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Cornish Pirates try to pick up pieces against opponents in state of upheaval

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 05, 2013

By Mike Baker

Departed Jersey director of rugby Ben Harvey. Picture:  Phil Mingo/Pinnacle

Departed Jersey director of rugby Ben Harvey. Picture: Phil Mingo/Pinnacle

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Cornish Pirates would have paid good money to have another crack at Jersey, after watching a winning position somehow turn to defeat in the Championship match at St Peter three weeks ago.

Well, thanks to a fortnight of British and Irish Cup action, they now have two in a row, starting at Mennaye Field on Saturday evening (7pm).

Pirates currently top Pool Six in the competition, following previous wins against Ulster Ravens and Ayr, while Jersey have beaten the latter but not the former so far.

Somewhat ironically, Jersey will also be travelling to the mainland with some wrongs to right, after they gained the unwanted tag of being the first Championship side to lose to basement-huggers Ealing last weekend.

Perhaps with that in mind – and despite the painful memories of the final kick of the match which meant 17 unanswered Jersey points in the second half of the 27-25 loss in the Channel Islands – Pirates head coach Ian Davies is focusing more on the quarter-finals of the B&I Cup than any ideas of retribution.

He said: "Back-to-back games against Jersey will go a long way to deciding the pool, so we have two tough games.

"We lost over there a couple of weeks ago, so we know what to expect. In a way, we could have done without Ealing beating them at the weekend, because now they are going to be doubly determined to put in a performance. We just need to do what we have to do, pick up two wins and put the B&I Cup to bed until January."

Pirates themselves suffered another last-kick-in-the-teeth against Nottingham last weekend, when it looked as though they were about to snatch a win but had to settle for a 27-27 draw.

"It was another occasion in which we could have won," said Davies. "The two games are a little bit different in that at Jersey we were dominant for large parts of the game with a very strong set-piece. Against Nottingham, that wasn't quite so.

"That said, Nottingham never got too far ahead of us. When we lost Kieran Hallett with a fracture dislocation of his thumb, that seemed to galvanise the team a little bit."

With Hallett due for an operation on Friday on his injured thumb, it means yet more reshuffling for Davies as he tries to manage another bad injury to a key player.

"All our injuries this season seem to be long-term, for some reason," he said. "We don't seem to have any bumps and bruises this year, just the ones where guys are out for eight weeks.

"Kieran has been our outside-half for two years and is an obvious leader in the team, just as Alan Paver was in the front row, and players stood up when he was injured.

"You never want to see players get injured, but in a sense it's been good for our development that some of the younger lads have had to accelerate their progression."

Jersey will hold few surprises for Davies, not least because of the number of ex-Pirates among their ranks. One of those who will not be lning up his former team, though, is Aaron Penberthy, who is out until the new year with a broken leg.

Davies said: "They have some very good players, and a lot of ex-Pirates among them, so we know a little bit about them, which adds a bit of spice to the fixture.

"It's unfortunate for Aaron, though, because I think he would have been in line to play against us, and he's a top lad who seems to be doing well."

Another of Jersey's contingent who will not be present is their former director of rugby, Ben Harvey, who resigned during a meeting with club officials on Wednesday.

Harvey said: "In [the] meeting, I said that I had decided that in order to progress my career I needed to part company with the club, and was therefore resigning with immediate effect."

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