THE Cornish Pirates enjoyed a fine 2019/20 Greene King IPA Championship campaign, finishing in the top three for the first time since 2012.

But the Pirates’ successful season did not get off to the brightest of starts, losing their RFU Championship Cup opener 24-20 at London Scottish.

A false start it proved to be as the Pirates going their season going a week later with a 48-0 whitewash of Yorkshire Carnegie in their second pool game. Callum Patterson starred with a hat-trick of tries, while JB Bruzulier, Marlen Walker, Will Wilson and Tom Cowan-Dickie also went over.

Alex O’Meara went one better than team-mate Patterson in their third Pool 3 game the following week, scoring four tries as the Pirates disposed of Nottingham to sit second in the pool at the halfway point of the group stage.

That set the Pirates up nicely for the start of their league fixtures on October 13, when Ealing Trailfinders became the first team to visit the Mennaye Field this season after three successive away days in the cup.

That optimism continued after a confident 30-10 win over the team that would eventually be one of just two sides to finish above them in this truncated season. Tries from Maliq Holden, Nicolas De Battista and Brett Beukeboom sent the Pirates towards a commanding 22-3 lead at the break, with Patterson on hand to secure the crucial bonus for the home side in the second half.

An absorbing game under the Friday night lights at Doncaster Knights followed, and with it a second league victory in as many games. Tries from Javier Rojas Alvarez, Beukeboom and De Battista contributed to a 24-15 lead at the break, before further touchdowns from O’Meara and Patterson did the job for the visitors.

Rojas Alvarez added a perfect five conversions and three penalties in addition to his try to take his match total to an impressive 24 points.

Confidence will have been high ahead of Newcastle Falcons’ trip to the Mennaye a week later, with the relegated side no doubt aiming to head straight back up to the Premiership, and they would come out on top in what was a surprisingly low-quality affair in deepest Cornwall.

Two first-half tries did the damage for the Falcons, with Rojas Alvarez’ trio of penalties all the Pirates could muster in an 18-9 defeat.

Back to the drawing board, then, and a second win of the season at Nottingham’s The Bay, this time a 23-24 victory in the league, before a fine bonus-point 40-11 victory at home to promoted side Ampthill, in which Robin Wedlake landed two tries.

But while an early double over Nottingham was welcomed, a double of another kind was secured when the Pirates returned to London Scottish in the league and left as losers again.

They didn’t leave empty-handed though, although a losing bonus was scant consolation following an agonising 25-24 defeat at the RAG as their barren run at the ground continued.

Two converted tries put the Pirates 14-3 down before a try in either half from Patterson, coupled with a pair of penalties from the boot of Rojas Alvarez, turned the tables at 18-17.

Two more penalties from the fly-half gave the visitors some breathing space at 24-20, but a late try from Bobby Beattie snatched victory for Scottish from the jaws of defeat.

December rolled around and so did the second half of the Championship Cup campaign. A 29-20 defeat to Nottingham made for a nervy last couple of games, but an eight-try 54-5 thrashing of struggling Carnegie set up a ding-dong final day of the group stage when the Pirates welcomed London Scottish.

The Pirates, sitting level on points with Nottingham in second, knew that victory would be enough to earn top spot and a home quarter-final, and that is what they got. It wasn’t going to plan early on, however, as two converted tries put the visitors 14-0 up after 12 minutes.

That would be as good as it got for Scottish, as tries from James McRae, Cowan-Dickie, Jack Andrew and Wedlake secured a 29-14 win.

A low-scoring 6-0 win at home to Hartpury in the league followed as the Pirates headed into the festive season sitting pretty in second spot.

They returned to action in January with another thumping of Yorkshire Carnegie, this time in the league as Wedlake (2), Cowan-Dickie, McRae, Bruzulier, Jay Tyack, Shae Tucker and Rhodri Davies all went over during a 52-0 hammering, with Will Cargill slotting six of eight conversions.

Next up was a trip to Jersey Reds, where the Pirates had fared poorly in recent seasons, and another long afternoon looked on the cards when Janco Venter went over for a converted try inside seven minutes, before Brendan Cope’s penalty and Cargill’s own kick made it 10-3 to the hosts at the break.

The Jersey team had only conceded two league tries at their Stade Santander International ground so far this season, but that tally was to be doubled by the end of the game, with Tom Channon grabbing the first to give the visitors the lead, before Wedlake dotted down in the final minute to secure an important victory.

A tense 18-15 win at home to Bedford Blues followed before just their third league defeat of the campaign, a 28-23 loss at Coventry.

The same side would be the opponents for the Pirates’ Championship Cup quarter-final at the Mennaye at the end of February.

The Pirates had gone into the game off the back of a 40-7 humbling at the hands of champions elect Newcastle but started well with Cargill’s first of nine successful kicks. Will Maisey replied with three of his own before the break, but the Pirates headed into half-time 16-9 up thanks to a converted try from Will Wilson.

Dan Frost’s try extended the lead before Wil Owen scored Coventry’s first, but converted efforts from Antonio Kiri Kiri and AJ Cant put the Pirates on the brink of the final four. Two late tries for the visitors offered hope of a sensational comeback, but Wedlake went over in the final minute to make sure of the win.

A 21-15 win at home to Nottingham followed before a 30-13 victory on their trip to Ampthill, with Frost scoring twice in what would turn out to be the Pirates’ final match of the season.