THEY may have ended up defeated but there were plenty of positives for the young Pirates squad to take home from the Memorial Ground after they pushed Greene King Championship leaders Bristol all the way in this pulsating clash.
Bristol ran in seven tries, including four from flanker Marco Mama as they threatened on several occasions to cut loose, but were repeatedly pegged back by a dogged Pirates side who simply refused to give in.
They responded with four tries of their own and a losing bonus point but after clawing the Bristol lead back to just five points at 38-33 with six minutes to play, Director of Rugby Ian Davies felt that a second losing bonus point would have been no less than his team deserved.
"It was a cracking game of rugby," he said.
"I was a bit worried just before half-time when we looked a bit like a rabbit in the headlights but we pulled ourselves together and got a good score early in the second half.
"We really took it to Bristol and I think we worried them and I think we deserved two losing bonus points – we got four tries but deserved to be within seven of them at the end, and not many people would have given us that chance before we came here."
He added: "We knew that Bristol score a lot of points but we also knew that their defence is quite porous and they will have to tighten that up before they get to the play-offs. You can't concede four tries at home and expect to go on and win the title. There are some huge positives to take after everybody had written us off here. Nobody expected us to beat Bristol in the first two games (this season) let alone the third game."
In perfect conditions Bristol started quickly taking the lead through Mama's first try after just six minutes before two Kieran Hallett penalties pegged them back.
Two quick tries midway through the second quarter from Mama and Nick Koster seemingly got the home side back on the front foot but the Pirates had other ideas.
Max Bodilly's scintillating break set up Craig Holland for a try in the corner on 36 minutes, and then after Mama had completed his hat-trick Aaron Carpenter broke free of a poor tackle to squeeze in at the corner.
Full-back Auguy Slowik resumed the Bristol scoring early in the second half with his first try of the game before superb work by Tom Kessell and Bodilly created a run-in for Holland with Kieran Hallett's excellent touchline conversion cutting the deficit to 31-25.
Mama struck again in the 52nd minute before prop Jack Andrew replied with the Pirates fourth try. Hallett's 74th minute penalty silenced the home crowd as the Pirates got to within five points of Bristol but a mistake at the restart handed the home side a penalty slotted by Adrian Jarvis.
Moments later Slowik seized on a loose ball in the Pirates 22 to score try number seven and the game was over.
Davies added: "It is difficult to point the finger at anyone who didn't play well because they all stood up to the challenge and proved a point.
"Everyone seems to write us off at the moment, even our own supporters, but we need to look at what we have got and we have certainly got some talent. They showed that here.
"Bristol like to attack from the head of the scrum but they couldn't do that and we nullified their maul except at the end of the second half, and I thought we did a job on their line-out on our own ball – that has been an Achilles heel for us in recent months.
"Where we lost was in giving a couple of soft scores away and a couple of things didn't go our way from the officials but that's rugby."