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Victory puts Pirates on the brink of home quarter final

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: January 16, 2014

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THE Cornish Pirates made it five wins out of five in their British & Irish Cup campaign as they battled past a dogged Ayr side in boggy conditions and the swirling drizzle at the Mennaye Field.

They came into the game against the Scottish Premiership champions already guaranteed a place in April's quarter-finals but were pushed all the way as they set about maintaining their winning run.

With only two minutes played Ayr unlocked the home defence with a well worked backs move and full-back Robbie Fergusson made the most of a big overlap wide on the right to race in for a converted try.

The Pirates then hit back with a Jack Andrew try, converted by Craig Holland with the full-back also adding a penalty shortly afterwards.

But two Ayr penalties from Finn Russell gave them a 13-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Playing into the worsening weather conditions the Pirates pack began to assert its dominance and skipper Aaron Carpenter scored a second try from close range before Russell's third penalty right on half-time gave the Scots a one point interval lead.

Holland put the Pirates back in front with an early second half penalty before more power from the home pack yielded not just a yellow card for Ayr flanker Andrew Dunlop, but also a penalty try as the visitors scrum capitulated on their own line.

Holland converted and landed a penalty on the hour to give the Pirates breathing space but a bonus point clinching try eluded them and Ayr completed the scoring with a breakaway try from wing Craig Gossman.

Pirates head coach Ian Davies was, however, satisfied that his team had won in testing circumstances.

"It was difficult out there with the conditions and that was disappointing really as both sides set out to try and play some rugby," he said.

"The crowd were entertained and there were mistakes from both sides. We spoke pre-match about how the weather shouldn't inhibit how we were going to go and play but we just needed to be a bit more accurate."

He added: "I think we lost more ball in contact than we have all season, mainly due to the slippery ball rather than the hits, but it was entertaining even if I am disappointed that we didn't get the bonus point. We certainly created enough chances to do that."

The Pirates beat Ayr 53-10 when the two teams last met back in October but the Scottish side bolstered their ranks with eight Glasgow Warriors players for their first ever visit to Penzance, and Davies paid tribute to their strong showing.

He said: "They were hugely improved and the Glasgow boys certainly strengthened them. The conditions were certainly Scottish but they played well, attacked from deep, their goal kicker struck some big kicks over and they put us under pressure.

"We just had a bit too much up front and that is probably what won us the game."

With Aaron Carpenter captaining the Pirates for the first time and centre Tom Riley making his 50th appearance there was also a welcome return to action for former Redruth No8 Tom Duncan after a long injury lay-off.

Davies said: "It's great to have Dunks back. He's been chomping at the bit since the start of December but we have had to hold him back because of the physio's advice.

"He will start against Ulster and it's all about getting game time into his legs now."

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