IT IS often said in sport that you learn more about a team in defeat than you do in victory and despite going down to the promotion favourites in Sunday's 11-try thriller, the positives for the Pirates far outweighed the negatives.
After several months of rugby in paddy fields up and down the country, the Memorial Ground offered a firm fast track in warm, sunny conditions we have scarcely seen since the back end of September – and what a difference it made.
Both teams ran hard at each other relentlessly from the outset and the attacking play was a joy to behold. The adventurous and ambitious passing which created a second try for Craig Holland had more than a hint of traditional Barbarians-style play about it, while Max Bodilly's fearless all-round game again showed a level of ability and maturity which promises so much for the future.
It was good to see Holland get back on the scoresheet too with a brace of well taken tries after a barren spell stretching back to Rotherham at the start of January, again on a firmer pitch, when the Pirates last scored 30 points in a game.
He has made the most appearances in the league for the club so far this season, turning out 17 times, mainly at full-back, and is both quick and skilful but needs to back himself a little more when attacking with the ball in hand.
Holland seems to have got bogged down a bit in the winter mud so maybe a switch to the wing with Bodilly at 15 will help him to get into more advanced positions from which to score more.
The real revelation on Sunday though was the imperious performance from flanker Alex Cheesman, who was quite literally everywhere and involved in everything on the pitch.
Flankers do a huge amount of work which often goes unseen and there have been many games so far in his Pirates career to date where he hasn't really caught the eye. That isn't a criticism but merely an observation that other events on the pitch have attracted more attention, but here he turned that around by the spade full and stepped up another huge level.
Pirates boss Ian Davies said after the game that the coaching team are working hard to develop Cheesman's attacking game and once that is established with a good level of consistency he will be a nightmare to play against.
Now the test for the Pirates is to replicate this good performance with an equally strong display against London Welsh – another team in the queue for promotion.
The Welsh will be much tighter in defence than Bristol and will be a tough nut to crack yet with Leeds and Rotherham on the fixture list next month, the Pirates will still have a big say in the make up of the play-off quartet.
Davies has said many times this season that the Pirates are a mid-table squad capable of top four performances. I'm not glossing over the fact that they lost at Bristol, but nobody had put 33 points past Bristol this season and a lot of money has been spent on that squad.
London Welsh are a good side but after Sunday the Pirates need fear nobody for the rest of the season.