Davies' troops switch attentions to play-off quest
AT THE third time of asking this season Ian Davies finally got the performance from his Pirates against Jersey that he so very much wanted to see.
To shut out any team on the scoreboard for a whole game and well and truly nil them is quite a feat in modern rugby, as is registering winning bonus points in four successive cup ties.
And following last week's scrap at the Mennaye Field with this same Jersey side, nobody would have confidently predicted the Pirates winning as emphatically as they did, especially after the Islanders included a few extra big guns in their squad just for good measure.
Yet while interim Jersey head coach Steve Boden goes away to appraise a season which is rapidly unravelling for a club in their second season as a Championship entity, his opposite number, Davies, can plan for a Boxing Day showdown with Plymouth Albion with a well-placed measure of confidence.
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The Pirates have found the British & Irish Cup tough going since they won it in 2010, but are not messing about this season.
They have become the first team to qualify from the group stage with two games still to play, and now need to make sure that they dispatch Ayr with the same ruthless efficiency next month in order to secure a home draw in April's quarter-final.
When we started out in this competition two months ago it looked as if the trip to Belfast to play Ulster Ravens in the final round of Pool 6 games would be the qualification decider. How wrong can you be? That one now looks every inch a dead rubber, barring a calamity against the Scottish side.
Only Leinster currently look nailed on certainties to make the last eight, with every other pool involved in almighty scraps to secure first place. With just the best two second placed teams going through, it is all about winning the group and the Pirates have done that with something to spare.
The squad will get a few days off now for an early Christmas and then the serious work of a return to league action begins with Plymouth Albion at the Mennaye Field on Boxing Day.
Albion themselves have a bitter battle ahead in the cup as they fight with Nottingham and Munster to go through and will come to Cornwall needing to address a slide in their league form rather urgently.
One win in their last five Championship games, a victory at bottom of the table Ealing, which has also included three home defeats has seen Albion become very much at risk of being cut adrift in the bottom half of the table.
They may be only one place below the Pirates in seventh but the 10-point gap could become a veritable chasm if they lose in Cornwall, thus maintaining a run of defeats in the Duchy extending almost exactly seven years.
The Pirates should win and could well move into the play-off places over the holiday period such is the tightness of the battle for places behind leaders London Welsh.
But derbies can be funny one-off affairs as we all know and as Ian Davies keeps telling us this is a rollercoaster-ride of a season.
They hit some impressive heights in Jersey. Hopefully whatever comes next has the fans screaming for the right reasons.