Cornwall RLFC


Neil Kelly Post Rochdale Hornets

May 2, 2022

Cornwall RLFC head coach Neil Kelly – Patrick Tod

Cornwall head coach Neil Kelly has challenged his players to become more ‘streetwise’ after seeing them lose 50-0 at home to Rochdale Hornets at a rain soaked Memorial Ground. 

The Choughs suffered the heaviest defeat in round six of their maiden Betfred League One campaign, with Greg McNally scoring a superb hat-trick for the Hornets in front of more than 900 hardy souls at Penryn. 

A Cornwall side featuring recent signings Oli Field, Joe Hird, Oli Gibbons and Mackenzie Turner – all of whom have arrived on temporary deals from Leeds Rhinos – trailed 28-0 at the break as the Hornets’ experience paid dividends.

However, with Rochdale threatening to run riot, the hosts put into action their hard work on the training ground, solidifying their backline and drawing praise from their illustrious head coach at the full-time whistle.

“I was a bit worried at half-time,” admitted Kelly. “It was over as far as winners and losers were concerned but that’s not unusual. We are looking for a good performance from the team. We only got that sporadically in the first-half, which is why we were so far down. 

“I was more buoyed by the defensive effort in the second-half and saw large parts of our defence working really well but then conceding a try that was really soft.

“It is a massive learning curve. I was speaking to their head coach [Matt Calland], who has been in a similar situation, and was empathising with us. There is light at the end of the tunnel. This was only our fifth game. There is a long way to go yet. 

“It would be really nice one day to turn up and everything be right but we don’t live in that world, unfortunately. We have got to work on all elements of the game, not least becoming streetwise. We are playing teams that know all the tricks and the ploys. That is going to be our biggest step forward, when we learn those ways or bring somebody in who has that in their armoury.”

Sunday’s game was the first occasion in which the Choughs were unable to register a score but Kelly refused to be too downbeat, instead preferring to rally behind his players who, in turn, continue to rally behind he and his coaching staff.  

“They are a great bunch of lads,” said Kelly. “It is becoming difficult for me now because I am going into the changing rooms and talking about things that we have done [badly on the pitch]. You develop an attachment to these players. 

“You want them to do well but you feel as though you are kicking them while they are down. It is a bit hard but I have got to be honest with them. They are accepting both criticisms and praise in the right spirit at the moment. We have got to thank God for the streetwise rugby league players that we have got. 

“They are really working hard for the team and not becoming despondent by the score lines we have suffered. They are very upbeat about the players and long may that continue. 

“It is a challenge for the rugby union players from Cornwall, who are really trying to make that transition. There is a challenge for them to keep showing improvement and that desire to get better. Otherwise, what’s it for? Then it’s as though we are not doing it for any reason other than to play rugby. That’s not really why we are here.”