Swansea 10, Cornish Pirates 30
THE Cornish Pirates remain on course for a place in the quarter-finals after completing a British & Irish Cup double over Swansea in the mud and rain of a windswept St Helens on Saturday.
It was a win which not only left the Pirates just one more victory from qualifying for the last eight in the competition, but also marked their first success in Wales in more than 70 years of trying.
And with Dundee beating Carmarthen Quins in the other Pool 3 fixture, the Pirates are in pole position to top the group and secure a home draw in the next round, which has left head coach Ian Davies delighted ahead of the resumption of Championship fixtures on Boxing Day.
"It was a good day. The weather was delightful but we came here and we won," he said. "We did the job and did it well."
"We scored 30 points in the rain and we are disappointed that we didn't get the fourth try and a bonus point but if you had offered us that result at the start of the day we would have certainly taken it."
He added: "Dundee will be buoyed after their win and we face them next, but we will have to pick up a bonus point there and hopefully get that top four (qualifiers) finish."
Having lost in Cornwall in the reverse fixture only six days beforehand, Swansea started confidently and were ahead after 52 seconds as scrum-half Aled Lewis seized turnover ball and raced 60 metres for the opening try.
The Pirates were untroubled and dominated the game from thereon but took until the 24th minute to open their points scoring account through a Kieran Hallett penalty, after a succession of errors had frustrated them in key field positions.
Flanker Kyle Marriott scored a try late in the half after Swansea flanker James Bija had been sin-binned for fighting, and from that point the Pirates never looked back.
With a dominant pack and backs beginning to find space Swansea were forced into ever more defensive positions. But after Hallett and Sam Davies had exchanged penalties to make it 16-10 to the Pirates, the Cornish side finally killed off the spirited home resistance.
Two converted tries in two minutes from Tom Bedford and Rob Elloway did the job and while they couldn't put the gloss on a strong performance with a fourth try and a bonus point there were no complaints in the Pirates camp.
"At half-time we spoke that there was no need to panic and that we were playing the right game and playing it in their half," said Davies. "We just needed more accuracy and if it took 25 phases to score then it took 25 phases to score. As long as you have got the ball you are in control.
"Sam Davies is a good fly-half but he didn't fancy tackling Junior Fatialofa all day and you saw that when he stopped coming up in the defensive line. We exploited that and Junior kept going."
And Davies indicated how a comment from one of the Swansea coaches after the game at the Mennaye Field had irritated his squad.
He said: "Kevin Hopkins had said in the week that he didn't think that there was a lot of difference between a professional team and the Swansea team and that upset a few of our forwards.
"They wanted to make sure that their physicality, especially at the breakdown, showed through and I think you saw that. All in all it was a thoroughly good performance from the forwards."