Category Archives: Cornish Pirates

Score 7 tries and lose a match?

(This article first appeared in the match day programme for Rotherham Titans v Richmond in the Greene King IPA Championship on Saturday 30/9/2017)

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Before last weekend, if someone had said we would score 7 tries away in Cornwall, I don’t think I would have believed them. But we did. Shame that they scored 8. When you score 7, YES 7, tries away from home and still only get one point, it doesn’t seem fair.

Almost every prediction on Rolling Maul had us down for a hiding 5pts to 0pts. I hoped for a bonus point, so why was I so disappointed when we got one? Because for a time in the second half, it really felt like we could come from behind and win the game. We were only 5pts behind, 52 – 47, and we were putting them under pressure. We could have won, or drawn the match, in the last 9 minutes.  But our defence on the line just couldn’t hold out, their rolling maul and scrum were better than ours by that point, and then the final 3pts for a penalty, as the whistle blew, just made it look worse than it really was.

A crazy, crazy game. 66 points in the first half, both sides with a bonus point for 4 tries before half time. End to end stuff, with great breaks, great running and skilful handling, but with awful defending from both sides. Missed tackles, passes thrown away to the opposition, people finding gaps where there really shouldn’t have been any, messed up line outs; you name it, both teams did it. Both coaches were tearing their (metaphorical) hair out on the touch line and the crowd was loving every minute of it.

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Both teams gave everything in a hard, physical contest. One hit on Calla had most of the crowd wincing, and there were late hits, and people flattened without the ball as players flew into tackles to try and win the game. At the end, everyone looked exhausted. The crowd of 1244 shook their heads as if they couldn’t believe what they had just seen and I think many of the #ShedOnTour will be there on Titans Tuesday to check out exactly what they did see!

The stats for the weekend showed 445 points were scored across all the games. So our match accounted for over 40% of the points scored in the Championship! Have the new rules made such a difference, with more space and opportunity for the attacking teams, faster games with fewer scrum penalties, fewer bodies cluttering up the rucks? I don’t have the stats for that but I’m sure someone will be looking at them. Or is it just that on Sunday, both teams went out there determined to get their first win of the season, threw caution to the wind and just attacked every time they could? Neither team seemed to remember that defence is part of the game as well!

It was an amazing game, but one we could/should have won, if defence had been anywhere near as good as the attack. At the end of the match everyone needed to go and lie down in a darkened room to recover, or at least head to the bar for a drink.

Crazy Kernow weekend.

A weekend away in Cornwall

 

Down in Cornwall, Spring is just arriving. The trees aren’t quite turning green, but in the lanes, the first primroses and camellias are out and, despite the ankle turning mud down by Looe Bar, the snowdrops in the woods are beautiful. My family have lived down in Helston for the last 15 years, so the trip to Cornish Pirates is always one I put in the calendar as soon as the fixtures are published.

Driving down on Friday the sun was shining, the sea at Penzance was many shades of blue, and St Michael’s Mount looked wonderful in evening light. Started really well, our weekend in Cornwall.

The wifi connection let us watch young Mr Umaga kicking his points for England U20’s, on Friday night. My brother’s daft dog loved his treats, the niece and nephew liked their presents too; all was set fair for a good weekend.

Saturday was spent at the Leisure Centre in Penzance (after the very muddy dog walk) and we watched hundreds of kids, from tiny to giant, thrashing up and down the pool in the second weekend of the County Championships. Good job we were indoors, as the weather turned nasty. Was Cornwall trying to tell us something? We managed to find a tv to watch Scotland v Wales. Not a good day for the Welsh. My Scottish friends made sure I understood the significance of the result! Weekend not going so well.

Sport in Cornwall looked to be thriving due to the efforts of volunteers and parents prepared to spend ages sorting stuff for kids. I loved the fact that people brought knitting, crochet, films on iPads, big, thick novels, and even a tapestry, to while away the hours between races. And enormous amounts of food! The nephew did ok, not brilliant, but ok. He wasn’t happy with just ok, so after an enormous curry to replenish the lost energy, he retired to bed ready for a second day of competition up in Bodmin on Sunday.

The hope was there that Sunday was going to be the best day of the weekend – for the nephew and for Rotherham!

We woke to howling winds, spitting rain and the fear that it wasn’t going to be our day after all. My niece sensibly decided that a walk in the rain was not a good way to spend a Sunday, stayed in bed, and missed out on the 10’ waves off Sennen Cove, and wind that took your breath away. Bracing was the word; not even the craziest surfers were risking their necks in that sea. The hope was that the wind would die down before kick off at 3. No chance – Cornwall seemed out to get us!

The teams ran out into a gale; Rotherham had to fight against it all through the first half, and when they came out for the second half, the rain started as well. Torrential rain, blasting across the ground. We lost the match – check out the reports in the ‘Tizer for the detail as Mr Ricketts also enjoyed a weekend away in Cornwall.

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The nephew returned from Bodmin with some PB times, qualification for Regional Finals, so we all headed for the pub. Not much to celebrate really, but overall the weekend felt positive. The team played much better than they did against Bedford – rolling maul tries still a nightmare for us to defend – there didn’t seem to be any more serious injuries and I got to spend time with my family. Spring really is just around the corner, and hopefully we can build on what was a much better performance in a soggy, windy, but very beautiful, Cornwall. Can’t wait to come back next year.

