NEIL BAYLISS got off to a disappointing start as interim director of rugby of the Cornish All Blacks as they slipped to a third successive defeat in a crucial relegation “eight-pointer” at Chinnor.
The two teams went into Saturday's game locked on 49 points, but Chinnor’s 28-20 home victory saw them leave the All Blacks in the National Two South relegation zone.
These are worrying times at Polson Bridge, but Bayliss, who took over from the sacked Cliff Rainford during the week, can take solace from the fact the Cornishmen are only one point adrift of safety.
Four of their remaining seven league matches are also against teams in the bottom six in the table, and they tackle none of the current top five in their run-in.
However, they face trips to the two teams either side of them in the table, Bournemouth and Dings Crusaders, and they need to start picking up some wins on the road if they are to climb out of trouble, with their last away win coming on December 7 against bottom side Exmouth.
They also have another difficult away trip to mid-table Cambridge next Saturday.
The All Blacks got off to a very bright start in Oxfordshire and scored ten points in the opening nine minutes.
Full-back Kieron Lewitt grabbed a try, which he also converted, only three minutes after opening the scoring with a penalty.
However, the hosts came storming back to lead 18-10 after only 29 minutes.
Centre Jack Hayes ran a fine line to pierce the All Blacks’ defence to slip fly-half Will Millett in for Chinnor’s first try. Millett converted and added two penalties, before wing George Blewitt crossed the whitewash to put Chinnor eight points clear. The All Blacks then enjoyed a purple patch in the lead-up to the break, with Lewitt slotting a second penalty, and then adding the extras to a try by fly-half Jake Murphy to give the visitors a 20-18 interval advantage.
However, the All Blacks failed to trouble the scoreboard again. They were guilty of squandering a number of promising overlaps as they strived in vain.
Blewitt collected his second try only a minute into the second period, converted by Millett, to put Chinnor back in front at 25-20, and that was it in terms of scoring until a penalty four minutes from time by Millett finally killed off the Cornishmen by putting the hosts two scores clear.
Delighted Chinnor coach Matt Goode said: “This was clearly a must-win match for both sides, and after 15 minutes things were looking black for us.
“We managed to come back and had a much stronger second half, helped by the All Blacks not exploiting a number of attacking positions that might have hurt us.”