Pirates earn win over Swansea but bonus point failure may prove costly
Cornish Pirates maintained their winning start to their British and Irish Cup campaign, but a disappointing performance against Swansea saw them miss out on a bonus point at Mennaye Field.
The Cornish side still lead Pool Three, four points better off than second-placed Carmarthen Quins. Tries from Joe Buckle and Laurie McGlone – as well as 17 points from the boot of fly-half Kieran Hallett – saw them past a defiant Welsh Premiership side yesterday.
However, their inability to secure a four-try bonus point in surprisingly playable conditions in Penzance could yet prove costly in their bid for a home quarter-final.
Pirates' 14 points in the group stage after three games makes them the third-best pool leader in the competition at present – they need to ensure they remain in the top four if they are to play their first knock-out game in the latter stages in Cornwall.
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Bedford Blues and Newcastle Falcons lead their respective pools with 15 points.
Pirates made a bright start to each half yesterday. An early home try was only foiled by a forward pass from full-back Wes Davies close to the right touchline.
Sadly, that was as close as they came during the opening 20 minutes against a visiting side that were younger, lighter and less experienced than their Pirates' counterparts.
Swansea played the only way they could in the circumstances – with pace but, ultimately, little penetration. But Pirates failed to take advantage of their physical superiority and much of their work lacked precision, with plenty of errors.
Although Swansea were not punching holes in Pirates' defence, they won a penalty, which impressive ten Sam Davies slotted between the posts to give his side the lead.
A penalty chance for Pirates arrived moments later, however. Hallett was relieved to see his kick for the go through to level the scores after hitting the left post.
The two fly-halves then exchanged another pair of impressive penalty kicks as neither side could establish fluency, but Hallett was unable to give his side the edge following his third attempt with his boot in the 34th minute.
He did better with a minute of the half remaining. Visiting hooker Paul John was shown a yellow card for bringing down a maul just outside his 22 and Hallett made no mistake.
They extended that advantage with a catch-and-drive try, finished by Buckle, just before half time, but the Pirates' play still lacked cohesion.
A sharper spell at the start of the second half brought another Hallett penalty. But Davies struck back with three points for Swansea before both sides opted to make changes either side of the hour mark.
It was the introduction of scrum-half Gavin Cattle, prop Alan Paver and back row McGlone that made the difference for the home side. Their nous had an immediate effect as Pirates pushed forward with greater direction. They won a penalty after breaking into the Swansea 22 and Hallett made it count for the fifth time to open up a 13-point lead.
The Pirates' scrum was now dominant and it was little surprise when McGlone crashed over the try line with seven minute remaining.
There were opportunities for more Pirates tries before the end but a lack of precision again let them down. They now face the return fixture at St Helen's this weekend and the pressure to win with a bonus point will be enhanced after yesterday's outcome.