Cornish Pirates 30, Rotherham Titans 13
CORNISH Pirates produced their best performance of the season to climb to the top of the Championship table with a bonus point victory over a tough Rotherham Titans side at the Mennaye Field.
It was no more than the Pirates deserved as they comfortably won the tactical battle and countered the Titans physical approach with a disciplined performance marshalled superbly at half-back by Jonny Bentley and Gavin Cattle.
The home side dominated territory during the contest forcing the Titans to continually play from deep, while in stark contrast the Pirates attacked with pace and width to eventually punish the Yorkshire side with four tries.
Forwards coach Ian Davies was delighted with the result. He said: "The players said that at the end of this month they wanted to be in the top two. We've still got a couple of games to go but right now we are sitting pretty.
"That was an 80 minute performance and we laid the platform with some outstanding work in the first half. In the second half we controlled the game very well and there was only going to be one winner."
Rotherham came to Cornwall in confident mood after hammering Bristol in their previous outing, but the direct and physical approach from the Pirates kept them firmly on the back foot and yielded two tries in the first 16 minutes as the pressure grew.
Wing David Doherty brilliantly squeezed into the corner for the first after turnover ball deep in the Titans 22 and skipper Gavin Cattle raced from the base of an attacking scrum to grab the second. Rob Cook's conversion and quick-fire penalty made it 15-0 to the Pirates and they never looked back.
Davies added: "We're not a bad set piece team and I thought the scrummaging, especially for Gavin's try, was outstanding. The scrum was absolutely rock steady and allowed him the space to get out wide."
Two penalties from Titans fly-half Gary Law briefly gave them a glimmer of hope, but late in the first half the Pirates again forced a turnover deep in the Titans half and Bentley's perfectly weighted grubber kick put Doherty in for his eighth try of the season.
Davies added: "JB played really well in the time he was on. He's a calming influence on the guys who know how well he plays and they then know exactly what they will get. But Ceiron Thomas played well when he came on and it is a luxury to have two outstanding outside halves."
Leading 20-6 at half-time, the Pirates were unable to add to their advantage during a frenetic start to the second period and it was Rotherham who fought back into the contest with a converted try from Semisi Taulava on 51 minutes.
"It was a concern for us, because Rotherham don't change what they do. They don't look particularly fit but they play for 80 minutes and grind you down. But we stuck to our game plan and made sure that we played in the right areas."
Drew Locke sealed the bonus point with a fine fourth try as Cook's kick ahead was chased down well and Thomas fed the centre with a superb final pass leaving Cook to convert the score before adding a penalty ten minutes from time to seal the victory.
Davies said: "We are getting better but are nowhere near the finished article and we shouldn't be either, because it is only November. We are pleased, but we won't be happy until we win the second leg of the play-off final and make it into the Premiership.
"That is when we will be happy. Until then, we won't be."