December 15 2016
A return of the British and Irish Cup brought Cornish Pirates to the Madejski during the pre-Christmas lull. Both sides were undefeated in the competition up to this point and were putting-out sides rotated from their standard Championship choices. For Irish there were several debuts (can't read that word in anything other than an exagerated Australian accent these days - thanks EggChasers Rugby Podcast) and the bulk of the team were academy products. It was a difficult one to call - who would be the 100% successful team after this?
The scoring started when both debutant and academy-product Jacob Atkins had a dream-start supporting a barracking run from Gerard Ellis - at flanker for a change - to dot down over the line. A second try from skipper Conor Gilsenan bashed a fine forward's try in - Greig Tonks managed the second conversion if not the first.
So far, so good but Pirates hadn't come to watch Irish score and the visitors quickly re-organized and caused their hosts a number of problems. Opening their account with a penalty forced from their constant pressure and following it up with a converted try by pacey (Exeter Chiefs loan) winger Jack Arnott. His chip and chase was both thing of beauty and the stuff of nightmares for Irish defence.
At this point I'm fairly sure the home crowd were concered. It had started off looking like a standard walk-in-thepark and was now looking like a tense arm-wrestle. Fortunately Irish chose to "give it to Shane" with Sentiki "Shane" Nayolo boshing Pirates out of his way to score.
Another debutant, a very happy David Porecki, brought the half to a close with a try. David arrived from Saracens and has been struggling with injury ever since. His joy at scoring was obvious, he gives Irish another choice at hooker which is most welcome. Ellis looked very happy at 7 so I suspect we'll still be looking for another hooker for any return to the premiership but if David builds on this he'll be pushing the other David for the first-team spot.
So that was half-time, bit of a scare but 26 - 10 up and with the bonus point in the bag.
Again, the Cornish were not there to let us win the points. Second half began well for the visitors with an early try for Will Cargill intercepting a Tonks loose pass. This was matched by another debutant Matt Williams for Irish as Pirates fumbled the ball on their own goal line and the young centre leaped on it for his first try.
That was the closing score for Irish but not the end of the game as the visitors really turned the screw and fighting all the way to the end. A further Arnott intercept try gave them a little hope but the game ended with a home win 33 - 24.
For me it was a bitty performance - to be expected from a youthful, inexperienced team and certainly not helped by a frankly weird referee.
So Irish head into the return fixture with the perfect record - it's not going to be easy down at Mennaye, though. Pirates will have a point to prove and a team at home are a different prospect.pqs: qs:
If you do not already have an account Click here to Register.