London Welsh moved up to second in the Greene King IPA Championship table despite seeing their bonus point winning run come to an end at Mennaye Field.
A fourth straight win, however, was still enough to leapfrog the Exiles above Leeds Carnegie in the table and close the gap on league leaders Bristol to three points, with four rounds to go in the regular season.
Two well taken tries from Nick Scott and Daniel Browne put Justin Burnell’s side firmly in control at the break, after a polished first half display, and Carl Kirwan’s touchdown mid-way through the second half looked to have broken Pirates’ resolve.
But frustratingly a fourth try never arrived for the away side and instead Craig Holland’s late touchdown closed out the scoring.
It was an early poor touchline clearance by Holland which eventually gave Alex Davies the chance to open the scoring – the Welsh scrum half bisecting the uprights after the away side were adjudged to have gone in at the side of a ruck.
Kieran Hallett’s restart drifting out on the full summed up the home side’s indifferent start to the game. Welsh were not exempt from making errors with the boot, but when the chance came for the game’s opening try, they took it clinically.
Penalised at a scrum, the Exiles found themselves defending a lineout inside their own 22, only for Alan Awcock to intercept when the home side spread the play across the pitch. The full back had Seb Stegmann in support and within a flash Scott was racing away to score. Davies converted.
Accidental offside against Welsh gave the home side a first chance for points, but Hallett couldn’t punish the Exiles on the scoreboard.
Just as at the Kassam earlier in the season, the scrum was proving to be keenly contested, and Welsh certainly weren’t having it all their own way.
Welsh’s lineout, though, was operating perfectly and when Ollie Stedman rose highest to reel the ball in it proved the catalyst for the away side’s second try. Sonny Parker forced his way through the Pirates midfield and good link play between Stegmann, Davies and Daniel Browne saw Welsh make ground into the 22.
Although good scramble defence halted Welsh, it would prove only a temporary reprieve. Showing good patience, the Exiles kept possession and went through the phases until Daniel Browne was able to force his way over from close range.
The Pirates had the chance to respond on the stroke of half-time, when Hallett’s boot took play deep into the Welsh 22, but accidental offside left the home side frustrated as they looked to drive over.
Against a Pirates side who a week earlier had put 33 points on Bristol, albeit in a losing cause, Welsh had been controlled, and clinical when the occasion had called for it.
The first opportunity for second half points went the way of Welsh, but Davies couldn’t reward the work of his pack after they’d been awarded a scrum penalty.
The home side then had a fortuitous escape when former Pirate James Tincknell charged down an attempted clearance, only for the ball to rebound viciously and roll dead.
The game suddenly opened up when Awcock and Davies combined but it was one of several chances that went a begging for the Exiles, with the home side turning the ball over and counter attacking.
The home side were beginning to get up a head of steam. Having worked their way into the Welsh 22, however, the Exiles were indebted to the alertness of Nathan Vella to dive on a loose pass, after Chris Morgan had broken a couple of tackles.
Somewhat against the run of play, though, Welsh struck for try number three. Daniel Browne pilfered the ball from a ruck and Welsh counter attacked with purpose. Stedman eventually released Scott and although the winger was brought down short, his offload sent Kirwan over.
It was a third really well executed try by Welsh and a fourth consecutive bonus point win seemed theirs for the taking. They went in search of it, but the Pirates had no intention of meekly surrendering it, nor being kept scoreless at home.
Welsh came close when Davies’ crossfield kick found Tom May loitering on the left wing, but the bounce was unkind and the Welsh team captain was bundled into touch.
Instead it was the Pirates who struck in the closing moments – Holland winning the foot race to touch down after a couple of hack ons.
That left Welsh to settle for the four points, but given that the Pirates hadn’t lost at home in the Championship since September it was no less a victory for that. The focus now turns to Bedford Blues at the Kassam Stadium on Sunday.
Cornish Pirates scorers:
London Welsh scorers:
Tries: Scott, Daniel Browne, Kirwan; Cons: Davies; Pens: Davies.
Referee: Martin Fox
Referee Assistants: David Proctor & Luke Pearce