Alarming slump comes at just the wrong time
EVERYONE who watches sport must hate seeing their team put in a typical end of season performance as they wind down the season with nothing left to play for.
So what will have vexed everyone in Pirates colours who observed this game is that we got exactly that well ahead of schedule on the first weekend in March.
As a contest the game wasn't bad, with the Pirates edging it at the end of the first quarter, but then they lost the plot for the next 50 minutes or so, only finding their way again once Aaron Penberthy and Gavin Cattle took over in midfield.
Head coach Ian Davies, so justifiably buoyant in defeat at Newcastle only a week earlier, was as dejected as I have ever seen him afterwards and his mood was reflected by several senior players whom I also spoke to post-match.
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The same old failings had returned to haunt the team in a game that really mattered, leaving their play-off hopes all but over for this season.
There is still the British & Irish Cup to play for, but the quarter-final line-up is a clear indicator of how teams are suddenly taking that competition seriously too. Success here can no longer be guaranteed and unless the Pirates want to slip back into mid-table obscurity behind the likes of Rotherham and London Scottish, they need to address their slump in league form – and fast.
That said, the fact that the coaches have been able to keep the team as competitive as they have working with pretty Spartan resources compared to other top Championship clubs deserves immense credit, and not anonymous internet-based criticism.
Yet since the bid for public money to build the Stadium failed, the whole club has been going backwards, despite reaching last season's Championship final.
The Pirates, as a business, need to decide who and what they want to be again, refocus and get to work on it quickly, because when you look at the likes of Leeds, Bristol, Nottingham and now even London Scottish, they are being overtaken and left comfortably behind.
This is the brutal reality of what the RFU Championship is becoming and the Pirates need to react off the field as well as on it. My understanding, however, is that they will.
In the big scheme of things seasons like this one happen to all clubs sooner or later and the craziness of this league and the ability of everyone to beat everyone else is that by this time next week the Pirates could have fluked their way back into the play-off hunt.
They would need other results to go their way of course, because their own string of losses has surrendered the relative control they had over their own destiny, but it is not impossible.
Moseley at home on Sunday will not be easy and games against the Midlanders are rarely pretty, but the Pirates simply cannot afford to turn in another lacklustre end of season display. If they want the fans to turn up for Munster in the Cup then they need to give them reasons to make the effort.
– Dick Straughan