Pirates Preview (H - Cup) 14.12.13

12/12/2013

Once more unto the breach

The quadrilogy of matches between Jersey and Cornish Pirates this season continues with Part III, a Christmas special at St Peter. Another week, another preview - here we go again!

B&I

The British & Irish Cup tie (ko Saturday at 3pm) comes a week after Jersey went to Penzance and felt a little unfortunate to come away empty-handed. With 74 minutes on the match-clock, Jersey edged ahead and looked set for a notable win, but Pirates rallied and retook the lead before scoring again with the final play - a double bonus score which turned the match points tally from 4-1 to 5-0.

The main interest for Jersey supporters will be that this is the first home game since the departure of Director of Rugby Ben Harvey. It is hoped that a decent crowd will turn out in support of Interim Head Coach Steve Boden and his men.

The main interest for visiting supporters is... well, it doesn't look like too many will make the journey. Put it this way: it won't be the mass exodus from Cornwall of 1991, when an estimated 40,000 headed to Twickers for the County Championship win against Yorkshire, a famous extra time triumph.

But the main aim for the Pirates will be to try and continue their fine record in the B&I. Seven more points from three games would give the Pirates 22, out of range of their pool 6 rivals, but Ian Davies' men will instead be looking for the mark (last season it was 24) that would give them a top-four ranking and a home quarter-final.

Jersey (6 points thus far), on the other hand, can keep things interesting with a home win, while the other sides in pool 6, Ulster Ravens (4pts) and Ayr (5), battle it out on Friday evening, with the loser knowing that their interest in this year's competition will be over.

Luke _jones

One note of local rivalry involves Guernseyman Luke Jones (above). The 20-year-old joined Pirates in the summer, having previously spent a season with the Leicester Tigers Academy. He previously spent two-and-a-half seasons playing for Guernsey's 1st XV after turning 17, including Siam Cup appearances in 2010 and 2011. Jones looks likely to be in the Pirates squad this weekend, and a cluster of family members will be travelling intra-Island to cheer him on against the old enemy.


News from the Jersey Camp

Steve Boden hopes to have some of his key players back from injury, and the quota of former Pirates may increase with Grant Pointer and Ben Maidment among those set to return. The number of available backs remains toward bare minimum levels, however.

The Jersey squad will be announced at 12noon on Friday - HERE it is.


Pirates in the B&I and thus far in 2013/14

Cornish Pirates are bidding to reach the knock-out stages of the British & Irish Cup for the fourth time in the competition's five-year history.

Pirates -Logo -250

Only in 2010/11, the second season of the B&I Cup, were the Pirates eliminated at the group stage. Losing to that season's Championship winners, Worcester, was probably expected, but a 34-32 defeat to Newport at Rodney Parade was fatal for Cornish ambitions.

Otherwise it's been a story laced with plentiful success, starting in 2009/10 when Pirates went all the way to the final and defeated Munster 'A' 23-14 at Camborne in front of 4,240 supporters.

Two years later Pirates reached the semi-final but lost narrowly away to Welsh side Cross Keys, and then last season it was another KO fixture against Munster, but this time the Irishmen got the better of it with a 9-10 win in the quarter-final at the Mennaye Field.

Once again the Pirates are taking the competition seriously in 2013/14, and are the only side with maximum points thus far. Ulster Ravens were beaten 34-17 at the Mennaye, and then there was an impressive road win at Ayr by 10-53. The latter result was put into perspective last weekend when Ulster went to SE Scotland and, even with Irish international Paddy Wallace skippering the side, were beaten comfortably by 41-22 by Ayr.

In the Championship, Pirates followed B&I success in 09/10 by reaching the Play-Off final the following two seasons, beaten over two legs on each occasion by the promoted team, Worcester in 10/11 (46-32 on aggregate) and London Welsh the following year (66-41).

Last season promised a potential Play-Off repeat, but the Pirates faded and finished a disappointing sixth, although there was a double over new boys Jersey, with a win by 6-20 at St Peter on the opening day of 2012/13 and a 28-24 success in Penzance on the final day.

