Slump in form a growing concern ahead of difficult trip to Moseley
IT was a strange weekend results wise in the Greene King Championship as the Pirates again laboured against a team they should, on paper at least, have beaten with something to spare.
Ealing travelled to Cornwall fired-up and ready to have a go at the under-performing Pirates and fancied their chances of springing a big surprise. They came within four minutes of doing so too, until the Pirates finally woke up and Kyle Moyle's try, expertly converted from an acute angle by Kieran Hallett spared their blushes.
Hallett then had an easier kick to win the game as the clock ticked into the red zone, but his shot at the posts drifted wide and Ealing held on to two priceless league points in their battle for survival. It could and should have been four.
Quite what is wrong with the Pirates at the moment is the subject of much heated debate among the supporters, and probably the cause of a few sleepless nights for Director of Rugby Ian Davies.
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He has been openly critical of the team in recent weeks, but has tempered that by reminding people that he made no promises of success when the campaign began in September. That said, he will not be happy with a current run of just one win in the last five outings and if performances remain as they are, this team will get a serious beating sooner or later.
They last performed as a unit for the full 80 minutes back in mid-December, eclipsing Jersey in the British & Irish Cup 24-0. On home soil you have to go back to late November and the win over Bristol for some real intensity, and this slump will be a factor in why the lowest league crowd of the season watched on at a sunny and for once dry Mennaye Field last weekend.
Moseley away on Friday night is probably not the ideal place to right the wrongs of recent games, but the squad has to start somewhere if the televised clash with London Welsh a week later isn't to prove embarrassing, although the Exiles have a few concerns of their own after taking a pasting at Brickfields.
Plymouth turned in possibly their best performance in several years to down the big spending promotion hopefuls, while up the road in Yorkshire, Rotherham were dire but still ground out a win against Moseley.
London Scottish might as well have stayed on the bus on Friday night at Meadow Lane, returning home empty handed from struggling Nottingham, while Jersey and Bedford took hefty thumpings at Bristol and Leeds respectively.
So back to Ealing. Watching them and their travelling support on Sunday reminded me so much of the Pirates in their first year at this level. With the early season excitement out of the way and several thrashings endured, the serious stuff of league survival is now well under way and their squad looks like it now believes that this can be achieved.
Back in September after the reverse fixture between the two clubs at Vallis Way, I was openly pessimistic over their chances of Championship survival and urged them to start picking up some points. They have done that and when you then factor in the unforeseen melt-down at Jersey, the West London club have a huge lifeline hanging in front of them.
Only a Cornish Pirates get out of jail free card kept Ealing at the bottom of the league on Sunday. With six of their last nine games at home, it may not stay like that much longer.