Time for a win on Welsh soil
THERE is something about playing Welsh teams in the British & Irish Cup which brings out the worst in the Pirates and nobody seems to know why.
This game was no exception and it was left to the post-match singing to make up for the lack of intensity on the pitch.
For the record the Pirates won, remain top of their qualifying pool in the competition, and probably need two more wins from their last three games to secure their passage into the final eight.
What they will not want is to have to travel to Carmarthen Quins in January for their final fixture needing a win to progress. Memories of Pandy Park, Cross Keys, and a real cup upset last season will flood back under that scenario.
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The Quins are probably the only team who can realistically hurt the aspirations of the Pirates in this competition, and they also proved difficult to put away when they visited the Mennaye in October. Next up for them is a trip to Scotland on Saturday for their return fixture against Dundee, whom they squeezed past in the first game.
Having been to Mayfield and seen how the Scots perform on their own patch, I reckon they could do the Pirates a huge favour here and beat the Welshmen, and that would be a fine early Christmas present for Ian Davies and his men.
However, the Pirates, for their part, are still going to have to do something they haven't yet done to date in this competition and win a game over the bridge in Wales. That ghost can be laid to rest this weekend at Swansea, the team bottom of the Welsh Premiership.
The All Whites battled hard last Sunday but other than a lively fly-half in Sam Davies and a decent No8 in Dan Baker offered little real threat.
The Pirates, so focused, so aggressive and so purposeful against Nottingham in the game before, struggled for much of the afternoon to raise the level of intensity beyond that of a training session and coughed and spluttered their way over the finish line with two tries and a 16-point winning margin.
With big games coming up over the holiday period I think the coaching team would have preferred to keep the likes of Cattle, McGlone and Paver under wraps but in the end they were needed to provide direction and close out the game. A disappointment in one respect in that certain other players didn't stake a big enough claim to a starting jersey, but a relief in so far as the big three were fit, available and did the job.
The coaches may opt this weekend to start with all guns blazing and field a full strength team in order to get the job done first and then rest people later, but Swansea in their own back yard should not be taken lightly.
They may be a shadow now of the team which became the first club side to beat the major three southern hemisphere nations (imagine the likelihood of that happening now!), and a club which has produced countless internationals and 23 British Lions, but like I said, the Pirates do not win in Wales. Hopefully by tea-time tomorrow that will all have changed.
– Dick Straughan