We need to put right those things we did wrong last week – Merriman
JAMES Merriman has called upon his Bristol team-mates to "let everything out" against Cornish Pirates tomorrow in order to stage an unlikely comeback and prolong their season.
Bristol are facing the reality of tomorrow's Championship semi-final second-leg match being their final game of the campaign, as they seek to overturn a 21-point first-leg deficit.
But flanker Merriman, who will captain the side in the absence of the injured Iain Grieve, is calling for everyone in the Bristol camp to remain positive, despite their 45-24 drubbing in Cornwall.
Bristol overcame a 16-point deficit with 18 minutes to play to beat Pirates 37-33 at the Memorial Stadium in November – and Merriman has not even entertained the prospect of failure at the Memorial Stadium tomorrow.
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"It's a big challenge, but we've been down during the season and people have written us off," said the Welshman.
"I said to the players after the game on Monday, 'Let's not dwell on this'. What's done is done now, we can't do anything about what happened on Monday, but we can affect what happens this weekend.
"Fortunately for us, we've got a second chance and that's at our fortress, the Mem. Hopefully, the supporters can get behind us and help us turn things around on Sunday. But it's going to take a big effort from us and we've just got to stay confident.
"We didn't turn up in the second half on Monday for whatever reason – but now we've got an opportunity to have a go at it. We'll have to let everything out at the Mem on Sunday."
Bristol led 14-0 and 17-3 in Cornwall – and even held a 24-19 advantage going into the final 17 minutes of the match. But they fell apart in the closing stages, with Pirates scoring three of their five tries in the final eight minutes of the game.
And Merriman knows Bristol must be considerably better tomorrow if they are to achieve their 'Mission: Improbable'.
"Perhaps we did go off our page a bit in the second half – maybe we tried to force things a bit – but that's what happens in these semi-finals when the pressure comes on," he said.
"We needed to realise that there was another game to play, because I think we only thought about trying to get back in that game and cutting the margin down. But that's to take nothing away from the Pirates, because they fully deserved their victory.
"We just need to stay positive. What's done is done and we need to be disciplined now and not give away any stupid points in the first few minutes of the game, otherwise the deficit becomes 24 points, then 27 and so on. We need to play with confidence and give it our best shot.
"Our supporters have been great this season, so hopefully they will stick with us when we really need them – and we don't want this to be our last game of the season.
"Things happened at the Mennaye on Monday that hadn't happened all season, but that's sport sometimes – a bit of added pressure can do that.
"But I fully believe in the squad we've got and everyone here wants to put right the things they did wrong in the last game. I think the players we've got here are the kind of players who can rise to the biggest occasions – and this is definitely one of those."