A LATE try double earned Cornish Pirates two unexpected bonus points as they suffered their fifth defeat in six games.
Despite the closeness of the final scoreline though, the Pirates were well beaten by a very impressive Nottingham side.
The Pirates paid dearly for having two players sin-binned, with the Midlanders scoring 19 points while they were off the pitch, but the defeat was down to more than that.
The commitment of the players could not really be faulted, with young flanker Matt Bolwell a shining light in a man-of-the-match display, but the Pirates lacked accuracy and continuity in their play at times.
They produced a great finale to take something from the game, but it was too little, too late to snatch a dramatic victory.
It was not the way that prop Jack Andrew would have wanted to celebrate his 100th appearance for the club.
Pirates suffered a blow in the warm-up, with back-row replacement Tom Duncan injured, so dual-registered hooker James Fish stepped into the match-day 22, giving the Cornishmen four front-row substitutes.
The Pirates made a poor start, with skipper-for-the-day Toby May yellow carded for a deliberate knock-on. Nottingham kicked the penalty to the corner, and even though the hosts defended the driving maul well, the Midlanders made the most of their extra man with a pinpoint crossfield kick gathered by unmarked winger Sean Scanlon for a simple try.
Fly-half Tiff Eden slotted a fine conversion, and Nottingham led 7-0 after only five minutes.
The sin-binning continued to be costly, with a period of pressure on the Pirates line ending with a clever little grubber kick by scrum-half Darryl Veenendaal through the home defence to provide another try for Scanlon, with Eden slotting the extras for a 14-0 advantage.
The Pirates showed they were equally adept at scoring points from kicking the ball in behind the defensive line, with the delivery off Alex Day’s boot bouncing kindly for Kyle Moyle to score, with Laurence May adding the conversion.
However, the Pirates almost conceded again straight away, with centre Joe Cobden just failing to get a clear grounding on another deft kick through by Veenendaal.
It was end-to-end stuff, with Moyle only denied a second try by a touch judge’s flag indicating a foot in touch after some great hands by the Pirates’ backs.
A 40-metre penalty by Laurence May reduced the deficit to four points, but that was swiftly cancelled out by full-back Will Millett.
Pirates received another setback as half-time approached, with Kiwi centre Dan Koster maybe harshly yellow carded for what was deemed a tackle in the air on Scanlon, and once again Nottingham made the most of their numerical advantage, with a try only seconds later in clubhouse corner by replacement winger David Williams after a slick handling move, to give the Midlanders a 22-10 interval lead.
Only a try-saving tackle by Day on winger Billy Robinson denied Nottingham a dream start to the second half, inside the first minute, and instead it was the Pirates who opened the scoring after the break with a second try of the game, and a sixth of the season, for Moyle, who created space with a dummy after a move off the back of a scrum, to make him the joint top try scorer in the Championship, and May converted superbly from the touchline.
Nottingham’s response was excellent though, and it was Veenendaal again, the former Bedford Blues scrum-half, who showed great footwork to go over beneath the posts for his side’s bonus-point try, with Millett improving the score for a 29-17 advantage to the visitors.
And they took a firm grip on the game six minutes later with a second try from Williams, after another beautiful crossfield kick by Vili Hakalo.
Moyle limped off 17 minutes from time to add to the woes of Pirates, but they had saved the best to last.
Day raced over for what looked like it would be nothing more than a consolation try, but there was still time for a superb individual score from Koster, who chipped the ball over the defender and won the race to gather the ball, with May converting both, to lift Pirates’ spirits as they now take a break from the Championship and kick-off their British and Irish Cup campaign with a visit to Hartpury on Saturday.
Cornish Pirates: T May (capt), A O’Meara (N De Battista 49), D Koster, P Laverick, K Moyle (W Cargill 63), L May, A Day, M Walker (B Keast 46), T Cowan-Dickie (T Channon 57), J Andrew (C Judge 50), J Caulfield, T Freeman, R Cooper, M Bolwell, T Lawday. Replacements not used: J Fish, A Taylor.
Pirates: Tries: Moyle (2), Day, Koster; Conversions: L May (4); Penalty: L May.
Yellow cards: Pirates: T May 4, Koster 39.
Nottingham: W Millett, B Robinson, J Cobden, V Hakalo, S Scanlon, T Eden (D Williams 24), D Veenendaal (M McConnell 66), T West (A Sio 71), J Stevens (B Brownlie 69), R Burke (D Langley 12), T Cardall, D Qualter, B Morris (capt) (J Poullet 62), J Coghlan (M Everard 69), S Buckley.
Nottingham: Tries: Scanlon (2), Williams (2), Veenendaal; Conversions: Eden (2), Millett; Penalty: Millett.
Referee: Mike Hudson (RFU).