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Beaten Saracens stunned by Cornish Pirates in their first Championship game

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Cornish Pirates have got the new Championship season in England off to an upset result, famously defeating Saracens 25-17 in the opening round of the long-awaited second-tier campaign for the 2019 Gallagher Premiership and Heineken Champions Cup champions.


Saracens named a starting XV that showed seven changes from the side that played in their last Premiership match 22 weeks ago, a home draw with Bath on October 4. But with the likes of Scotland wing Sean Maitland and World Cup-winning Springboks prop Vincent Koch involved, they were still very expected to get off to a winning start.

However, the shortcomings exposed during two pre-season losses to Ealing hadn’t gone away and the Londoners, who just last September were gracing rugby cathedrals such as the Aviva Stadium in Dublin and the La Defense Arena in Paris, came unstuck as rustic Mennaye Field.

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Maitland got Saracens off to a promising start with an eighth-minute try but they went behind 19 minutes later when Tom Duncan powered over to give the host an 8-5 lead. Mark McCall’s side retook the lead with an Alex Lewington try on 34 minutes and they took a 10-8 advantage with them into the interval.

A Dan Frost try soon after the restart briefly swung momentum the way of the Pirates again before Saracens hit back with a converted Tim Swinson try on 49 minutes. The conversion from Manu Vunipola for a 17-15 lead was Saracens’ last score, though.

Luke Scully immediately struck a penalty for Cornish to retake the lead and the upset result was then sealed four minutes from time when Shea Tucker pounced for the converted try that should now leave rugby fans wondering whether to revise expectations that Saracens will walk the second-tier league and comfortably secure promotion back to the Premiership for 2021/22.


McCall’s side will now look to rectify the damage when they host Jersey next Saturday in London in a league where they have ten conference matches prior to the playoffs that will decide who goes up.



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