Midlands Hurricanes 42 Cornwall RLFC 26 – Match Report
September 5, 2022
Cornwall’s maiden professional campaign finished with a 42-26 defeat to Midlands Hurricanes in an archetypal game of two halves.
A series of questionable refereeing decisions and powerful finishes from the hosts saw Cornwall 30-0 down after 40 minutes and staring down the barrel of the Betfred League 1 season ending without a whimper.
However, a lightning start to the second half saw Neil Kelly’s side score three times in 14 minutes to set home nerves jangling and raise hopes of a stunning comeback.
But no sooner had Cornwall dragged themselves into contention, Midlands found another gear to cross the whitewash either side of the hour mark to seemingly secure the two competition points on offer.
Cornwall refused to lie down and they finished the game strongly as Nathan Cullen and Jamie Prisk went over meaning the Choughs triumphed 26-12 in the second stanza – a huge morale victory for the fledgling side.
The strong second half showing came at a cost though with interchange Christopher Chard (pictured below) suffering a badly broken arm in the final 10 minutes. After a prolonged spell of treatment from both home and away medical staff, the Newquay based winger was led from the field.
He was taken to Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham and after being treated, travelled back to Cornwall with the team. It is expected that Chard will spend a prolonged spell on the sidelines and will need further surgery this week.
Chard wasn’t the only Cornwall player to leave the field in discomfort at Portway during a bruising 80 minutes as both Josh Hartshorne and Charley Bodman were forced from the action through shoulder injuries. Flying winger Harry Aaronson was also withdrawn 15 minutes from time after a heavy fall and despite passing a head injury assessment, he didn’t return to the fray as a precautionary measure.
Although Cornwll’s injury count piled up during the game, before the side made their shortest trip of the season, Kelly’s troops received a relatively clean bill of health with only Joe Purcell and Will Odgers not fit to play.
There was even the welcome surprise of Sam Gilder returning to the matchday squad after suffering a sickening concussion at Keighley in July. The Mevagissey raised hooker wasn’t named in the starting 17 though with Jake Lloyd returning to his favoured number nine berth.
Hartshorne shook off a calf problem to start in the front row with Nathan Cullen also returning in the pack. The unavailability of his Hull Kingston Rovers team mate Adam Rusling meant Matty Turton and Prisk were paired at half-back.
And on the interchange bench, Cornwall named recent recruit Jonny Griffiths who this term had played in the Royal Navy Rugby League team’s Betfred Challenge Cup run.
Under mizzly skies, Cornwall started well and after forcing a goal line drop out, it looked like Tom Ashton had crashed over after Lloyd’s quick play-the-ball. However, in the first of several baffling first half decisions that went against the Choughs, referee Bradley Milligan decided that Ashton hadn’t grounded the ball.
The curious ruling out of Ashton’s score clearly galvanised the Hurricanes and they marched upfield and attacked Cornwall’s line for the first time. On the last tackle, Ben Stead’s grubber kick ricocheted off Jack Ray and into Matty Welham’s hands. The home full-back seemed to be short of the line when diving to put the ball down but the merry whistle blower disagreed.
To compound Cornwall’s woes, Liam Whitton was then sent to the sin bin for alleged dissent.
A man down, the Choughs almost replied in kind straight away as Turton collected his own kick through but couldn’t find a team mate that would have had a stroll in under the posts.
With the ball back in home hands, the Hurricanes made Cornwall pay with a set that moved forward at a rate of knots and was finished by Liam Welham.
A second Ben Stead conversion put the hosts 12-0 ahead but Cornwall dug in and didn’t ship any more points before Whitton returned from his 10-minute sabbatical.
Back to 13 men, Cornwall looked like they had opened their account on 22 minutes when a break down the left from Ashton saw the final pass deflected into Aaronson’s hands by the covering Matty Welham.
Incredibly, though, the referee ruled a forward pass and Cornwall were denied again. To compound visiting woes, Mr Milligan was once again at the centre of the next score when Tyler Walton clearly tackled Whitton in the air behind his own posts. The ball came free and despite Whitton grounding the ball before Walton got his fingertips to it, the try was given.
That decision knocked the wind from Cornish sails and further tries from Anthony Boardman and Hayden Freeman, both converted by Stead, gave Midlands a 30-0 interval advantage.
Sandwiched between Midlands’ fourth and fifth tries, the Choughs’ first half was perhaps perfectly summed up when Aaronson read a pass out wide perfectly in trademark fashion but the ball didn’t stick. If it did, Cornwall’s leading scorer would have surely streaked away and scored.
But after a sure fire dressing down from Mem chief Kelly at the turnaround, Cornwall flew from the traps in the second period and grabbed a lifeline on 47 minutes when Griffiths, who caught the eye on an encouraging debut, powered over from close range.
Prisk missed the conversion but Cornwall were on the move and with Midlands continually pressing the self-destruct button and incurring the wrath of the referee, the Choughs fought back magnificently.
The outstanding Jack Ray, who ran his blood to water by playing the entire 80 minutes then powered over for a converted score before Prisk’s huge dummy sold the Midlands defence for another.
At 30-16, the game was very much in the balance but from the restart after Prisk’s try, Midlands won the ball back and Tyler Hepple crossed. Stead made it six of the best to give the hosts some breathing space.
And they seemingly made the points safe 17 minutes from time as on a last tackle powerplay, Adam Reed stepped back inside Chard to score and Stead added the extras again.
Cornwall didn’t crumble though, despite their injury toll increasing, and Prisk reignited hopes of a grandstand finish with 13 minutes left.
Cornwall needed to score again quickly but with Aaronson then Chard requiring treatment, the game became a real stop-start affair. Tempers also frayed on more than one occasion as Midlands cleverly saw the game out.
Fittingly, though, the final word went to Cornwall and Cullen who somehow managed to score from what seemed to be an impossible angle as the Choughs finished the game and their season on a positive note despite being on the wrong end of the scoreline.
Hurricanes: M Welham, Reed, Flanagan, L Welham, Freeman, Hepple, Stead, Clevering, Cullimore, J Dawson, B Dawson, Newbound, Wilkinson. Interchange: Bull, Boardman, Walton, Bowring (not used)
Tries: Tries: M Welham (9), L Welham (14), Walton (24), Boardman (31), Freeman (37), Hepple (56), Reed (63) Goals: Stead 7/7
Cornwall: Whitton, Aaronson, Jones-Bishop, Ashton, Treise, Prisk, Turton, Hartshorne, Lloyd, Ray, Cullen, Bodman, Beer. Interchange: (all used) Chard, Bolger, Connolly, Griffiths.
Tries: Griffiths (47), Ray (51), Prisk (54,68), Cullen (76). Goals: Prisk 3/5
Referee: Bradley Milligan, Touch judges: Oliver Salmon and Craig Regan, Reserve referee: Alex MacDonald