Hard-working Cornish Pirates target strong finish in league and cup campaigns
The Cornish Pirates are quietly building towards another exciting season on all fronts, but coaches Ian Davies and Harvey Biljon insist there is still a lot of hard work to come.
Pirates head to Wales this weekend to face Carmarthen Quins in their final Pool Three match of this season's British and Irish Cup.
A quarter-final spot has already been won with previous wins over Carmarthen, Swansea and Dundee High, but avoiding defeat to Quins this weekend will ensure Davies and Biljon can plan for a home game in the last eight.
They will then turn their attention to the seemingly unstoppable Newcastle in the Championship as their battle for a place in the play-offs continues. Trying to be successful in two competitions is challenging with a smaller squad than previous years but Pirates – who were the first team to win the British and Irish Cup in 2010 – are determined to meet it.
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Head coach Davies said: "At this level, you can only win two trophies – one is the Championship, the other is the British and Irish Cup. Why people devalue the cup competition, I've got no idea. We enjoy the competition."
His assistant, Biljon, added: "It has been a thoroughly enjoyable season so far but, if you think about the amount of injuries we had early on and the core of the squad not being available, it was always going to be difficult. The new players came in and we had to come together, which took us a little while, and we worked hard at the processes.
"Those are starting to come through now. I don't think you can knock the way the players are trying to perform each week or their work ethic. The coaches are definitely putting in the hours, so slowly but surely it is coming together."
Neither man is stopping for a pat on the back just yet. A loss to Carmarthen this weekend could unravel some of the momentum built over recent months ahead a demanding few months in the Championship.
"Let's get Carmarthen in the Cup out of the way first, then we have to go to Newcastle in the Championship and then it is the business end of the season," said Biljon.
"Our performance against Dundee last weekend was workmanlike but entertaining in that we kept playing with the ball.
"The game against Carmarthen is going to be very different. It will be at their home ground, they will want to ruin the party for us. It will be very difficult.
"The Swansea game was our first victory for the Pirates in Wales, but now we want to back that up with another one."
Davies says the intrigue of the Cup has been helped by variety of teams in their group this season and he called upon the RFU to make that one of the core ideals of the Cup.
He said: "Maybe, we are fortunate this year in that we are the only Championship team in our group so we don't get that over-familiarity.
"Perhaps that is something the RFU needs to look at because the Championship sides can over-play one another.
"I remember when Plymouth were in our pool, in the play-offs as well. We played them five times in one season – it was far too many."
Cornish Pirates forward Alan Paver was given a three-week ban by an RFU disciplinary panel last night.
The prop was charged with punching or striking, contrary to Law 10.4 (a) during the Pirates' game against Bristol on January 1.
Paver's ban has been backdated to align with the club's own internal disciplinary sanction. He is free to play again on January 28.