Cornish Rebels RLFC were forced to give up the South West Cup for the first time since 2015 as they were edged out by Saltash Essayons in the closing minutes of the South West Cup Final at Launceston.
Saltash may have gone ahead early on, but the Rebels kept their composure well and took their first opportunity to score points after Saltash gave away two quick penalties.
Rebels player-coach Jimmy Elliott gave a master-class at dummy-half throughout the day and he started the move that led to the Rebels opening try. Half-back Ben Plummer took the ball in before shipping down the line to find James Martin who clinically finished the move hugging the corner flag as he touched down on the right edge.
Plummer (above) then added an extra two points with the boot from what seemed like an impossible position making it one converted try a piece after 10 minutes.
Saltash returned instantly with a try after moving the ball around well, but the conversion was missed this time and it was soon clear that this was going to be an end-to-end affair.
Rebels stalwart Martyn Lawrance (above) capped his sixth Rugby League season with four tries and the kind of explosive display which has lit up the South West League since the Rebels formed in 2013. He took his first shortly after the ten minute mark and despite another converted try from Saltash in reply, he went in for two more in quick succession as the Rebels enjoyed a disciplined first half.
The 13-man Rebels understandably tired against the 20-strong Saltash in the last five of the first half, and two late tries and a conversion left it anybody’s game at the break. 26-18 in favour of Saltash.
In the second half the Rebels really turned on the style; Pete Mabbott (above) was too much for the Saltash defence to handle all afternoon and he took the first of his brace within minutes of the kick off. Plummer converted again and shortly afterwards James Martin was crashing over for his second and the Rebels had their noses out in front again.
It looked like Saltash were starting to lose their heads part way through the second half. Giving away some soft penalties and showing dissent to the referee once or twice too often. They did however sneak in for a try through half back Olly Mulberry who bossed his side around the pitch all day, but the Rebels, again, replied through Martyn Lawrance .
The body-count started to pile up for the Rebels and the last ten minutes saw three quick converted tries for the new boys. With nothing left to give, it was a bridge too far for the league leaders to come back against a team whose ability to interchange was closing out their opposition through fatigue.
A consolation for the Rebels came through Pete Mabbott but referee Andy Bickle blew his whistle for the last time in Rugby League shortly after, and the newly formed Saltash Essayons were crowned South West Cup Winners.
Cornish Rebels were extremely unlucky that some last minute unavailability left them without a substitute as they gave what was probably their strongest all round performance for at least this season. 1-13 they gave everything and only made one error and gave one penalty all game.
The future certainly looks bright for them, youngsters Callum Looker (above) and Ben Plummer continued to impress and look to have skills beyond their years whilst recent recruits Paul Grenney and Sam Bentley were committed and effective throughout.
Cornish Rebels line up
1. James Wilson – sponsored by Tahamere Ltd
2. Sam Bentley
3. Michael Abbott
4. Pete Mabbott
5. James Martin
6. Stefan Osborne
7. Ben Plummer
8. Callum Looker – sponsored by Darrens Cars Airport Transfers
9. Jimmy Elliott
10. Matt Nichol – sponsored by Glynn Hopkinson
11. Hayden Wilkinson
12. Paul Grenney – sponsored by Darrens Cars Airport Transfers
13. Martyn Lawrance – sponsored by Ewan Simpson