London Scottish 23, Cornish Pirates 25
A LAST minute try from Cornish Pirates No8 Blair Cowan proved decisive in this tense encounter with newly-promoted London Scottish at The Athletic Ground.
After a strong first half display from the Pirates pack, which yielded three tries, the Scots rallied and enjoyed a purple patch during the third quarter in which two tries for former Cornish All Blacks lock Steve Pape, coupled with two yellow cards for the Pirates, helped the home side establish a 23-17 lead.
But a strong finish to the game from the Cornish visitors, plus Cowan's dramatic late score, left backs coach Harvey Biljon pleased with the result as the Pirates remained unbeaten
He said: "We came out of the blocks well and the players delivered on everything we asked from them in the build-up.
"We were aggressive in the first half and put pressure on them at the breakdown. We dominated in the driving maul and at the set piece.
"In the second half we tried to control the game following some feedback we had received, but Scottish got back into the match."
He added: "But I will say that good teams win ugly and I think this was one of those games. You have to look at the character the players showed to ground out the victory and I have to be impressed with that."
The domination the Pirates enjoyed up front was much in evidence during a first half in which lock Ian Nimmo ruled the lineout, frequently disrupting Scottish ball, while back rowers Charlie Walker-Blair and Cowan were much to the fore in the loose.
Twice the Scottish pack were driven back over their own line in the opening 20 minutes, resulting in tries for Cowan and Walker-Blair, while speed merchant David Doherty made it three Championship tries in three games as he touched down on the half hour.
Dan Mugford's three penalties countered the Pirates' 17 points at half-time before the introduction of Pape, a strong showing from former Redruth talisman Mark Bright and yellow cards for Nimmo and Dave Ward turned the game on its head.
Pape scored two converted tries in 15 minutes to put the Scots 23-17 ahead and Biljon said: "It didn't help that we had men in the sin-bin and for 20 minutes we were down to 14 and the players had to dig in.
"The fact that they held onto the ball and starved us of possession put us under pressure, but we stayed composed and waited to take our chance."
The pre-planned introduction of club captain Gavin Cattle in place of James Doherty after 50 minutes did much to steady the Pirates ship, and in the closing stages, with everyone back on the field, they seized back the initiative from London Scottish.
With time almost up and penalties now being awarded regularly against the home side, full-back Rob Cook made the call to kick for touch after a ruck offence.
From the lineout and drive Cowan claimed the match winning try, leaving his coach both relieved and delighted.
Biljon said: "There will always be a debate between players and coaches on the right calls to make, but that showed the character of this side and their confidence in their own ability.
"We need a bit more composure and need to recognise that.
"We can build phases and put pressure on the opposition, but I think because we had scored some points we were getting away with it, but we were going for offloads and playing too much of an open game.
"We need to understand that, control the game, and sometimes build those phases again because that pressure will turn into points."