The Cornishmen started this season, and started it impressively, in the double-header at Sandy Park, Exeter, defying the odds with a 23-21 triumph over a side tipped for the top, Bristol. The gloss came off with a home defeat by Leeds, 17-20, but was then re-applied with four straight wins, over Ealing and Moseley in the league and over Ulster and Ayr in the B&I.

Pirates came a distant second to all-conquering London Welsh at the Kassam (41-6) but then won two tough encounters at home, 16-8 against London Scottish and 16-13 vs Bedford.

After returning from defeat in Jersey (see below), Pirates hosted Bristol, who hadn't won at the Mennaye since 2004 (a play-off win at Camborne was their only success). And they still hadn't after heroic defence in the closing minutes by the Pirates repelled the invaders to the tune of 21-15 (tries by Kessell and a Goss brace). Pirates had rallied after trailing 7-8 at the break, and a tackle by replacement wing Rheon James on Adrian Jarvis of Bristol in the closing stage was a real "I was there" moment.

On the final weekend of November  Pirates went to Meadow Lane for a league match. It was 10-all at the break and the scoreline remained tight, the visitors, thanks to two Evans' tries and one by Elloway, edged ahead 24-27 in the dying minutes. In early October Nottingham trailed Jersey by a similar margin, won a penalty and went for an attacking lineout, but failed to score. This time another Jarvis, Matt, went for the sticks and the hosts tied the game as the FT whistle blew.

Jersey and Pirates could, in theory, meet again in the knock-out stages of the B&I this year, but for the moment there is one guaranteed encounter on the radar, the league clash at the Mennaye on Sunday 2nd March 2014.


Any previous? In a word - shedloads

Jersey 6 Pirates 20, Sept 2012 - match report HERE

Macca Pirates

Pirates 28 Jersey 24, Apr 2013 - picture above, with Jersey's Dave McCormack, in his last league appearance for the 1st XV prior to retiring, tackling Pirates' Peter Joyce in tandem with his colleague Sean McCarthy; match report HERE

Jersey 27 Pirates 25, Nov 2013 - for the second time this season, Jersey conceded three tries at St Peter within approximately 20 minutes. As against Bristol, the Islanders fought back, this time to greater effect. Trailing 10-19 at the break, Jersey scored a try on the hour through Mark McCrea and then another by Tom Brown with four minutes to go making it 22-25. Niall O'Connor added a superb conversion, and then a penalty with the last kick to win it. Match report is HERE

Cops Pirates 2

Pirates 31 Jersey 20 (B&I Cup), Dec 2013 - an early 14-0 lead for the hosts, but Jersey (attacking above through wing James Copsey) battled back to trail by just a point at the break, and hung on tenaciously in the second half, utilising a dominant scrummage that eventually gave them the lead (17-20) with just six minutes to go after a second penalty try. But this time it was the Pirates' turn to score twice in the last four minutes, sealing their bonus point win. See match report HERE


History of the Pirates

The early days of rugby in West Cornwall saw Penzance and Newlyn as rival clubs who waged some feisty battles on the pitch to determine local bragging rights. Penzance, formed in 1876 and Newlyn, who started in 1894, actually stopped playing each other from 1929-32 because of public order concerns.

However the entente became rather more cordiale towards the end of the 1930s and in 1945 the clubs merged, playing their first game against Guy's Hospital on September 22nd of that year.

When league rugby began in 1987/88 the Pirates (P&N) were in the Cornwall and Devon League, but the club had a steady run of success culminating in their arrival at level two in 2003. So far, that's as high as they have reached, although there remain great ambitions to emulate Devon neighbours Exeter and establish a Cornish presence at the top level of the English game.

Building a stadium is a key factor in the Pirates top-level ambitions, and after a long campaign the Stadium for Cornwall in Truro was granted planning permission last April. There's still a long way to go, but it is hoped that the green light from planning authorities may help the club clear the major financial and other hurdles which remain.


