Hartpury – not for the first time in recent history – found themselves out-gunned by the Cornish Pirates at the Mennaye in Round 3 of the Championship Cup.
After a first half hour in which the visitors were, broadly speaking, competitive, they were swept away in a blitz of tries which saw Pirates collect six scores in the 25 minutes either side of the break.
The game was played in good conditions on a bright and calm day with relatively little wind to worry either side. Hartpury – as has been the practice during the Cup competition – were much-changed from the previous week, with youth again very much to the fore.
The busiest man on the field appeared to be referee Neil Chivers, whose whistle was rarely far from his lips. Hartpury – without really ever losing their discipline – somehow managed to collect three yellow cards, all connected with the tackle laws, and one of which, in particular, was to prove extraordinarily costly.
The early signs were promising for the visitors. Prompted by a lively display from scrum-half Charlie Chapman, they started the game with a sense of purpose that had been missing at Bedford in the previous week.
They did have some early issues at the set-piece, as line-outs and a scrum were lost in the opening minutes, although they did resolve these problems as the game progressed. With the ball, they looked to attack with width, taking the game away from the huge Cornish pack, and whilst not always successful in gaining good ground they were, at least, asking a few questions.
The game’s first try came in the 11th minute when the generally excellent Pirates scrum half, Alex Day, had his kick charged down in the vicinity of his own 10 metre line. Hartpury hooker Luke Stratford got a second nudge forward and had the pace needed to win the foot-race for the score. Cozens added the extras.
Argentinian fly-half, Javier Rojas Alvarez, landed the first of eight successful kicks shortly afterwards – after a ‘high’ Hartpury contact – before centre Tom Seabrook was the first to get a 10-minute break in Pirates’ sumptuously upholstered ‘sin-bin’ for what looked like a ‘no-arms’ chop tackle on hulking Pirates skipper, Tom Duncan.
Rojas Alvarez added a second penalty as Seabrook returned, although Cozens was able to respond shortly afterwards as Cornish also fell foul of the referee.
With 30 minutes showing, winger Ed Sheldon was carded for an innocuous-looking tackle on the touchline and this was the signal for Pirates to cut loose.
The resulting penalty was kicked to the corner with the almost inevitable result, as Cornish added backs to their already heavier forwards to drive Tom Bolwell over.
Minutes later, Rojas Alvarez launched a cross-field kick to the right. Although it was not well-executed, Hartpury’s shortage of personnel on Sheldon’s now-vacant wing meant that former student Alex O’Meara had time to turn back, collect the ball and set off on a mazy run past an over-stretched defence.
Hartpury did hit back with a score of their own. Exemplary skipper, Tom Pashley – Hartpury’s best player on the day – fielded an over-cooked Pirates box-kick before setting off on a powerful charge up-field (pictured – courtesy of Brian Tempest). His pass allowed Chapman to draw the cover before feeding back inside for winger Aquile Smith to score.
At 20-17, Hartpury might have been happy with their first-half effort, but there was still time left in the half – and the expensive sin-bin – for Cornish to grab another. This time some good off-loading saw them break straight up the middle before full-back Kyle Moyle was alert to pick and score from the breakdown.
It was important that Hartpury started the second half well but, in truth, they rarely troubled the Pirates after the break.
A 5-metre scrum was the perfect platform for Duncan to feed Day for an early try, before Kyle Moyle, arguably the best player on the pitch, completed his hat-trick with two searing long-range breaks, in the 53rd and 63rd minutes.
In between those outstanding efforts, there was a more prosaic score from Callum Patterson, who was left all on his own after Hartpury had a clearance kick charged down.
There was still time for both Patterson and visiting debutant, Luke Scully, to collect further yellow cards before an injury to Pirates hooker, Tom Cowan-Dickie, brought the game to a mutually acceptable and premature end. Cowan-Dickie was, happily, reported to be fine after the game.
This was the sixth time in less than 18 months that Hartpury had gone down heavily to their south-west ‘rivals’, although they will get an early chance to achieve a small measure of retribution when Pirates are visitors to the Gillman’s Ground next Saturday (2.30pm).
Pirates: Moyle (Tries 39, 53, 63), O’Meara (Try 35), Parata, Patterson (Try 55), Wedlake, Rojas Alvarez (Cons 31, 36, 40, 44, 56, 64. Pens 14, 25), Day (Try 43): Owlett, Cowan-Dickie, Andrew, Caulfield, Cutmore, Bolwell (Try 30), Lee, Duncan. Bench: Walker, Gendall, Stevens, McRae, Schwarz, Cargill, Koster.
Hartpury: Leeming, Sheldon, Seabrook, Edwards, Smith (Try 37), Cozens (Cons 12, 38. Pen 27), Chapman; Flook, Stratford (Try 11), English, Quinn, Scott, Stephenson, Gilbert, Pashley. Bench: Liney, Merrey, Thompson, Linsell, Clementson, Bolt, Scully
Referee: N Chivers