We have rather quickly arrived at the final game of our Covid-shortened season. While it might be easy to complain that we have had so few games, I look at it from the opposite angle and feel massively relieved and grateful that we got a season in at all, because there were dark days when it seriously looked like we might not.
On that note, I would like to recognise the work and sacrifices put in by the playing staff and operational staff just to ensure we met the appropriate protocols. A big shout out too to our local authorities who worked with us tirelessly to ensure we were able to get back to Rugby without putting the Island at any increased risk of transmission.
Our final opponents of the season are the Cornish Pirates. This is probably as close as we get to a local derby, so there is always a little added spice to this fixture. Pirates currently sit 4th on 30 points. They memorably started the season with a 25-17 win at home over Saracens which added a little jeopardy to the latter’s season and – if only temporarily – stopped the league becoming a procession to the play-offs.
The Reds turned on the style again last week handing Hartpury an 8 try thumping in their own back yard. I know the players were bitterly disappointed with their last home outing against Coventry and are desperate to make amends and go out in style in front of the Stade faithful.
While this is the last game of this season, we already have a very exciting pre-season shaping up. Watch out for news of that soon.
Enjoy the game and come on you Reds!!
Cornish Pirates were described by some observers as ‘under-cooked’ going into the current Championship season, having played just one pre-season match.
The first league match was against former English and European champions Saracens, who had played multiple warm-up matches. And were promptly beaten by 25-17 at the Mennaye Field by their Cornish hosts.
After stunning the rugby world and leaving a bit of egg on the faces of some pundits, the Pirates won comfortably against Richmond and Bedford to set up an early-season summit meeting with another unbeaten side, Doncaster, who shaded a tight battle at Castle Park by 17-15 thanks to a late penalty.
Pirates’ momentum was further checked as a result of a 10-38 home defeat to Ealing – the other unbeaten side at that point – but the next outing saw a return to winning ways at Nottingham (22-33).
The low point of the season came at the Mennaye on the last weekend of April, when visitors Ampthill claimed an 18-20 win.
Two weeks ago Pirates claimed a convincing 52-26 win over Hartpury, their sixth win in nine Championship games, while last weekend was a bye weekend.
The pre-season match mentioned at the outset was against the Reds at the Mennaye, with Pirates winning 26-13. It was the 20th game between the sides since the Reds reached the Championship in 2012, and tied the scores in the series at 10 wins apiece.
Many players have played for both clubs during the past decade, including Aaron Penberthy, Jonny Bentley, Grant Pointer and Tom Cooper. Currently there are two Pirates who were formerly with Jersey: prop Sam Rodman, who was on the Island for the 2018/19 season, and fly-half Arwel Robson, who was with the Reds last season, playing four games on loan from Dragons before the Covid pandemic hit. Jersey’s only Pirates’ old boy is of course Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon, who has now spent seven-and-a-half seasons with the Reds.
Meet the opposition
Introduced to rugby at Richard Lander School, Truro, aged 13, Cornishman Tom skippered the school's team that reached the National Schools Rugby Sevens finals in 1996.
Now aged 30, after initially joining the Cornish Pirates from Redruth in December 2012, repeated injuries continually frustrated and hampered his quite clear potential to shine at Championship level. It was of considerable credit that he battled through serious setbacks and steadily built his fitness to ultimately truly impress, often as captain of the side.
With an overall games tally to date totalling 133, the number 8 has also often displayed his try-scoring credentials – notching up an impressive 49 in just the past five seasons alone.
Sydney-born centre Rory, aged 26, arrived at the Cornish Pirates in 2018 from Italian Pro14 side Zebre. Raised from the age of nine in his mother’s native County Cork, he was educated in Ireland at St. Peter’s Community School in Passage West and at Rockwell College in Cashel. Qualified to play rugby for Australia by birth, Ireland through his mother, plus New Zealand through his father, of added extra interest Rory is also England qualified through his Liverpool-born grandmother. Capped for Ireland under 19s, he has previously represented Munster at youth level, then Irish provincial side Connacht, and Sundays Well, whilst as an all but ever-present member of the Cornish Pirates squad the consistent performer has to date made 56 appearances for the club.