Pirates get set for new year battle
THE New Year is likely to begin with a bang as the Cornish Pirates prepare to take on Bristol in the RFU Championship at the Mennaye Field (2pm).
Meetings between the two teams are always lively affairs and the Pirates have won their last four home tussles with the West Country side including a memorable play-off semi-final in May.
Bristol led 24-19 with an hour played and looked to have one foot in the promotion final before the Pirates roared into life scoring four tries in an unforgettable final quarter to decimate Liam Middleton's men.
The Pirates would happily take any win on Tuesday and came into the holiday fixtures lying sixth in the league, and just one place and three points behind Bristol who have responded well after a 63-7 mauling at Nottingham last month.
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Bristol have now won their last five including a feisty affair at Plymouth ahead of their Christmas opener at home to Doncaster and the signing of Samoan flanker Alafoti Fa'aosiliva, with five tries in three games, has done much to help with their improvement.
Head coach Liam Middleton admits that he is "not contemplating any losses" over the festive period as he looks to get his team's promotion push back on course, but they will travel without club captain Iain Grieve who is out for three months with a ruptured bicep. Fautua Otto could return to action after recovering from a knee injury.
In the Pirates camp head coach Ian Davies is expected to have to juggle his resources again with top try-scorer Matt Evans (thigh) and full-back Grant Pointer (hamstring) in a race against time to be fit for selection.
Flanker Phil Burgess missed the cup game in Swansea with a broken jaw and is again a major doubt while prop Ryan Storer was also a late withdrawal from that match. Hooker Rob Elloway picked up an elbow injury but is expected to be fit.
Davies will assess his options after the Boxing Day derby clash at Plymouth Albion but was able to give the squad a few days off ahead of that game.
He said: "We needed a bit of rest and recuperation after a long slog in the wet during this month.
"This is an absolutely massive game and we can't afford any of the inconsistencies we have shown at times this season."
Cornish Pirates (from): Kilmartin, Riley, Fatialofa, Hallett, Bedford, Andrew, Elloway, Prescott, Lyons, B.Maidment, Storer, Semmens, Barry, Kessell, Cheesman, Paver, Joyce, McGlone, Mercer, Davies, Cattle, Buckle, Marriott, Tyas, Hambly, Duncan, Hill, Moyle, Evans, Pointer.
More local rugby, page 71.