Midlands Hurricanes 40 Cornwall RLFC 6 – Match Report
February 19, 2023
In an archetypal game of two halves, Cornwall began the 2023 Betfred League 1 season with defeat to Midlands Hurricanes.
The home side, who rebranded from the Coventry Bears last term, moved from Solihull to Birmingham over the winter and although the intention of the club is play at the main Alexander Stadium, this round one clash took place at the Birmingham venue’s warm-up arena.
Cornwall made the trip to the Second City after a full-pre-season schedule which has included friendly matches against divisional rivals London Skolars and Exeter University.
However, those games came at a cost for new Cornwall head coach Mike Abbott with Aaron Jones-Bishop (knee) and Reece Boase (ankle) ruled out through injury. Josh Hartshorne (arm) also failed a pre-match fitness test which saw Kaine Dimech take the former Thornhill man’s place on the interchange bench.
Dimech was joined amongst the substitutes by recent capture Harry Boots whilst Abbott handed full, competitive debuts to Errol Carter, Nick Slaney and Cam Brown.
Under clear skies and in spring-like temperatures, the home side raced out of the traps and scored five tries inside the opening 21 minutes with Castleford winger Elliot Wallis, playing for the Hurricanes on dual registration, bagging an impressive brace.
But a shell-shocked Cornish side dug in well to only concede twice more and after a spirited second half showing, should have gleaned more than six points for their efforts.
On four occasions after the break, Cornwall were ruled to have been held up over the line by referee Kevin Moore with debutant Dimech, who along with Boots caught the eye, appearing to score but the man in the middle ruled otherwise.
Slaney scored the visitors’ consolation eight minutes from time, shortly after Wallis went from hero to villain when he was sent off for a below-the-belt punch on Charley Bodman.
Despite the Hurricanes playing the final stages a man light, they still managed to finish off the scoring through powerhouse centre Matty Welham.
The game began with Cornwall almost finding touch with the kick-off but Midlands kept the ball in play and built their first attack which resulted in an opening try. A powerful set saw Macauley Hallett dance his way over and Ben Stead knocked over the extras.
Midlands’ second score had an element of luck which deserted the Choughs on the day when Stead’s grubber hit Jake Lloyd, found Brad Martin’s arms, and another of the home side’s Castleford contingent had scored.
The game was as good as up for Cornwall with the clock barely reaching double figures as Dominic Flanaghan powered his way through a number of tackles to cross the whitewash. With Stead finding the mark again, Midlands were 18-0 ahead.
Wallis then bagged the first off his two scores out wide before hooker Elliott Windley picked up a Stead kick and Midlands were out of sight.
Credit to Cornwall, though, as they didn’t fold and although Mike Abbott’s side never threatened the Midlands line during the opening 40, they only shipped one further try before the break.
Wallis, who demonstrated his Super League pedigree again, was the man to score a converted try and Midlands had a 34-0 interval lead.
The second half was a totally different story for both sides as Cornwall were the team in the ascendency for long periods and last-ditch Midlands defence prevented the Penryn based side, in their second professional season, crossing more than once.
Midlands were perhaps the architects of their own downfall at times as they shipped a string of penalties and coughed up possession several times in dangerous positions but held firm until the last 10 minutes.
After Wallis pressed the self-destruct button and punched Bodman, Cornwall built out wide and interchange Coby Nichol drew the cover defence to send Slaney in the corner. Adam Rusling landed a magnificent touchline conversion before Welham finished off a flowing move involving Balami Qareare – the third Castleford dual-registered member of the Midlands side selected by head coach Richard Squires and last year’s Super League Try of the Season winner.
The full time siren perhaps came as something of a relief to Midlands, who only completed one set of six tackles in the second half whilst for Cornwall, they will be hoping to take inspiration from an encouraging second half showing into next week’s Challenge Cup tie against Rochdale Mayfield.
Cornwall: Whitton, Slaney, Carter, Ashton, Aaronson, Brown, Rusling, Ray, Singleton, Bolger, Cullen, Bodman, Lloyd. Interchange: Boots, Dimech, Prisk, Nichol
Tries: Slaney (72) Goals: Rusling 1/1
Hurricanes:, Hill, Wallis, Welham, Hallett, Qareqare, Coates, Stead, Moran, Windley, Clavering, Dawson, Flanaghan, Martin. Interchange: Bailey, Cullimore, Dawson, Gilbey
Tries: Hallett (2), Martin (8), Flanaghan (11), Wallis (15, 30, Windley (21), Welham (75)
Goals: Stead 7/8
Red card: Wallis (71) punching
Referee: Kevin Moore