Cornish Pirates' play-off hopes left hanging by a thread
Leeds Carnegie 37, Cornish Pirates 25
LEEDS all but ended the Pirates hopes of reaching the RFU Championship promotion play-offs for a fourth successive season with a powerful second half display at Cross Green, Otley on Sunday.
The Yorkshire side ran in 25 points after the interval with two of their three tries scored by former Pirates Matt Smith and David Doherty. But that was only half the story. For while home fly-half Rory Clegg ran the game in midfield, oozing Premiership class every time he got near the ball, the Pirates again self destructed.
Too many penalties conceded, an interval lead lost, and a complete inability to raise their game to match the increased intensity of their opponents again cost them dearly. It is hardly the type of form befitting a top four finish and while they could still mathematically achieve that, the Pirates have now lost three in a row in the league.
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Pirates head coach Ian Davies was in no mood to offer excuses and admitted that this latest reverse left him feeling "flat".
He said: "We have come away with nothing when we could have scored four tries of our own, had we not cocked up a two-on-one, and now we have a long bus trip home before facing Moseley next week which will not be easy," he said.
"They are scrapping for their lives, have a big scrum with a big set of forwards and we have given ourselves a lot of work to do."
Davies added that team changes are likely this week, as he felt that some players had under performed.
He said: "With Bristol winning at Bedford and us losing here it has not made life any easier. But we will not give up and there will be some changes next week because certain guys didn't perform."
He added: "We are going to give other guys a chance to stake a claim for a place against Munster in the B&I Cup because that has become even more important for us now. And we want to try and finish the season on a high and show that pride again in the Pirates shirt."
"We have got the squad we have got at the end of the day and those guys have to start fronting up and playing with more passion than they showed in the second half."
The Pirates now lie sixth in the Championship table, five points behind Bristol in fourth with five games to play although the west country men have a game in hand.
They were badly hampered again conceding a string of penalties and were punished by the merciless kicking of Harlequins dual-registered fly-half Rory Clegg.
Davies admitted that Clegg had inspired Leeds after they had conceded early tries to Paul Andrew and Kieran Hallett as the Pirates briefly threatened to steal the show, but he also felt that his team needlessly fell foul of the match officials.
"We gave away far too many penalties throughout the game with both referees and Rory Clegg had a dream day out there," he said. "He had a bit of an armchair ride too, to be honest, but he looked what he is and that is a class above."
"It doesn't matter if you think you're right and he is wrong. He is the man with the whistle and if he says 'hands away' then you take your hands away. You can't give a penalty but the referee can."
The warning signs were clear for the Pirates to see long before lock Matt Smith put Leeds ahead with their opening try after 50 minutes. By the time Doherty scored their second late in the game the home side had four of last season's Pirates squad on the field and Lee Imiolek added insult to injury with a third in added time. Matt Evans' 11th try of the season proved a late consolation for the Pirates.
Moseley preview page 117.