VIDEO: Ian Davies delight as Cornish Pirates stun Bristol
Cornish Pirates head coach Ian Davies says his side will struggle to maintain their underdog status after beating Bristol in the opening game of their Championship season on Sunday.
The Pirates caused an upset at Sandy Park by recording a 23-21 victory over Andy Robinson’s highly-fancied side with a performance full of endeavour.
Debutants James Sandford and James Tincknell scored Pirates’ tries with James Merriman and Luke Eves touching down for Bristol.
Opposing fly-halves Kieran Hallett and Adrian Jarvis kicked three penalties apiece. But while the former converted both his side’s tries, Jarvis narrowly missed a late conversion to level the scores.
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The victory for Pirates will cause most pundits to rethink their pre-season views of the Cornish club, according to Davies.
“Unfortunately, the underdog tag is now gone,” he said. “Nobody has given us a hope for this season, but there is great belief within this squad and plenty of determination that everyone could see out on the field today.
“We have certainly got to get our feet firmly back on the floor now, it would be easy to get carried away.
“The season is still about development for us. We are going to be on a roller-coaster – we’re currently on the top and there might only be one way to go.
“It wasn’t all pretty, we made a lot of mistakes but there was a lot of energy and endeavour.
“We are a young team, but we have got some excellent older heads – Gavin Cattle was outstanding with Kieran Hallett. Laurie McGlone carried really well. The old war horse Alan Paver and the whole front row were fantastic. Younger guys like Craig Holland, Rheon James, Joel Conlon too – you could single out everyone, really.”
Pirates’ team unity was certainly tested in the early stages of the game. But although they were under pressure, they defended their line well.
Bristol showed their confidence by kicking an early penalty in to the corner, but after a further five minutes’ probing at Pirates’ defence, they opted to take the points when another penalty opportunity came.
Jarvis put Bristol ahead, but Pirates responded to score the game’s opening try through lock Sandford.
Hallett added the conversion and then extended Pirates’ lead to seven points with a penalty from distance in the minutes that followed.
Hallett and Jarvis traded penalties as the half settled and Pirates’ fortunes were not helped by losing hooker Rob Elloway to a yellow card. They survived for the loss of just three points leading up to half time, again scored for Bristol by Jarvis, but Hallett struck back to ensure the Cornish side held on to a seven-point lead at the interval.
However, that lead turned to nothing within ten minutes of the restart.
Back-row forward Merriman scored Bristol’s first try of the afternoon, only confirmed after lengthy consultation with the television match official. The conversion from Jarvis then left the scores level at 16 apiece.
The game became a bitty affair as the hour mark approached, but it was Pirates who entered the final phase in front after Tincknell burst through the Bristol defence to score under the posts for a try converted by Hallett.
Although Bristol responded, applying huge pressure on the Pirates’ defence along their try line, they only broke through in added time.
The lead-up to Eves’ try drew successive penalties from Pirates and a penalty-try would have given them a simple conversion in front of the posts.
Instead, they touched down in the corner and Jarvis was unable to add the extras from an acute angle.
The Pirates deserved a little luck for a battling team performance, and Davies is keen to see his side maintain their work-rate against Leeds Carnegie at Mennaye Field on Friday night.
He said: “They have to do it in game two now. Teams are going to be ready for us and Leeds will be smarting from defeat yesterday. We will give Leeds the respect they deserve. The guys have knuckled down really well over the summer and slowly but surely that belief has come.”