Rugby: Luke Eves confident Bristol can gain the big win they need against Cornish Pirates
LUKE Eves is in no doubt Bristol can overturn a 21-point deficit against Cornish Pirates on Sunday and reach the Championship final.
The Bristol centre said he is "100 per cent confident" Bristol can win by a significant enough margin to send Pirates – who lead the semi-final tie 45-24 from the first leg – out of the competition.
Bristol fell apart in the final eight minutes in Penzance on Monday, with a 26-24 deficit becoming 45-24 as the Cornishmen ran in three late tries.
Bristol had even led 14-0 and 17-3 earlier in the game, before a series of errors allowed Pirates – who finished two places and seven points behind Liam Middleton's side in the regular season – to take command.
But 23-year-old Eves, who rejoined Bristol from Newcastle in January, is taking a positive frame of mind into Sunday's game at the Memorial Stadium.
"I'm 100 per cent confident," said the Bristolian. "After the game there was a lot of disappointment, but, for me, a lot of that disappointment turned to excitement pretty soon after.
"Yes, our backs are against the wall now, but I believe we've got the personnel in this squad to make up that deficit and even score some more points. If there was any team I'd want to be in, in this situation, it would be this team.
"I was actually surprised by how I felt, because normally with things like this, I'd still be down 24 or 48 hours after the game. Don't get me wrong, I was bitterly disappointed after the game, but that long bus journey gave me time to think – and it went from disappointment to excitement pretty quickly."
Bristol are unbeaten at the Memorial Stadium all season in the Championship and it is more than 12 months since they were last defeated on home soil in domestic action.
And Eves said now is the time for Bristol's players to start channelling all the positivity they can into getting the unlikely, but desired, result this weekend.
"All the tactics and everything go out of the window now to an extent – it's a mindset thing now," he said.
"We're going to have to attack more to build up that deficit but it's three converted tries – and we got two in the first 12 or 13 minutes down there. Even Cornish Pirates went in at half-time with nine points and they finished the game with 45, so anything can happen.
"We're playing for livelihoods and things like that now, so it's an attitude thing. It really is do or die – but if there's any team in this league I'd be confident could pull it off, it would be us."
Bristol chairman has Chris Booy issued a statement backing his players ahead of Sunday's game – and promised that the club would eventually achieve its aim of Aviva Premiership rugby, even if it does not happen this season.
"On the long journey back from Cornwall, I was reflecting on how far we have come in a year," said Booy. "From narrowly avoiding the relegation play-offs to table-toppers and promotion contenders this season.
"We have secured the long-term support of Steve Lansdown. We have an exciting and developing squad and a coaching and support team committed to bringing Premiership rugby back to Bristol.
"Make no mistake, that is the goal and we will achieve it.
"Our vision is to re-establish ourselves as a Premiership force, and we have all been surprised by the enormous strides the team has taken this year. We had not targeted 2012 as the year we return to the top flight, but the ambition, potential and performance of the squad has made this possible – and it still is.
"We are the best team in the league. We have been all season and now we need to go out and prove it again."