Cornwall RLFC’s penultimate away match in Betfred League 1 ended with defeat to Rochdale in a game that saw referee Cameron Worsley reach for his back pocket an astonishing eight times.
Although the game was a typically hard fought affair, bar Joe Taira’s poor cannonball tackle on Nathan Cullen just after half time, the round 19 clash could only be described as niggly at best.
The opening 40 minutes saw Cornwall lead on three separate occasions thanks to tries from Jayden Myers, skipper Jack Ray and three Adam Rusling goals. But Rochdale took an 18-14 lead into the break with Tom Whitehead’s try separating the two teams after 40 minutes.
Both teams spent time down to 12 men during the first half as Kieran Rush was shown yellow for pushing Harry Aaronson after Ray’s try. Nathan Cullen joined Rush for a 10-minute sabbatical for allegedly getting involved in the same incident.
Rochdale can have no complaints about Taira’s yellow card and on another day, his punishment could have been more than just a spell in the sinbin.
Cornwall couldn’t capitalise on Rochdale playing a man light just after the restart and when back to a full complement, the Hornets, under new coach Gary Thornton, scored two further tries as wingers Cian Tyrer and Dan Nixon doubled their collective tallies.
Then, with 12 minutes left what can only be described as a spate of handbags after Rush had given Ray an old-fashioned facial resulted in four cards – two for each team.
Ray himself saw yellow while Rush, after his first half sin binning was off. Cole Connolly, who acted as nothing more than a peacekeeper was dismissed along with Fenton Rogers. The Rochdale second row did appear to aim a head butt during the melee but contact seemed to be minimal.
Just 90 seconds later and Cornwall had another player yellow carded when Coby Nichol, chasing a kick in behind, was curiously sin binned for flicking the ball into one of Spotland’s three empty grandstands as he was falling.
The points and a first win for Rochdale under Thornton was then secured late on as Jy Hitchcox, playing at full back, scored his side’s seventh try of the afternoon.
Before the flurry of cards and points, Cornwall head coach Neil Kelly was forced to do without Liam Whitton and Josh Hartshorne through injury. Decarlo Trerise and club captain Jamie Prisk didn’t make the matchday 17 either, meaning a first Cornwall appearance for hooker Lewis Singleton after he joined the Choughs earlier in the week.
Bradford loan duo Jayden Myers and Coby Nichol started on the wing while Aaronson moved to full back in Whitton’s absence.
After missing the defeat to North Wales Crusaders in round 18, Jacob Beer, Louis Collinson and Aaron Jones-Bishop all returned to the fray.
The match started in positive fashion for the Choughs with Rochdale kicking off and shipping an immediate penalty as the ball sailed over the dead ball line.
Cornwall were immediately on the attack but Rochdale stood firm with visiting half back duo Adam Rusling and Joe Purcell typically industrious.
And then on 13 minutes, the away side made their early dominance count as former Hornet Tom Ashton created an overlap with Myers streaking in under the sticks. Rusling converted to hand Cornwall a 6-0 lead.
But the restart wasn’t dealt with by Kelly’s troops and veteran prop Fuifui Moimoi crashed over in trademark fashion and the scores were level after a successful conversion.
Cornwall nudged their collective noses back in front just shy of the 20 minute mark when Rochdale caught Ashton high and Rusling goaled from bang in front.
Continuing the topsy turvy nature of the opening period, Rochdale then scored a second try out wide through Tyrer although Cornwall hit back with 10 minutes to go before half time.
Another sustained period of away pressure resulted in Ray matching anything that former New Zealand international Moimoi could muster by going in under the sticks. Another Rusling goal, his third from as many attempts, nudged Cornwall 14-10 ahead.
Sadly for the Choughs, it was a lead they couldn’t keep as a frustrating six again on the last play created an opportunity for Nixon to score a try which went unconverted.
As the siren approached, Ashton tried to kick from halfway early in the tackle count but his sliced effort was gathered in midfield and Whitehead ran in to score.
Although Rochdale had scored four first half tries, their lack of accuracy from the tee meant that Cornwall were only four points behind at the mid-way point.
But with Taira’s poor challenge resulting in a second sin binning for Rochdale just two minutes after the restart, Cornwall failed to take advantage. A deep break from Aaronson and a Rusling interception should have resulted in Cornwall tries but a lack of composure when the try line was beckoning cost the visitors.
Rochdale found another gear to score two scores either side of the hour mark with Nixon and Tyrer scoring again.
Cornwall battled valiantly for a way back into proceedings before referee Worsley viewed a seemingly innocuous 26-man occurrence as something altogether more serious with repercussions for both side’s.
Nichol’s yellow card shortly after the pushing and shoving incident saw Cornwall then reduced to 10 men with Rochdale scoring one further try as Hitchcox dotted down from a set scrum move.
Cornwall were once again on the wrong end of a call from the referee in the dying embers when Purcell’s booming pass out wide was gathered and touched down by Myers.
However, Worsley called a forward pass and Cornwall were made to do with 14 points when their endeavours in Lancashire merited so much more.
Rochdale: Hitchcox, Nixon, Brewin, O’Keefe, Tyrer, Mcnally, Green, Moimoi, Roden, Rogers, Forster, Whitehead, Aspey. Interchange: Rush, Killan, Taira, Thomas.
Tries: Moimoi, Tyrer (2), Nixon (2), Whitehead, Hitchcox. Goals: O’Keefe 1/3, Green 0/1, Rush 1/2, Rodden 1/1.
Sinbin: Rush, Taira. Red card: Rogers, Rush.
Cornwall: Aaronson, Myers, Ashton, Jones-Bishop, Nichol, Purcell, Rusling, Bodman, Connolly, Ray, Odgers, Cullen, Collinson. Interchange: (all used): Bolger, Beer, Singleton, Howe.
Tries: Myers, Nichol. Goals: Rusling: 3/3
Sinbin: Cullen, Ray, Nichol. Red card: Connolly
Referee: Cameron Worsley.
Attendance: 300 (est)