The rain came in at 12:30 PM half an hour before kick-off. Not heavy enough to make the car’s windscreen wipers go crazy, but enough to soak you through. My Dad and I sat in the car scrolling through weather apps, looking at the weather forecast for the next hour, deciding whether or not to wait for a gap in the downpour before walking to the Memorial Ground in Penryn.
We made it in the relentless rain just as the Choughs ran out onto the pitch and into the challenging conditions of their second home game.
Unfortunately for the Choughs, the persistent rain turned the pitch from a hard fast track into a soggy and slippery surface.
Since Cornwall RLFC played their inaugural home match on 10 April, they’d faced Doncaster and Oldham in away games, losing 16-52 in the first match and 22-48 in the second. As they returned to the Memorial Ground to take on the Rochdale Hornets, the team reported feeling hopeful of a victory after demonstrating “real fight and togetherness” in their previous two matches. Unfortunately for the Choughs, the persistent rain turned the pitch from a hard fast track into a soggy and slippery surface. Brute force would dominate the play. The Hornet’s size and retention of the ball despite the conditions, saw the Choughs take one of their hardest losses, with a 50 to nil final result. The rain certainly didn’t dampen their fighting spirit, however.
The Choughs gained an early advantage but gave a try away to the Hornets after a missed tackle 5 minutes in. Rochdale put in several audible bone crunching hits as they collided with the Choughs, resulting in an early injury for Cornwall as their number 3 took what looked like a stinger to the shoulder. As the rain got heavier, Cornwall defended valiantly under severe pressure and repelled attack after attack by the Hornets, but were overwhelmed by the Hornet’s powerful offensive line. The Choughs fought hard up to the half-time whistle, showing—much like the rain—no intention of easing off even though the score was 28 nil to the visitors.
My Dad and I had been sheltering under a large umbrella we, thankfully, remembered to take with us. We wandered around the edge of the pitch at half-time, talking about the game so far. We agreed that the wet conditions were making play difficult for both sides, with an increasing amount of knock-ons and injuries occurring as the game went on. My Dad suggested that Rochdale had found a weak spot in Cornwall’s defensive line and had been hitting their inside shoulder hard all game. The Hornets played the conditions better, keeping passes and offloads to a minimum. Three tries came from two line passes then a cut back against the direction of play—simple but effective. He also observed that the Choughs were struggling to complete full sets, in part due to the intensity of Rochdale’s tackling but also because of the wet conditions which were not conducive for a fast play squad like the Choughs—moving the ball out wide was virtually impossible. However, two Choughs forwards, numbers 8 and 17, had been successful in making some headway by consistently carrying over the gain line. It was old fashioned rugby league; stick the ball up your jersey and run hard.
My Dad, being an avid rugby league fan, particularly of the NRL (Australia and New Zealand’s rugby league), was somewhat disappointed in the lack of mullets on pitch (this being exceptionally popular amongst NRL players at the minute). We wondered why there weren’t more players sporting the hairstyles of Papenhuyzen, Cleary, and Papalii.
With a healthy lead over the Choughs at half-time, Rochdale continued to put the pressure on as play resumed. The announcer blared over the loud hailer “fingers crossed this second half will be completely different from the first”, just before the Hornets scored the first second half try. Although the game’s advantage remained with the Hornets, the Choughs began to gain momentum towards the end of the game, determined to the last minute with the home crowd (now thoroughly soaked) still cheering “go on Cornwall!” from pitch side.
To my joy, “Don’t Stop the Party”—this year’s PDC darts champion, Peter “Snakebite” Wright’s walk-on music—came through the speakers, and I was tempted to do his signature star-jump dance to warm up. Shortly after, the final whistle blew and the teams made their congratulations and commiserations.
The Chough’s determination, especially in such difficult conditions, could not be faulted. Despite the loss of 50 nil, I think they showed more than a glimpse of the team they’re becoming, and are looking well set ahead of their next game against Hunslet on 8 May. Drier conditions of the summer will suit this emerging team.
My Dad and I walked back to the car with wet feet and squelchy trainers, looking forward to when the Choughs would be home again.
Find out more about Cornwall RLFC and their upcoming games here.