The Cornish Pirates made it three wins in a row as they dispatched Nottingham 33-3 at Mennaye Field yesterday to progress to the semi-finals of the British and Irish Cup.
With Irish sides Munster and Leinster along with Welsh Premiership outfit Cross Keys completing the final four in this season's tournament, the Pirates will face stiff opposition whoever they meet after the draw on January 30.
Yesterday, it took them 20 minutes to get the scoreboard moving but they eventually ran in five tries, including a debut score for their new loan signing from Worcester Warriors, Andy Short, and the Pirates' high performance manager Chris Stirling was happy with the display.
"I think the word comfortable sums it up well," he said. "Nottingham played well in the first ten minutes and asked some questions of us, but defensively we were pretty sound and then, when we finally got our hands on the ball, we got field position and scored points.
"I questioned the guys on some of the work-rate in the first half when we got control but then seemed to slip back to just going through the motions a wee bit. But, in the second half, we came out and upped the intensity."
Nottingham brought a much-changed side to Cornwall to the one which lost a hard-fought Championship game here two weeks ago. But, after starting well and briefly threatening as wing James Stokes broke clear only to be felled by a Rob Cook try-saving tackle, they lost their way in attack and began to suffer at the hands of the Pirates' pack.
The opening try came after 20 minutes following an attack in which Tom Cowan-Dickie had forced his way over the Nottingham line only to be held up by a desperate defence.
From the resulting five-metre scrum Pirates No.8 Ben Maidment controlled the ball superbly at the tail before driving over himself to score. Cook converted and then five minutes later set up the second try of the match, this time for Andy Short.
Cook broke clear midway inside his own half and raced 60 metres down the right flank before being hauled down by Stokes just short of the line. Quick recycling fed Short and he cantered home for a simple score again converted by the Pirates' full-back.
A penalty late in the half for a breakdown offence slotted by former Plymouth Albion fly-half Kieran Hallett finally opened the Nottingham account as they trailed 14-3, but it would take until the final quarter before the scoreline changed again.
The Pirates lost Short with a twisted ankle early in the second half and then flanker Chris Morgan left the field looking dazed after taking a blow to the head in a midfield collision.
Both sides took the opportunity to ring the changes and it was replacement hooker Dave Ward who increased the Pirates' lead after 64 minutes as he rounded off a sustained period of pressure on the Nottingham line, squeezing in at the Newlyn Gate Corner.
With Aaron Penberthy again influential in midfield for the Pirates, Nottingham's attacking prowess diminished as the game wore on but full-back Andy Savage did spurn a golden try-scoring opportunity as he broke from deep only to inexplicably fall over with only Cook to beat.
The error again proved costly for the visitors as McAtee and Ward led an assault down the right wing and, from the breakdown deep in the Nottingham 22, James Doherty and then Penberthy fed Tom Cooper for his maiden Pirates try in the corner. Cook slotted the extras from a difficult angle.
With time running out, another Nottingham counter-attack saw Phil Eggleshaw sprint from the base of a scrum well inside his own half, only to be halted by Cook just short of the try-line.
Then, five minutes into added time at the end of the game, Cook got the try he richly deserved.
Nottingham centre Joe Munro chipped the ball into space as he attempted to lead a final desperate attack from his own try-line but was beaten to the loose ball by Cook, who returned it with interest throwing a cheeky dummy to wrong-foot Savage on his way to score under the posts.
Cook banged over the conversion to complete the scoring, leaving Stirling, who now heads back to New Zealand for his daughter's wedding, satisfied.
"I have to say that this Nottingham team never gave up," he said. "Now I just fancy someone at home in the semi-final. I don't care who!"
Cornish Pirates: Cook; McAtee, Short (Cooper 47), Hill, D Doherty (Evans 64); Penberthy, Cattle (capt) (J Doherty 52); Rimmer, Cowan-Dickie (Ward 59), Brits (Fairbrother 67); McGlone (Myerscough 67), Nimmo; Ewers, Morgan (Marriott 59), Maidment.
Scorers: Tries – Cook, Short, Maidment, Ward, Cooper; Conversions – Cook (4).
Nottingham: Savage; Jack Cobden (Greenhalgh 56), Streather (Hough 69), Munro, Penn; Hallett, Barnham (capt) (Jones 56); Olive, Taylor (Holloway 47), Shields (Holford 45); Todd (Eggleshaw 56), Morley; Cooper, Calladine (Baird 47), Levi.
Scorers: Penalty – Hallett.
Referee: I Davies (WRU).