Win is rugby’s wake-up call

Win is rugby’s wake-up call

Truro born Tom Duncan, who cut his rugby teeth at Richard Lander School scores the opening try for the Cornish Pirates in their remarkable win over Saracens at the Mennaye Field on Saturday

10th March 2021

By Gareth Davies

The Voice’s chief sports writer Gareth Davies offers his verdict on the Cornish Pirates’ stunning 25-17 victory over Saracens.

For Cornish rugby supporters, St Piran’s Day celebrations were extended for another 24 hours after one of the greatest ever sporting triumphs the Duchy has ever witnessed on Saturday.

Here were the Cornish Pirates, financially strained and playing their first match in close to a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, facing the might of Saracens – until 2019 the undisputed kings of English domestic and European rugby.

The once mighty have fallen hard and fast as punishment for falling foul of rugby’s stringent but complex salary cap rules with a whole host of top players leaving the club since their Premiership relegation.

Surprisingly, Saracens’ England stars have stayed loyal to the club but due to Six Nations commitments, they didn’t make the trip to what one national journalist in the Pirates’ makeshift press box described as the ‘wild West’.

Despite being shorn of household names, this was still a powerful Saracens side which contained South African World Cup winner Vincent Koch, along with Scottish international duo Duncan Taylor and Sean Maitland – the latter a one-time Lions tourist to Australia in 2013.

On paper, it should have been a routine away victory for Saracens, but sport has this wonderful knack of not following the path many think it should take.

The likes of Koch and co were simply blown away by the Pirates who were so dominant at the set-piece, that if this was a boxing match, referee Sara Cox would have stopped the contest such was the hosts’ dominance.

The Pirates’ win was no fluke, they thoroughly deserved their glorious day in the spring Penzance sun and not only will this have raised a (socially distanced and at home) glass around Cornwall, it will surely have wider ramifications for those at Twickenham who are desperately trying to ruin the Championship with savage funding cuts and the ultimate aim to cast the Premiership away into a closed shop.

Events at the Mennaye Field on Saturday demonstrated what many knew already but the RFU wish to ignore – rugby on these shores is so much more than filling Twickenham for international games or the Premiership.

Saracens found out the hard way that rugby does exist below the supposed elite level.

Their wake-up call gave Cornish rugby one of its most famous days and hopefully the Pirates’ win will stir those in the corridors of power at HQ to stop their destruction of Championship rugby.