Following the game

Don't forget that you can keep up-to-speed with news from Jersey v Pirates through the following channels:

• Preview on BBC Radio Jersey on Friday from 5.30pm, and live commentary on Saturday afternoon (available online and on your transistor-wireless device).
• Preview in Friday's JEP, more coverage in Saturday's paper (on sale from 7am) and full match coverage on Monday
• Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter and the 'Rolling Maul' rugby forum
• Match preview on Channel 103 on Saturday afternoon
• Reports and match action on Channel TV online and on Monday evening at 6.15pm; and on BBC Channel Islands on Monday evening at 6.30pm


The B&I This Weekend

Greene King IPA Championship sides Plymouth Albion, Cornish Pirates and Bristol are proudly flying the flag for the West Country as this season's enters the fourth round.

Albion have a stiff task on their hands despite making it three wins out of three with a 17-7 home win over 2012 champions Munster 'A'. The Devon side have a four-point lead over their Irish rivals at the top of Pool 4 going into the second part of their double-header, to be played at Waterford RFC on Friday evening.

Bristol, meanwhile, appear to face a two-way tussle with Leeds Carnegie to finish top of Pool 5 after a record-breaking 78-0 win in Tuesday night's rearranged fixture against Aberavon put them two points clear of Carnegie. Bristol scored 12 tries as they powered to the club's biggest ever win in Cup history. Bristol play their third game in seven days when they take on Gala in the Scottish Borders this weekend, while Leeds will hope to back up last Saturday's 41-22 success over Aberavon with a follow up victory over the Wizards at Brantingham Park, the home of Hull Ionians.

Leeds's' Yorkshire rivals Rotherham will fancy their chances of taking another step towards quarter-final qualification as they welcome Llanelli to Clifton Lane. Following a 20-16 win over Llanelli in the first-ever meeting between the sides, the Titans hold a narrow one-point lead over Connacht Eagles - shock 17-8 winners over Bedford Blues in the last round - in the Pool 3 standings. Lee Blackett's men have only lost once at home all season - to Championship league leaders London Welsh.

Cross Keys will need to produce a special performance to turnaround a 31-0 loss at the hands of defending champions Leinster 'A' when the two sides meet again at Pandy Park on Saturday. The defeat at Donnybrook ended a seven-game winning run for Cross Keys, who haven't been beaten on home turf since losing to domestic league and cup champions Pontypridd on September 21. Leinster A lead Pool 1 by four points.

Seasoned B&I Cup campaigners Pontypridd hold sway in Pool 2 following a 27-20 win over London Scottish, who they meet again this weekend. London Welsh travel to Edinburgh Academicals looking to back up Saturday's 73-10 win at Old Deer Park.

Friday December 13
Munster A v Plymouth Albion, KO 19:30
Ulster Ravens v Ayr, KO 19:30
Ealing Trailfinders v Moseley, KO 19:45
Nottingham Rugby v Stirling County, KO 20:00

Saturday December 14
Edinburgh Academicals v London Welsh, KO 14:00
Bedford Blues v Connacht Eagles, KO 14:00
Rotherham Titans v Llanelli, KO 14:00
Leeds Carnegie v Aberavon, KO 14:00
Cross Keys v Leinster A, KO 15:00
London Scottish v Pontypridd, KO 15:00
Gala v Bristol Rugby, KO 15:00
Jersey v Cornish Pirates, KO 15:00


And Finally

Just one other game in Jersey this weekend, with Beeches playing a friendly against Jersey 2nds at 10.30am on Saturday. The venue is TBC and will be confirmed on Twitter on Friday.

The rearranged Aberavon v Bristol game, mentioned above, followed the October postponement of the fixture when a large hole (or you could say a small crater) opened up magically at the home of the Aberavon Wizards, the Talbot Athletic Ground.

Bristol were looking set for a bonus point win until the hole appeared after 65 minutes, but there was no way the game could go ahead, not once it was shown that a lock forward could insert his booted foot and whole leg up to the thigh in said hole as the damage was being inspected.

As Bristol's Press Officer Tom Tainton pointed out, it was good to see the home team's groundsmen retained a sense of humour about the incident. When the visitors arrived at the ground they saw the pitch had been specially marked for the occasion.

Hole

Enjoy your weekend's rugby!
Tom Innes

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