Moseley 27, Cornish Pirates 27
FOR the first time in seven seasons the Cornish Pirates failed to win their opening match of the league campaign, but there was more head scratching than open criticism here as for the second season in a row Moseley came from behind to snatch a late draw at Billesley Common.
The final score was a fair testament to the endeavour and resolve shown by the Midlanders as they battled back from a 19-point deficit just before half-time to finally seal the draw deep into second half stoppage time through a penalty try converted by Ollie Thomas.
Pirates High Performance Manager Chris Stirling had warned his squad in the build-up to the season's opener of the perils of playing at Billesley Common and after the final whistle, he said: "The players came here wanting to win and win well.
"Parts of the performance were satisfying from a coaching perspective, but there were also parts which were not.
"Some of our game management and decision making definitely let us down and let the opposition back in the game.
"In the first half we were going okay but from a turnover Moseley scored. Then in the second half from a couple of set pieces in their territory we made a bizarre call at the line out, turned it over, and then we were back down on our own goal line again."
But Stirling praised Moseley for their fight back. He said: "I have to take my hat off to the opposition because they played a style of rugby which pushed us in all directions and stretched us.
"They were very good at retaining the ball and we struggled to get it off them."
The Pirates named three debutants in a strong starting line up and on a warm and blustery afternoon in the Midlands started well and led 10-0 at the end of the first quarter through a Rob Cook penalty and converted David Doherty try.
As he had done a week before in pre-season at Worcester, Doherty showed great pace and vision to take a pass from the mercurial Drew Locke and burst clear from half-way to score.
Mike Ellery responded with Moseley's opening try, showing an equally good turn of speed for a back row forward following a turnover snaffled by flanker Mike Maltman.
But two quick converted tries for the Pirates late in the first half from Ian Nimmo and Cook, after excellent work by Locke, appeared to make the game almost safe as they led 24-5. Moseley, however, had other ideas.
Either side of half-time they struck with scores of their own from Paul Spivey and Brad Hunt and even though a Cook penalty pushed the Pirates' lead back up to ten points, Brad Davies hit the target with a place kick from half-way to cut the lead to 27-20 with half an hour to play.
Cook was yellow carded for the Pirates and Locke briefly hospitalised following a midfield collision which rendered him momentarily unconscious, but all the Moseley pressure finally told in the sixth minute of added time as referee Terry Hall awarded Moseley a penalty try.
Former Pirate Ollie Thomas slotted the simplest of conversions to level the scores, leaving a disappointed Stirling to reflect: "We are going to have to be a lot better than that and there will be a lot to work on this week."