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Gav may have had a “feeling in his water” travelling up to this toughest of fixtures – but despite being the second illustrious visitors to Ashton Gate in three days – there was to be no second triumph for the underdog.
Sadly – for the as ever vocal travelling faithful – it was by some margin. But not without some notable and honourable mentions – namely everyone in a gold shirt who stood firm in the face of such physicality and pace. And got straight back up for more.
Hope of something special therefore came crashing down from the moment the Sky cameras began to roll. Bristol – who’d made 22 changes from last weekend’s cup tie – were out of the traps from Madigan’s kick off and immediately punished the Pirates’ slackness in receipt.
With tacklers being swatted off at will by Vui as a consequence – we feared a carbon copy of the MadStad back in March. The lock had set the ball rolling and we could only pray – although his shift ended abruptly and on a stretcher, with a worrying looking injury ten minutes into the second period.
Twenty minutes later and the biggest Championship crowd of the season to date were revelling – as the hosts had secured the bonus point through Morahan, Leiua, and Pisi. Madigan wasn’t missing anything from the tee either.
And yet the Cornishmen wouldn’t lie down and behave. Small victories began to emerge from the carnage and slowly but surely came a sniff of something positive at last. Lawday’s try on the stroke of half time was deserved reward but there was still a mountain to climb. Twenty one points to be exact.
Moyle’s trot over the Bristol line within seconds of the restart proved to be a false alarm. Caulfield had knocked on. But it was a sign of happier times.
Not for home scrum half Williams however as his clash of heads with Cooper was only going to produce one winner.
When Cheesman rounded off another visit to the hosts 22 with a second Pirates try – there was suddenly cautious belief of there being a contest once more. Cornish tails were up and it was Bristol bodies now littering the pitch in their wake – although not in the manner in Vui’s case that we’d prefer. The long delay treating Bristol’s forward however may have doused the visitors flames more than desired.
A contentious decision not to punish a dangerous looking tackle on Laurence May soon after, didn’t assist their cause either. Play continued up field while skirmishes continued on halfway between several players from both sides. The officials waived away all appeals and – as if to add salt to gaping wound – Lam duly scored a fifth Bristol try.
Game over it seemed – despite further Cornish hope of some kind of reward for heroic effort, when Caulfield bludgeoned his way through for his side’s 3rd score – there still being a quarter to play.
Cue the final nails from Joyce, Protheroe and Jeffries to conclude a torrid evening all in all for the Pirates – who must now turn thoughts toward a New Years Eve backlash against Jersey. The mood in the camp certainly suggests such.