Camarthen 17, Cornish Pirates 12
ONE week after booking their place in the British & Irish Cup quarter-final the Cornish Pirates travelled to West Wales to face Carmarthen Quins knowing that they only had to avoid defeat to guarantee a home tie in the next round, writes Dick Straughan.
It did not happen and now their fate is dependent on other results elsewhere.
The games between Llanelli and Moseley and the yet to be re-arranged Nottingham versus Llandovery tie will decide if the Pirates squeeze home as the fourth best qualifier, but as they left the Principality for the long and cold journey home they had only themselves to blame for this defeat.
Carmarthen had already been eliminated from the competition but were able to stage the game on a near perfect pitch after the town had escaped the worst of the weekend`s icy winter blast which paralysed much of South Wales.
The Pirates were forced into a late change with Scotland Under-20 star JJ Kilmartin snowbound in Bath and unable to join the team. Grant Pointer started with Max Maidment coming on to the bench and the team had the perfect start taking the lead with an 8th minute try from Alex Cheesman.
Kieran Hallett, Tom Kessell and Junior Fatialofa linked well as the Pirates ran hard and supported each other well setting up Cheesman to go in under the posts.
With the try converted the Pirates looked set to kick on before a rapidly escalating penalty count against them began to hurt.
Quins fly-half James Dixon landed three place-kicks before the interval to give the Welsh side a 9-7 lead and he then missed a fourth with the final kick of the half. But two minutes after the restart Dixon linked well with former Pirate Rhodri Wells and set up Jason Harries for a try.
Dixon and Maynard missed further penalties for the Quins before another ex-Pirates Darren Daniel was sin-binned for a punch on Kieran Hallett.
In his absence the Pirates clawed it back to 14-12 with a Rob Elloway try.
But in a frantic finale which saw Gavin Cattle yellow-carded for stamping, Maynard killed the game with a late penalty and left Pirates boss Ian Davies rueing a bad day at the office for his side.
"We didn't establish the authority we should have done and in no facet of the game were we dominant," he said. "Our kicking game was poor, the set piece didn't function and we didn't support the ball carriers."
"Carmarthen Quins are a tough nut at home and the small crowd put pressure on the officials. Suddenly 50-50 decisions started to go against us but we have to learn to adapt to different interpretations of the match officials. The laws are the same, it is just the interpretations which are different."
He continued: "We were flat. Perhaps we were too relaxed. Maybe we didn't think that the game would go ahead but the conditions were perfect. We have spoken before about our attitude versus perceived lesser teams and we really need to address this now.
"We made it a battle out there and now we are totally dependent on other results going our way."