HIGHLY-RATED winger Jonah Holmes insists Yorkshire Carnegie can gain swift revenge over Bristol tonight and keep alive their hopes of a second successive British & Irish Cup final appearance.
He was a try-scorer as the club almost produced the shock of the season at Championship leaders Bristol last Sunday.
Carnegie led their big-spending hosts – who had won all 11 games – 28-10 with just 10 minutes remaining, but somehow contrived to lose 29-28 with the final kick of the match.
It was a heartbreaking defeat for Yorkshire, who slipped to ninth, but they are back at Ashton Gate again this evening in the B&I Cup quarter-finals.
Holmes said: “It was gut-wrenching but all the boys admitted it was a great game to be part of in that we were back playing the sort of way we know we can – quick, high-tempo and some really good rugby.
“In the last 10 minutes, though, we lost the detail in our defence.
“We lacked focus and allowed them to score two pretty easy tries.
“With respect to Bristol, they took their opportunities well and did what they needed to do to get another win. But we know we handed it to them.”
Former Wasps player Holmes is unavailable for the rematch tonight, having suffered a dead leg in the loss last week.
But he is hopeful Tommy McGee’s side can cause an upset to make the last four, having been beaten finalists against Leinster A in Dublin last term.
“We’ve got a good squad going down and the boys are looking to up their game further,” said the 22-year-old.
“Whether it’s in the B&I Cup or not, we have got to improve.
“I imagine Bristol will be changing most of their side, but they have the squad to do that.
“It would be awesome if we could repeat last year, get to the final again, but win it this time.
“Any form of silverware is good for the club and we got bullied a bit last year against Leinster and didn’t perform. But we’ve to get past Bristol first if we want another shot.”
Holmes still insists Carnegie harbour hopes of breaking into the Championship’s top four despite their lowly position at the halfway point.
They lost late on at high-flying London Scottish 26-22 before the Bristol trip, but with league games against Moseley and Jersey coming up next – both below them in the table – there is an opportunity to respond.
“It is always possible and that is the motivation for us,” said Holmes, who has scored eight tries in 11 games this term and hopes to be fit for the Moseley contest next Sunday.
“But we have to respect the opposition we’re playing.
“We are ninth now and 18 points behind Nottingham in fourth so we know it’s a big ask.
“But we’ll take each game as it comes and hope we can still make those play-off spots.”
Holmes had been on loan at Headingley from Wasps for the last two seasons, but signed a permanent three-year deal with Carnegie just before Christmas.
It came as a surprise to many that the Premiership club allowed him to leave given his talent – Holmes has scored 23 tries in 36 games while in Yorkshire and was well thought of by many at the elite level.
“I had another year to go to maybe make a mark, but Wasps had other plans and I think the signing of Sailosi Tagicakibau was my invitation out,” he explained.
“They’d already got plenty of wingers there with international experience so I don’t think I was going to get a look-in.
“But I’m really happy to be here at Carnegie and have my future sorted.
“I want to try and get into the Premiership with this club and that would be the highlight of my career.
“We have that in mind. It’s what we all want. We just need to keep improving.”
Carnegie have bolstered their squad with the signings of young Harlquins fly-half Louis Grimoldby and Oxford University scrum-half Sam Egerton, who both go into tonight’s squad.
The 20-year-old Grimoldby has made two appearances for Quins this season and has been on loan at Nottingham and Rosslyn Park.
He was previously a part of the Northampton Saints Academy and joins Carnegie on dual registration from Quins.
Egerton is studying law at Oxford and played in the record-breaking fifth straight Varsity win over Cambridge at Twickenham in December.