THE fact that people are still talking about the Pirates beating Bristol on New Year's Day is testament to the fact that it was such a good game with a bit of everything to captivate the big holiday crowd.
Whoever decided to schedule this derby match for a bank holiday deserves credit, just as Plymouth need a pat on the back for staging their game with the Pirates on Boxing Day. Fans don't want big trips on public holidays to watch their teams and while the transport system doesn't always play ball, both of these games were well attended by travelling supporters.
Last season the fixture planners had the Pirates at Bedford on January 1, which is about as daft as you can get in my book. The Blues benefited with a big gate while the Pirates fans were left to fend for themselves. Mind you, 12 months earlier they were dragged down to Penzance on January 2, so I suspect a little bit of payback there.
By and large the fixtures were kind to travellers this Christmas with perhaps only London Scottish having some grounds to complain. They were summoned along with Matt Carley and his RefCam to Newcastle on the day before Christmas Eve to satisfy the needs of Mr Murdoch's broadcasting empire. That said, Newcastle is a reasonably straightforward day trip from the capital since trains took over from horse-drawn carriages.
RefCam was trumpeted as a great success by the television company, although in reality, it seems that it was a good idea still in need of refining. Claims that it always tells you where the referee is looking cannot be substantiated because unlike the fixed lens, even referees have heads and eyes which move in different directions. And quite what it would have made of the Alan Paver versus Jason Hobson bout is another matter.
I'm not going to comment on the coming together between the two wily old hands when it comes to the dark arts of front row play, because I didn't see it. I'm not going to condone foul play either, but even in my thoroughly undistinguished time as a prop in my school and then several police teams, the first thing I learned was that you have to be able to look after yourself.
The game has changed over the years since professionalism and is certainly much cleaner than it was 30 years ago, but things still go on and the paying public do love a bit of theatre with their match action.
Hobson, like Paver, is a vastly experienced prop who always seems to be cast as the pantomime villain against the Pirates. He lived up to his billing perfectly, grinning and waving to the crowd when he was finally sin-binned, and in truth games between these two teams rarely pass without a knuckle sandwich or three being exchanged with scant regard for what the officials may or may not see. Like the players, we have come to expect it and we have grown to enjoy it.
Paver will now serve out his punishment from the club and Hobson will come again. Yet love him or loathe him, I defy any of you not to privately admit that you would enjoy watching the likes of Jason Hobson in Pirates colours. Go on, you know you would!
– Dick Straughan