Saracens show Premiership pedigree but Pirates are looking in good shape
Saracens 61, Cornish Pirates 3
A STAR-studded Saracens side led by former England lock Steve Borthwick gave the Cornish Pirates a brutal pre-season examination at the HAC Ground in the City of London as they ran in nine tries without reply.
The Premiership side laid bare the gulf in class between the top end of English club rugby and the second tier scoring at a point a minute in a lively first half.
England internationals Chris Ashton and Charlie Hodgson ruthlessly punished the Pirates with their pace and accuracy whilst the lively running of full-back Ben Ransom was almost impossible to stop.
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But the scoreline does not tell the whole story of a game played in humid conditions and in front of a sizeable crowd as the Pirates remained competitive until the end, showed excellent fitness levels, and demonstrated enough flair in attack to trouble most Championship sides.
Head coach Ian Davies is confident that the Pirates are on course to start the new season in good shape and was happy with how his team performed against high quality opponents.
He said: "We knew that playing a top four Premiership side and a team aspiring to be a big-hitter in Europe would be tough and the pinnacle of our pre-season, and Saracens didn't let us down with the team they put out.
"Their physicality and pace, especially that of Chris Ashton, hurt us whenever they got in behind us and we conceded a couple of soft tries.
"But the boys dug in, showed great energy levels, especially those coming off the bench, and I think we deserved to get a score in the end. We didn't, but this performance is now the benchmark as we take the lessons from here and look to learn from them."
He continued: "You can't read too much into pre-season results as a whole because you don't know what agenda each team is bringing into the game, but we are trucking along quite nicely and our conditioning is a marked improvement from last year because we have had more time.
"The idea here was for the boys to all run themselves into the ground and empty their tanks and they all to a man certainly did that."
Davies now has just over two weeks and three more pre-season games in order to prepare his squad to peak for their Championship curtain-raiser against Bristol and he is confident.
He said: "We will judge ourselves against Bristol and Leeds, two of the favourites for promotion, in our opening two games. Not in games like this against Premiership teams. It is all about the Championship."
And with new scrum laws to contend with and a Saracens pack containing the formidable duo of James Johnston and Billy Vunipola, Davies was reasonably happy with the Pirates set piece play. He said: "It went reasonably well although not so much on their ball. We scrummaged well but wave after wave of big men in the contact area eventually wore us down."
And for anyone writing off the Cornish Pirates league chances in the wake of this heavy pre-season defeat Davies had a simple message. He said: "Dismiss us if you want. I have no problem with that at all. Dismiss us and then let us see what happens."