of parity before the break.

The Pirates re-started afterwards and picked up from they left off as they sniffed a real possibility of a notable result. Four minutes in and a drop goal from Jones saw another three points on the board to keep up the momentum (9-13).

What wind there was, was clearly now in Cornish sails who brought on some fresh legs up front without any noticable detriment to performance. Leeds countered in mirror fashion as yet another ex Pirate, Ma'asi, joined the fray in tandem with that man mountain Fosi. Slowly but surely their presence began to tell as Leeds' set pieces tightened up and the Pirate scrum began to creak.

The consequence of this shift in balance of power set up a spell where the hosts at last found the proverbial front foot. Time and again they pounded their opponents defence but encouragingly from a Pirate point of view, just couldn't find a way through.

To a man, the Western Men stood up to the task regardless of any planned or fortunate mismatch. Seeing relatively diminutive figures such as McAtee, Devlin and Jones not only tackle the human equivalent of the Yorkshire Dales, but stop them in their tracks and even turn the ball over belittled some of the criticism that has dogged this season.

Even so and despite bravely never giving up looking to attack themselves and maybe snatching a draw or something more, as the last quarter progressed proceedings were once again centred at the East Stand end. The 'Singers' began to be fired up with alarming frequency as Pirate players formed an orderly queue for the blood bin; but still they refused to surrender as Mr Apgeraint Roberts continued to antagonise the Pirate bench sensibilities with some more 'interesting' interpretations.

And then in the blink of the eye, it had all been for nothing or might just as well have been. For five painful (or joyful) minutes, depending on allegiances, it was like watching the life drain away from a once handsome beast who moments before had stood tall and proud. Interested parties looking at just the final scoreline will conclude inaccurately as to how this had been reached. The look on the Pirate players' faces needed no translation from the despair on display.

Hopefully once the cuts and bruises heal, they'll realise that today they looked a match to the eventual victors and where their destiny lies. They also displayed a spirit and passion that warmed many a Cornish heart, however broken it felt in the immediate aftermath. Heroes the lot of 'em!

Cornish Pirates: 9
15 A. Winnan 14 R. McAtee 11 B. Tuohy
13 P. Devlin 12 S. Winn 10 R. Jones 9 E. Fairhurst
8 M. Evans 7 C. Morgan 6 B. Cowan
5 B. Gulliver (capt) 4 Mike Burak 3 S. Heard 2 R. Elloway 1 P. Cook.

Replacements: all used
16 A. Paver 17 D. Dawidiuk 18 S. Franklin 19 H. Senekal 20 I. Motusaga 21 N. Griffiths 22 T. Luke.

Pens: Jones 2
Drop Goal: Jones

Leeds: 33
15. Leigh Hinton 14. Richard Welding 11. Lee Blackett
13. Jonny Hepworth 12. Henry Paul 10. Alberto Di Bernardo 9. Joe Bedford
1. Mike MacDonald (c) 2. Rob Rawlinson 3. Tommy McGee 4. Erik Lund 5. Jon Pendlebury
6. Jon Dunbar 7. Calum Clark 8. Rhys Oakley

Replacements: used 16. Fosi Pala'amo 17. Vili Ma'asi 18. Danny Paul 20. Scott Mathie 21. Scott Barrow 22. Jon Goodridge
un-used 19. Andy Boyde

Tries: Hinton, Barrow, Blackett, Paul
Cons: di Bernado 2
Pens: di Bernado 3

Touch Judges: Andrew TAYLORSON, Barry DALBY

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Heartbreak at Headingley
Unofficial Pirates (IP Logged)
29/03/2009 22:09
What do you think? You can have your say by posting below.
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Re: Heartbreak at Headingley
LadockPirate (IP Logged)
30/03/2009 10:25
No faulting the lads this time Woll. They fronted up and were unlucky at the end.

When will Roberts give us a break? Thats 9 losses for Pirates in the 9 matches he's supervised in the last 3yrs....

Re: Heartbreak at Headingley
cornish cockney (IP Logged)
30/03/2009 10:39
Unfortunately couldn't make the game yesterday,but from what i've heard or read the boys put in an outstanding effort,we can all live with defeat but if the commitment and heart is there we can't ask for anything more,it was always going to be a tough game against the division's top side,so lets just say well done and hope for a better result next time out.

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