|Cornish Pirates (8) 25|
|Tries: Duncan, Frost, Davies Cons: Scully 2 Pens: Scully 2|
|Saracens (10) 17|
|Tries: Maitland, Lewington, Swinson Con: Vunipola|
Beating former Premiership and European champions Saracens is an “iconic moment” for Cornish Pirates, according to joint head coach Alan Paver.
Sarries, automatically relegated last season for repeated breaches of the salary cap, lost their Championship opener 25-17 at Mennaye Field.
Rhodri Davies’ late score secured a famous win for the Pirates, who trailed three times.
“What an arm wrestle, what a game, what a special moment,” Paver said.
Saracens were lacking their England contingent, including captain Owen Farrell, but still fielded a XV which had seven internationals boasting 165 Test caps between them.
Tries from Sean Maitland and Alex Lewington gave the north London club a 10-8 lead at the break, with Luke Scully kicking a penalty and Tom Duncan crossing in reply for the hosts.
Sarries director of rugby Mark McCall had said his side would “have a target on their backs” in their bid to win immediate promotion, and the visitors found themselves in a see-saw battle in Penzance.
The Pirates came storming back at the start of the second half, with hooker Dan Frost squeezing over and Scully converting to make it 15-10.
Tim Swinson muscled his way over and Manu Vunipola added the extras to edge Sarries ahead once more, but Scully’s second penalty hauled the hosts 18-17 in front.
And, when the visitors let the ball bounce from a big up-and-under, Davies pounced to collect and scamper over with four minutes left to complete an unlikely win for the Pirates.
“The only thing it was missing was 5,000 Cornishmen shouting their heads off,” Paver told BBC Radio Cornwall.
“But they were there in spirit, and I hope they can be proud of what we did.”
In a truncated second-tier season, shortened because of the coronavirus pandemic, the 11 clubs will play the other 10 competing sides once in a bid to qualify for a two-leg promotion play-off between the top two.
Reaction – A ‘standout moment’ for Pirates
Cornish Pirates joint head coach Alan Paver:
“I am so pleased for the lads. It has been tough through the Covid [pandemic], but we said we were going to bring meaning to the rest of the season.
“I have got to say right through the board it was a massive effort.
“You can have British Lions in your team, you can be Bristol or London Irish – it doesn’t matter. We are capable of beating anyone.
“It is a lovely standout moment, especially because of all the hype around it.”
Saracens centre Juan Pablo Socino:
“Obviously we are really disappointed. It is not the result we wanted and, more importantly, not the performance we wanted.
“First game, we knew it was going to be tough.
“It is just one game. It is a short season and we just need to keep going.
“We let ourselves down a little bit with our performance but we move on to the next game.”
Cornish Pirates: Holden; Wedlake, Parata, Tucker, O’Meara; Scully, Bruzulier; Walker, Frost, Tyack, Lemalu, Cutmore, Caulfield, Stevens, Duncan (capt).
Replacements: Andrew, Channon, Rodman, Bolwell, Kiri Kiri, Davies, Bazalgette, Wyatt.
Saracens: Obatoyinbo; Lewington, Taylor, Socino, Maitland; Manu Vunipola, Davies; Barrington, Pifeleti, Koch, Hunter-Hill, Swinson, Rhodes, Reffell, Wray (capt).
Replacements: Crean, Mawi, Clarey, Kpoku, Christie, Whiteley, Morris, Segun.
Referee: Sara Cox.