Cornwall RLFC 20, London Skolars 24
Cornwall came oh-so-close to a maiden Betfred League 1 victory with London Skolars just pipping the Choughs in a fiery Memorial Ground encounter, writes Gareth Davies.
The visitors had three players sent to the sin-bin by merry whistle blower James Jones, with interchange Michael Greenhalgh fortunate in the extreme not to see red for a clear punch on Josh Hartshorne just before the break.
After the turnaround, London’s ill-discipline continued as Luciano Bejanidze saw yellow for dissent while Judd Greenhalgh also incurred the wrath of Jones for a high shot on Cornwall’s outstanding half-back Adam Rusling.
Despite their numerical advantage, Cornwall couldn’t capitalise fully but still led 14-12 with 10 minutes left. Back to a full complement as the game entered its closing stages, Michael Greehalgh went from villain to hero for the Skolars as his try snuck the visitors ahead.
They finally broke brave Cornish hearts when full-back Jarred Bassett cut a brilliant line to cross four minutes from time. Joe Purcell did manage to score in the dying embers for Cornwall but it was a case of too late for the brave Choughs.
Before the late heartbreak, the match had started so well for Cornwall with new signing Aaron Jones-Bishop registering eight minutes into his debut.
Nathan Conroy’s perfectly weighted grubber was picked up by the Jamaican international and he finished brilliantly. Rusling booted a fine touchline goal and for the first time in Cornwall’s short nine game history, they found themselves ahead on the scoreboard.
But home joy was short-lived as London replied just before the mid-way point of the opening stanza.
After Cornwall were forced to defend three repeat sets, Lameck Juma twisted in the tackle to dot down right underneath the sticks and Phil Lyon converted.
The next 10 minutes of the match was a real arm-wrestle with neither side taking a backward step. But it was the Skolars who snuck ahead on 29 minutes as Judd Greenhalgh powered his way over from dummy-half. Lyon, again, converted.
London sensed blood at this point and went for broke with only a wonderful cover tackle from home full-back Liam Whitton denying Leighton Ball.
The game then exploded two minutes shy of the half-time hooter when Michael Greenhalgh pressed the self-destruct button. Cornwall hooker Luke Collins did well to force a Skolars error and after words were exchanged, Michael Greenhalgh punched Josh Hartshorne.
Despite referee Jones being well-positioned and after consultation with his two touch-judges, only a yellow card was brandished.
But that wasn’t the end of the first half drama as Cornwall were denied what appeared to be a second try when interchange Purcell got his fingertips to another fine grubber but the try was chalked off.
In the second-half, the next four-pointer was going to be crucial and it came from Cornwall with London down to 12. Rusling’s cleverly disguised reverse grubber bounced perfectly for Purcell who did the rest.
Rusling converted and the game was back to all-square at 12-12.
Cornwall then got their noses back in front with a Rusling penalty coming after Judd Greenhalgh’s high shot. Crucially, in the context of the game, there were no further Cornish points until London were back to 13 men.
And the capital outfit kicked on as time ticked down to claim a second successive win in 2022.
For Cornwall, they were left with a feeling of what might have been. However, this feeling was tempered with a realisation that an elusive maiden win isn’t too far away.
Cornwall: Whitton, Jones-Bishop, Aaronson, Tora, Trerise, Conroy, Rusling, Mullally, Collins, Prisk, Hartshorne, Odgers, Collinson. Interchange (all used): Bolger, Chard, Turton, Purcell
Tries: Jones-Bishop, Purcell (2); Goals: Rusling 4/4
London: Bassett, Ball, Yates, Small, Rance, Ramsey, Lyon, J Greenhalgh, Bell, Kaufman, Juma, Bejanidze, O’Callaghan. Interchange (all used): M Greenhalgh, Cox, Chrinside, Korang.
Tries: Juma, J Greenhalgh, M Greenhalgh, Bassett; Goals: Lyon 4/4
Sin bin: M Greenhalgh (punching), Bejandize (dissent), J Greenhalgh (high tackle)
Referee: James Jones; Touch-judges: Guy Pallett and Graham Shaw; Reserve referee: James Flood
[Featured image: Colin Bradbury / Cornwall Sports Media]