Pirates start Cup campaign with fine win over Ulster
CORNISH PIRATES 34 ULSTER RAVENS 17
The Cornish Pirates successfully came through an entertaining first British and Irish Cup game against Ulster Ravens at Mennaye Field.
The Pirates have been going well in the Championship so far this season but have made it clear they want to challenge again for the cup they were the first to win in 2010.
And while Ulster's first team were fully focused on a Heineken Cup clash with Leicester Tigers, they still brought a team, led by lock Lewis Stevenson, with plenty of skill and experience.
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The Cornishman edged a keenly fought encounter 34-17 with tries from Aaron Carpenter, Mike Pope, Kieran Goss and Matt Evans doing the bulk of the damage.
It took both sides some time to find their feet under the Friday night lights. Pirates, arguably, started the brighter but some early handling errors stopped them making it count.
A catch-and-drive move deep in the Ulster 22 was fumbled frustratingly in the seventh minute but it only took Pirates little over a minute more to make a proper breakthrough.
It was No.8 Carpenter running from deep, bouncing off some rather soft Ulster tackles, who ran in the first try in the right corner.
Home fly-half Angus Sinclair, who had a luckless night with the boot the previous week against Moseley, saw his conversion attempt from an acute angle fall just short.
That setback for the Irish side seemed to spur them into action. A sustained attack could, and perhaps should, have brought their first touchdown of the night through Ricky Andrew.
However, the centre was adjudged to have gone into touch on his run down the left wing to the Pirates' tryline.
The home side then regained a little control. But they will have been disappointed to give away a penalty after surviving that spell and the assured nature of fly-half James McKiney's kick from long range was an early warning that discipline would be crucial for Pirates.
Indeed, Ulster were causing problems for Pirates with the ball in hand and drew another penalty for offside, which McKiney slotted through the posts to give his side the lead.
Their single-point advantage didn't last long. Pirates' scrum was faring well and they applied serious pressure inside the Ulster 22 before eventually opting to kick a penalty through the posts from point-blank range.
A second try soon followed for the home side. The ball spilled loose to Cattle during an Ulster attack, he then found Pope who accelerated to the try line from 65 metres out, despite the best efforts of opposite number Peter Nelson chasing him down.
Nelson got his own back just before the half-time break, taking a fantastic pass from the impressive McKiney to score an unconverted try.
The visiting side continued their offensive into the second half, taking the lead once more through another McKiney penalty.
Sinclair had a chance to kick Pirates back ahead just short of the hour mark, but again, he missed the target by the narrowest of margins.
Fortunately, full-back Goss ran in Pirates' third try soon after with a powerful run down the right touchline.
A yellow card for Michael McComish and a successful penalty kick from Sinclair enhanced Pirates' position further still.
McKiney and Sinclair traded penalties as the game entered the final ten minutes. But the fourth and final try then came from Pirates.
Just as their hopes of a score seemed to have diminished, Evans burst to the line, with Sinclair adding a simple conversion. Replacement Kieran Hallett added a late penalty just before the final whistle.