This piece was first published in the matchday programme for Rotherham Titans v Ealing Trailfinders on Saturday 4th March 2017

Kernow Bys Vicken *

Last weekend I spent Sunday (23/10/16) waving a St Piran’s flag ** and cheering on a Cornish team. Not something I’ve done before, and nothing whatsoever to do with rugby…. or perhaps that’s not entirely true…
The Amateur Swimming Association held their National County Championships in Sheffield, at Pond’s Forge, last weekend, with every county represented. 1200 young people, and their friends and families, screaming their heads off and supporting their team. I was there supporting Cornwall, specifically my nephew Ben Hallam, swimming for his county and achieving two PBs in the events he took part in. It was his first swim at National level, and you can’t ask for more than personal bests. Very, very proud aunt and uncle.


Hours of training have gone into this, from when he was very small, with a weekly swimming lesson, to 5 or 6 days a week in the pool, and competitions most weekends, now he’s older. I am in absolute awe of his commitment and dedication to his sport. His parents, like so many involved in supporting their offspring in competitive sport, also deserve a medal. The hours in a car, plus huge amounts of food, specialist gear for events and training – have you seen how much the Speedo stuff costs! – all this takes dedication from them as well.

The question comes; how good is he? Well, physically he fits the mould for a swimmer, well over 6 feet tall and only just 15. Huge feet make great flippers, big shoulders, long arms, endless stamina and a focus on his sport that I never had when I was his age. He’s learnt to deal with physical pain and setbacks very early on in life, such as breaking a collar bone when skiing with me a few years ago. I know how much it hurt but he never complained and even took up Dave Swift’s (Rotherham’s physio) advice that, ‘there’s nowt wrong with your legs, lad, so get on a bike’. He found an exercise bike and spent 6 weeks pounding that until he could swim again.

I did harbour the hope that Ben would get into playing rugby, rather than just enjoying watching it, as he’d make a great second row forward. But he’s clear about his goals, to swim at the highest level possible, and I hope that one day you’ll see him in a British set of Speedos, swimming for his country, and remember that his mad auntie wrote about him in a rugby programme. Rugby, swimming, any sport; you need the dedication I see in Ben, as well as the support from the clubs and volunteers who give up their weekends to run events like the Championships, not forgetting the parents, family and friends who travel the country to support and encourage them.

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I only realised later that this piece would be in the programme for the Cornish Pirates game. Sorry lads, I won’t be waving St Piran’s flag or cheering you on; my loyalties lie with Roth. And you won’t get Ben’s support either for this particular game – he was born up here and Roth are his team; although if he ever gives up swimming and decides to be a second row forward, you can have first dibs on him.

* Cornwall For Ever
**  Patron saint of Cornwall

 

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First published in the match day programme for Rotherham Titans v Cornish Pirates on Saturday 29th October 2016 (and we won with the last kick of the game!)

Winning in Cornwall

For Rotherham Rugby Club, it is still a rare occurrence, to win at The Mennaye, but such a good thing to be part of when it happens. I can’t imagine what the bus ride home must have been like in the years when we lost. We’ve been lucky to be part of the #ShedOnTour for the last 2 years, when we’ve sent the boys back to Rotherham with huge smiles all round.

Before the game, there was much discussion in the local hostelries about possible outcomes – and not much agreement! Pirates have had an interesting season, their coach commenting ‘the consistent thing….has been our inconsistency!!’ They lost to Moseley and a 14 man Doncaster. Then they go and beat Bristol.

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We met a Pirates fan, complete with parrot, on our way to the match. His opinion was as confused as ours – no real idea what his team would do, but felt they were improving steadily. A quick half hour in the arcades on the front showed my niece’s specialist skills,  winning a Minion from one of those fiendish grabber machines – no idea how she does it but she’s very good.

Warming up, the Pirates pack looked enormous. The No. 4 made Sean and Barney look small, and their front row looked pretty big as well. Perhaps it was the beards making them look extra scary. So, with lots of sunshine after a morning of rain, a band, the man with the parrot alongside Mick as Kronos, we were ready for yet another appearance on Sky TV.

It was a lot better than last time at Worcester.

From the start, there was a sense of us being in control, fast up onto the line, huge hits going in on the monster Pirate pack, the accuracy of James McKinney’s kicking. It all made for a fast and furious first half, with a try for Curtis just after the half hour, right in the corner. James needs to have words about getting nearer to the posts to make conversions a bit easier! The huge rolling maul just before half time had most of the backs on it as well, with Jack Preece buried in the middle to finally touch down.

We were hoping for the same in the second half, as my brother and nephew were racing back from Bodmin. They arrived at half time, watched some great defence from Roth, as Pirates tried to get back into the game, and then we were celebrating the final try down near us, courtesy of Alex Reider. A great end to the day.

But for all that, the best moment of my weekend was when we found out just how well my nephew had done at the ASA County Swimming Championships. He showed us the medal he’d won for being the best 100m backstroke swimmer in the whole of Cornwall. He’s only 13, very, very tall, with huge feet, and spends half his life in a swimming pool. Like the Roth boys, Ben understands the need to train for hours, to eat well, and to have to give up lots of stuff, if you want to be successful in sport. How good is he? Well he can do 50m in less than 30 seconds – that’s 2 lengths of your average pool. I’m not going to admit how long it takes me! Will he make it to a higher level? Only time will tell, but he has the right attitude and determination. I was as proud of him as I was of our rugby team, who showed the same qualities, way down in Kernow.

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This article first appeared in the matchday programme for Rotherham v Bristol on Saturday 21st March