Cornish Pirates 32 Bristol 17
The New Year began in some style for the Cornish Pirates as they ran in four tries to comfortably beat Bristol at the Mennaye Field and move into the play-off zone in the Championship for the first time this season, writes Dick Straughan.
With weather conditions easing in West Cornwall before the kick-off, the Pirates made the most of a lacklustre start by Bristol, taking the lead after ten minutes through a Kieran Hallett penalty.
Many of the large holiday crowd expected a tight affair but just moments later the Pirates took control of the game as Wes Davies and Phil Burgess led a midfield breakout resulting in a try for the fit again flanker. Hallett converted Burgess's score for a 13-0 lead.
Bristol were struggling already at the set piece and being punished by Hallett's excellent territorial kicking game, and it was the Pirates fly-half who extended the home lead as he danced his way over the line to score his team's second try after 32 minutes.
His conversion came back off the upright and Bristol finally opened their account with the final kick of the half as Adrian Jarvis slotted a simple penalty.
The visitors were never going to be as bad after the break and after a period of sustained pressure and solid Pirates defence early in the second half, finally found the breakthrough with a Kyle Traynor try following good work by Ruki Tipuna. Jarvis converted.
On the hour the Pirates regained the initiative as Gavin Cattle's blindside break from a driving maul put Ben Mercer in at the corner and Hallett landed a sublime conversion for a 25-10 lead.
With volatile Bristol prop Jason Hobson finally sin-binned for fighting, his team settled down and another sustained period of pressure brought their second try.
This time the Pirates lost possession as they tried to counter-attack from their own 22 and Marco Mama was gifted a simple run-in. Jarvis again converted to set-up a nervous finale.
But deep in stoppage time at the end of the game the Pirates sealed their winning bonus point with the final attack of the game as Hallett and Sam Hill released centre Tom Riley to score under the posts.
Hallett capped a fine personal display as his conversion heralded the final whistle.
Cornish Pirates: Davies, Bedford, Riley, Fatialofa (Hill 61), Mercer, Hallett, Cattle (capt)(Kessell 79); Paver, Elloway, Prescott (Storer 55), Lyons, Barry (Johnson 50), Marriott (Maidment 47), Burgess, McGlone. Replacements (not used): Semmens, Joyce.
Scorers. Tries: Burgess, Hallett, Mercer, Riley; Cons: Hallett (3); Pen: Hallett; Drop Goal: Hallett.
Bristol: Goodridge, Tovey, Eves, Gadd (Otto 57), McIlwaine, Jarvis (Roberts 79), Tipuna (capt) (Grindal 72); Traynor, Johnston (Lawrence 31-33, 75), Hobson (Sin-bin 64-74, Douglas 74), Sambucetti (Glynn 55), Townson, Faosiliva (Mama 55), Pennycook, Eadie (Douglas 64-74).
Scorers. Tries: Traynor, Mama; Cons: Jarvis (2); Pen: Jarvis.
Yellow card: Hobson.
Referee: S Lee (RFU).