Island hop offers no room for complacency
WITH the eyes of many rugby fans in the south west focused on Sandy Park last Saturday and Exeter's Heineken Cup clash with Toulon, drumming up interest in a British & Irish Cup tie with a slightly irregular evening kick-off time was always going to be tough.
The match between the Pirates and Jersey was never a classic and Jersey were quite content to bludgeon their way around the field, with their heavy duty forwards their weapon of choice.
Perhaps a bit more adventure at times might have more gainfully employed a talented set of backs but they stuck with route one rugby and it very nearly paid off.
What led to them grabbing the lead with just three minutes of normal time remaining was inevitable, but not exactly what most of the paying spectators wanted to see.
Twelve consecutive re-set scrums over a period of 11 minutes right in front of the Pirates posts had try stamped all over it from the outset. And the power of a Jersey pack weighing in at around 40 kilos heavier was always going to win the day in this situation.
The euphoric celebrations which greeted their converted penalty try were largely confined to their travelling squad members on the touchline, but after a week of turmoil at the club that was understandable. The only problem was that the players left on the field released the stranglehold they had on the contest, perhaps thinking that time was up and their work in Cornwall was done.
Ian Davies said afterwards that there was confusion with the timekeeping as three different officials could not agree on how long was left, so perhaps you can sympathise with Jersey. But how often are we told that you must play to the whistle? The Pirates duly did and set about retrieving the tie.
What happened next was as unexpected as it was brilliant. A fine Matt Evans try as he ran a line which completely unlocked the Jersey defence and a powerful driving maul which brought a score for Darren Barry and a hitherto unthought of winning bonus point.
Evans' try was good, but not as good as Kyle Moyle's first half effort. The wing caught a rare wayward kick from Niall O'Connor on halfway and attacked a gap between the full-back and wing running a well judged arc to take him in under the posts. Pure class.
Jersey now have a conundrum as we head into the reverse fixture this weekend. They are almost, but not quite, out of the competition and before Christmas have to go to Billesley Common for a massive bottom of the table league game against Moseley.
With their coaching structure uncertain at present, a troubling injury list and their Championship form in tatters, do they risk key players for a cup tie which could count for nothing?
Meanwhile, in the Pirates camp the concern will be regarding a pack who were beaten up at times at the Mennaye. If Jersey employ the same power game again at St Peter all talk of an early place in the quarter-final will be deemed grossly premature and may need to be put very much on hold.
I haven't even mentioned the other two contenders in Pool 6, Ayr and Ulster Ravens, and the shock win for the Scots at Millbrae. Suddenly this competition has become quite intriguing.