Great Spirit Despite Narrow Loss to a Strong Leos Outfit . . .
The Pirates welcomed Leos 2’s to a bitterly cold and wind swept Jim Saynor Ground for this Merit table fixture. Coach Al Cawkwell-Brown and captain Jon Wiggins had assembled another large squad with Andy Lambert, Evan Jones and Gary Dukes making their first appearances of the season. The Pirates started well with a number of strong forward carries assisted by the howling gale behind them, with the referee finally awarding a penalty for a Leos offside. Jed Wolfram stepped up to give the Pirates an early lead. 3-0 2 mins From an attacking line Ben Kernoghan found Will Smith and the Pirates drove Leos backwards, Leos defended the initial surge well but Gareth Drane switch to the blind side and Matt Williams crashed over in the corner. Wolfram added the extras. 10-0 8 mins.
Leos were now starting to assert pressure in the scrums and broke up the pitch with a hack on, but Sky McKeon managed to get back and defuse the situation. From a tap penalty Leos big prop made good ground and Leos backs finally broke though the defence but Drane got across to stop the Leos winger a yard from the line. More good lineout ball from Smith saw Matt Audsley break for the line and winger Tom Hall was bungled into touch. Then from an attacking scrum the ball was transferred quickly to Williams who sailed through the Leos centers to score under the posts. Wolfram added the conversion. 17-0 28 mins.
Leos broke from defence and some strong forward carries created the space for Leos full back to race away and open Leos account with an unconverted try. 17-5 30 mins. Good work from Russ Robertson won a long range penalty which Wolfram knocked over from 50 meters to extend the Pirates lead to 20-5 35 mins. A series of penalties led to Leos being held up on the line by some determined Pirates defence, but Leos recycled to the blindside and their massive prop drove over to make the half time score Pirates 20 Leos 10.
The Pirates started the second period strongly and a determined run from Sam Beagrie led to and attacking ruck 5 metres out but the Pirates were penalised for holding on. Undeterred a strong run by Raffen Cherrington saw another chance for the Pirates but McKeon’s pass out wide was caught by the wind and flew into touch. The Pirates were pinned back again and tried to break out of defence but the move ended with both Williams and Beagrie injured and having to leave the field. Incredibly the next passage of play led to the influential Smith also being injured and forced to leave the field. The Pirates were now facing wave after wave of pressure and when a Pirates clearance kick blew back to where the ball had been kicked from, Leos went through the phases and their No10 scampered over for a converted try. 20-17 60 mins.
With the Pirates only option no to keep the ball in hand, any mistake was been punished by long kicks and the Pirates were pinned back on their own line. Eventually the brave defensive effort was foiled when the Leos winger was stopped on the line and a big forward picked up and scored in the corner. Conversion added. 20-24 77 mins. There was still time for the Pirates to show great spirit by working their way up the field and forcing an attacking lineout. The drive was repelled by Leos and the ball spun wide to Mike Wells who was tackled just short and Leos hacked the ball clear to leave the full time score Pirates 20 Leos 24.
This was an excellent performance by the Pirates against very strong opposition in atrocious conditions