Pirates rise above the gloom in Devon
AMONG the gathering of many of Cornwall and Devon's leading rugby journos at the Brickfields there was a palpable sense of frustration with the current Championship season and a desire among a few that we get it over with quickly and start afresh in September.
Maybe it was a dose of the post-Christmas blues and perhaps the Falcons-factor of perceived north-eastern superiority had a lot to do with it.
But as the strongest opinions came from Devon-based colleagues maybe, just maybe, the fact that Plymouth Albion have now won only once in the league since September has sapped their enthusiasm.
The Cornish Pirates drove back across the bridge from Devon in high spirits and deservedly so.
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They did to Plymouth Albion what the Devon side had for so many years under Graham Dawe done to the Pirates and others – took away their set-piece, out-rucked and out-mauled them, and with solid tactical kicking forced their opponents to play in areas they didn't really want to be in. Simple rugby.
Pirates boss Ian Davies described it as a thing of beauty and on a day when at times you couldn't see the other side of the pitch for the monsoon-like rainfall, it was.
The Welshman also likened his team's display to the rugged efficiency so often displayed by Saracens in the Premiership.
A type of rugby so often criticised for its lack of flair but so finely-tuned to grinding out success come what may.
Well if that is what he is building then I say bring it on!
He did warn in pre-season that he would make his Pirates difficult to beat and Chris Stirling did explain that the Pirates would be a different animal after his departure. Both men are so far dead right.
With just one defeat in all competitions since the first weekend in October the Cornish Pirates are now handily placed for an assault on the play-off places.
A top-four finish is still a big ask but of the teams around them Nottingham have looked a little peaky since their beating in the Mennaye mud while Leeds still flatter to deceive and will be hurting after going down in Jersey.
Newcastle head coach Dean Richards revved-up matters ahead of the holiday fixtures by claiming that his team had yet to be tested in the Championship. London Scottish promptly trekked north to Kingston Park, gave the Falcons a bloody nose watched by Ref-Cam, and deprived Richards of one of his beloved bonus points in a narrow 12-9 win for the former Premiership side, which left him taking pot-shots at the match officials for crumbs of comfort.
So perhaps now is the time to awaken the title race and challenge the notion that the trophy is there for Newcastle to take when they please.
It would be nice to see them get the test they clearly crave and especially when they want it least. I don't want to wait until September for that level of excitement.
– Dick Straughan