Match Report: Cornwall vs York Acorn
February 11, 2024
Cornwall RLFC’s Challenge Cup hopes for 2024 were ended by York Acorn after a scrappy and controversial clash in the Duchy.
The National Conference League side deserved their victory overall in a match played out on a real mud bath.
After wet weather had hit Cornwall earlier in the week, 24-hours before the game, less rain fell than expected meaning the pitch was soft, but better than expected. However, 30 minutes before kick-off, a downpour which caused Cornwall to abandon their warm-up temporarily, saturated the pitch, making conditions heavy and treacherous.
The game started as expected with both sides content to keep the ball in the forwards, meaning expansive rugby league football was at a premium.
But after just six minutes, referee Kristoff Young sent Acorn full-back Matt Chilton to the sinbin for a professional foul.
Cornwall couldn’t make their numerical advantage count and it was indeed the visitors who drew first blood after 12 minutes when Jack Byrnes gathered a kick in behind to dot down.
It was a hugely fortuitous opening score as home full-back Cameron Brown slipped in the muddy conditions and Byrnes was on hand to score. Antony Chilton missed the extras but Acorn were in front.
Cornwall tried to muster a response to going behind, but the League 1 outfit were the architects of their own downfall. Twice the ball didn’t find touch from a penalty and on another occasion, an Acorn kick was palmed into touch unnecessarily.
Back to a full complement, York thought they had scored again, but great defence out wide by Harry Aaronson saw his opposite number Ben Tenge bundled into touch.
After 25 minutes, Adam Rusling was poleaxed off the ball and both teams ran in as a mass confrontation ensued.
Byrnes and Liam Whitton were the men sent to the sinbin but at 12-a-side, Cornwall scored next to go in front for the only time.
Maltese international Kaine Dimech crashed onto Rusling’s flat pass to dot down near the sticks for a first try in Cornwall colours. Rusling tacked on two extra points to give the Choughs a 6-4 lead.
Any hopes the home crowd had of their side seizing control were dashed five minutes before the interval when hooker Alfie Crawford burrowed over for Acorn’s second try. Chilton kicked the conversion and a penalty in the opening stanza’s dying embers to make the score 12-6 in Acorn’s favour.
Cornwall responded well in the second half and they pinned Acorn in their own half with the away team’s defence finally wilting to the best move of the match.
The hosts ran the ball on the last and a neat interchange out wide between Whitton and Coby Nichol eventually found Rusling to score.
Crucially, though, the former Castleford and Hull Kingston Rovers man couldn’t make it a six-point score and Acorn were still ahead.
Cornwall were well on top but with the pitch badly deterioating, they couldn’t find a way through and then got on the wrong side of the match official too.
Rusling took another late hit for his troubles which was only deemed a penalty before two huge melees resulted in Josh Hartshorne seeing red for the Choughs.
After Cornwall knocked the ball on in a promising attacking area, Mike Abbott’s men were then given a penalty for the afters. But carrying the ball first up, Hartshorne spilled it and both teams came together again.
Punches were thrown and Hartshorne was sent off although incredibly, no Acorn player was deemed worthy of at least a 10-minute sabbatical.
From that moment onwards, Cornwall were up against it and with 14 minutes left, Byrnes was deemed to have got the ball down for a second time after a kick to the in-goal.
On this occasion though, he clearly fumbled the ball and as Cornwall expected to be awarded the restart, the referee awarded the try which Chilton converted.
Frustration then started to creep into Cornwall’s play, not helped by a small section of visiting supporters hurling abuse at the home players, medical staff and ball crew.
The final action of note saw Nichol sent to the sinbin for a high tackle as Cornwall finished the half with 11 men.
And then as the final whistle sounded, the unsavoury scenes continued with Acorn fans invading the pitch to end this cup tie on a sour note.
Cornwall: Brown, Whitton, Ashton, Nichol, Aaronson, Punchard, Rusling, Hartshorne, Collins, Boots, Cullen, Simpson, Weetman. Interchange: (all used) Dimech, Ross, Trerise, Lloyd.
Tries: Dimech (33), Rusling (52)
Goals: Rusling 1/2
Sinbin: Whitton (25) – running in, Nichol (77) – high tackle
Dismissal: Hartshorne (60) punching
York Acorn: M Chilton, Sheperdson, Parker, Potter, Tenge, A Chilton, Hammerton, Prescott, Crawford, Rushworth, Hunt, Myers, Lord. Interchange: (all used) Conroy, Burns, Byrnes, Porter.
Tries: Byrnes (12, 66), Crawford (35)
Sinbin: M Chilton (6) professional foul, Byrnes (25) – late hit
Referee: Kristoff Young