Patience the key in Cornish Pirates' momentum
Cornish Pirates head coach Ian Davies has called for continued patience as his new-look squad gathers Championship momentum.
The Pirates earned their third win in four games last Sunday by running eight tries past Rotherham Titans at Mennaye Field. They are now unbeaten since October 6, when they were defeated by London Scottish.
Since then, the Cornish side have also beaten Carmarthen Quins and Dundee High in the British and Irish Cup. Their only recent setback was a 9-9 Championship draw at Moseley's Billesley Common.
Davies said: "We sat down before the British and Irish Cup games and decided to treat the next four fixtures like Championship games and we wanted to get maximum points from them.
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"Moseley was the only one where we came unstuck really. We took 15 points from the other three games but we haven't become a good team overnight, just as we didn't become a bad team before this little run started."
It has been a transitional period for the Pirates this season and many of their performances have come under scrutiny from supporters eager to see their side continue recent successes.
The past three years have seen them win the British and Irish Cup and reach the Championship final twice. However, they lost a number of key players last summer. Rob Cook and Dave Ward moved to Premiership sides Gloucester and Harlequins, respectively. Lock Ian Nimmo, meanwhile, joined RaboDirect Pro 12 side Newport-Gwent Dragons.
"The problem at the start of the season was managing expectations," said Davies. "We have had success over the last three years with the British and Irish Cup win and then two Championship finals, but that team took three years to build.
"What we are slowly but surely doing is building a new squad. We are 14 games in now this season and we can't have the excuse that these are all new players but we did have a huge turnover. We lost players to the Premiership and RaboDirect, and had a cluster of games where we didn't play brilliantly.
"We must make sure we take into context who the opposition were when we lost as well. We played Bristol, where we have never won, Newcastle have a £4million budget, we didn't play well against Doncaster, but we lost by 40 points up there last year.
"We didn't play well at Moseley last year, but we have drawn there the last three years. We are not a bad side, nobody is panicking. We know where we are and we are slowly getting there."
Davies also warned that the Penzance club's upward trajectory might not always be straightforward. More good players will come and go. He said: "We have some new guys, some guys that will not be with us next year – for one reason or another – but it is a continuing work in progress.
"As long as we continue to develop good players, then we are doing our job."
The Pirates have sought to bolster their squad with dual-registered players from Exeter Chiefs and Bath this season. Those men were missing over the weekend, but they should return for their next game against Bedford Blues on November 23.
There is no fixture this weekend due to the Championship XV representative game against the New Zealand Maoris. The Pirates' Gavin Cattle, Phil Burgess and Alan Paver have been selected to play, while Davies will form part of the coaching team.
"It is difficult to say about the week off and whether it will help us," said Davies. "If we win against Bedford and perform well, then it will have been great to rest. But, if we lose, we are going to say the week off killed us.
"In reality, there are a lot of boys who are absolutely being held together with tape at the moment. A week off for them can't come soon enough.
"It is going to be a week off too. The only ones who will be in are the injured rehab players and the three guys playing in the Championship XV game. Everybody else is having the week off because they are at breaking point.
"The dual-registered boys will come back from Exeter and Bath as well soon, and that will strengthen us," Davies added. "Our back-row forward Kyle Marriott comes back from injury in a couple of weeks as well."
Cattle, the Pirates' skipper, was named yesterday as the captain of the Championship select side for Saturday's fixture against the touring Maoris. The job will be a treat for the 32-year-old Welshman, who is eligible for English Qualified Player status after a dozen years of residence in this country.
Cattle said last night: "I was told about the captaincy this morning and am obviously delighted to have been chosen.
"It's a huge honour to lead the Championship XV side, particularly against a team like the Maori All Blacks. I've been involved in the Championship for quite some time now and have seen the standard of rugby rise considerably, especially over the past four years," Cattle added.
"The squad reflects the quality on offer in the competition and I'm confident the boys will put in their best possible performance to showcase the league. Whilst the players will be used to lining up against each other for their respective teams, this is about coming together to represent our league as one, and I know all the players will share that mind-set. I'm just looking forward now to heading up to Doncaster and meeting up with the squad."