Cornwall RLFC


Rochdale Hornets vs Cornwall – Match Report

May 5, 2024

Harry Aaronson in action against Rochdale – Jackie Meredith

Cornwall were defeated by Rochdale with the visitors forced to play 50 minutes a man light after Morgan Punchard’s was sent off.

The visiting halfback was involved in a melee with Hornets’ interchange Ben Killan and with the allegation of punches thrown, merry whistle blower Luke Bland brandished a red card.

At that point, Cornwall led 6-4 after dominating the opening exchanges but after Punchard left the field, Rochdale took control.

They scored four tries before half-time and added six more in the second stanza.

But Cornwall’s 12-men never threw in the towel and tries from Nathan Conroy and a brace from the outstanding Cameron Brown, gave the scoreboard respectability.

However, Cornwall will be left wondering what might have been, had they been able to keep a full complement on the pitch.

Head coach Mike Abbott made two changes from the side that locked horns with Workington Town seven days previous. In the back division, Nathan Cullen slotted in at centre, replacing the unwell Tom Ashton.

And in the pack, Harry Boots, fully recovered from a concussion injury suffered against Oldham, last month, replaced fellow front rower Matt Ross, who was ruled out with a leg problem.

On the interchange bench, Decarlo Trerise returned after shaking off a shoulder problem while Courage Mkuhlani made his debut as a replacement, after joining on loan from Midlands Hurricanes on Thursday.

Cornwall had first use of the football and a good set resulted in a first sight of the Rochdale line, after Bailey Black was hit late off the ball. This resulted in a Cornwall penalty and with Brown chiming into the three-quarter line brilliantly, his ball to Harry Aaronson, hunting a stroll in out wide, just didn’t stick.

Rochdale’s first foray into Cornwall territory saw Tommy Brierley forced into touch early in the count but Gary Thornton’s charges soon had the ball back in their hands. And after forcing a goal line drop out and a six-again, opened the scoring when Myles Harrop dotted down, but Martyn Ridyard failed to convert.

Just shy of the 20-minute mark, Cornwall were handed a temporary numerical advantage when Aidan Roden flattened David Weetman with a high tackle. Referee Bland, after consultation with his touch judge, sent the home hooker to the sinbin.

Roden, who had both feet off the ground when he hit the Cornwall captain, can count himself fortunate in the extreme that the colour of the card shown wasn’t of a darker hue.

And the Choughs made Rochdale and Rodden pay when Coby Nichol finished acrobatically out wide.

Brown nailed a brilliant conversion from the sideline and for a second successive away match, Cornwall led early in the piece.

Nichol almost bagged a second shortly after when he just couldn’t grasp a Punchard bomb, before the game’s big talking point after 28 minutes.

Punchard had control of the ball and after battling to get to his feet, Killan appeared to elbow and force his head into the Cornwall man. A mass confrontation ensued and when order restored, Punchard was off for an early bath.

The call seemed harsh on the visitors that firstly Killan escaped punishment on the field altogether, and that Punchard was sent off for what appeared to be a push to the shoulder and not a punch.

Rochdale then made Cornwall pay with three quick tries before the interval to firmly gain control of proceedings as Luke Forber, skipper Duane Straughier and Brierley all dotted down.

With just three minutes of the second stanza elapsed, giant interchange Brad Brennan crashed onto a flat ball to cross, for Rochdale’s only try of the afternoon that wasn’t scored out wide.

But from the kick-off, the Hornets fumbled the restart, Weetman picked up the scraps and Conroy went over for his second try in as many matches.

Brown slotted over the extras but Cornwall returned the favour of coughing up the restart and Lewis Else made the visitors pay with a second try of the half.

The game was end to end, almost like a basketball match at this point with Aaronson showing Brierley a clean pair of heels to find the supporting Brown, but play was pulled back for a forward pass.

Tries from Forber and veteran full-back Gregg McNally then put the game beyond the visitors but once again, heads did not drop and Cornwall delivered the best score of the game, 20 minutes from time.

Nichol pounced on a high kick and immediately set off upfield, finding Brown who raced 80 metres to score a stunning effort which was converted.

Once again, Cornwall’s problems from the kick-off came to the fore and it saw Rochdale and Brierley score again. And the home winger duly completed his hat-trick as once again, the Hornets threatened to run riot.

But they didn’t and Cornwall finished the game well with Brown bagging his second of the afternoon after executing an old-fashioned run-around move with Cullen.

He kicked his fourth conversion of the afternoon, once again from the touchline, to give Cornwall their best points of haul of the season, in arguably the side’s most encouraging showing of 2024 to date.

Cornwall: Brown, Nichol, Small, Cullen, Aaronson, Punchard, Black, Boots, Collins, Dimech, Weetman, Simpson, Lloyd. Interchange: Conroy, Mkuhlani, Trerise, Rhodes.

Tries: Nichol (19), Conroy (45), Brown (60, 70)

Goals: Brown 4/4

Dismissal: Punchard (30) – punching

Rochdale: McNally, Brierley, Harrop, Ratcliffe, Forber, Ridyard, Else, Nelmes, Roden, Dayes, Straughier, Meadows. Interchange: Openshaw, Killan, Andrade, Brennan.

Tries: Harrop (12), Forber (32,52), Straughier (35), Brierley (37,62,66), Brennan (43), Else (47), McNally (56)

Goals: 8/10

Sinbin: Roden (19) – high tackle

Referee: Luke Bland

Attendance: 891