All of a sudden, Leeds Carnegie’s hopes of forging a return to the Premiersip in the imminent future are not so far away after all.
A shock defeat against the Championship’s bottom side Doncaster last month, allied to a similarly demoralising loss at struggling Jersey, seemed to have ruined their chances of even reaching the play-offs this term.
Yet consecutive wins over Cornish Pirates and London Scottish plus, most crucially, a surprise reverse for their closest rivals Bristol at Moseley last week have swiftly reshaped the whole vista for Diccon Edwards’ men.
That combination of results has given them an unexpected reprieve and they now sit in fourth place – the last remaining play-off spot – at Bristol’s expense fully realising it is now theirs to lose.
There is, of course, then the small matter of a relentless Newcastle Falcons side – which has won all 19 of its games so far – to probably deal with somewhere along the line before they can contemplate that dream of promtion back to the elite.
But they need only look across their Kirkstall training base at sister club Leeds Rhinos to see how anything is possible when it comes to the foibles of knockout football.
They have won the Super League title from fifth for the last two years running so Carnegie from fourth ... why not?
Money-laden Newcastle have had enough near misses already, including a slender 13-9 victory against Leeds at Otley last month, to suggest they may be fallible when the pressure is cranked up further at the business end of the season.
However, all of this is irrelevant if the West Yorkshire club do not themselves first safely negotiate their own final four league games and it is, undoubtedly, a tricky passage, beginning with their trip to Moseley today they also face two fellow top-four sides.
Dominic Barrow, the athletic lock who has just helped England win the Under-20s Six Nations title, makes an instant return to Leeds’s squad and he is mindful of what is at stake.
“I’m excited to be get this chance straight away after being away for a couple of months,” he said, having played the entire 80 minutes in last week’s title decider against Wales.
“It’s a crucial time for the club as we push for the play-offs.
“Bristol slipping up at Moseley has really turned things around.
“It’s really helped our own situation and we know our destiny is in our own hands now.
“We also know, though, that it’s going to be a very hard run-in.
“Moseley will be tough as they haven’t lost at home so far in 2013 and need points to make sure they don’t go down.
“We’ve then got the small matter of a local derby with Rotherham on Easter Sunday before going to Bedford and then playing Nottingham at Headingley, two teams who are both above us.
“Yet we know what we have to do and we know four wins will get us there.”
Leeds are strengthened not only by Barrow’s return on the bench, but also by the inclusion of England Saxons fly-half Rory Clegg among the replacements.
The loan signing helped Harlequins to win the LV Cup final last weekend so Edwards will be hoping the confidence garnered by a trophy-winning success for two of his players will rub off on the rest of the squad,
There is a welcome return from injury for prop Sam Lockwood, while another front-rower James Currie makes his first start since joining on loan from Worcester, Damien Tussac, dropping to the replacements.
Ryan Burrows returns to the starting line-up at No 8 with Rob Baldwin subsequently switching to the bench.
Tenth-placed Moseley, wary of being dragged into the relegation fight with Doncaster and Jersey, are without Ben Pienaar (broken cheekbone) so stalwart Neil Mason takes over at No 8.
Tom Warren, meanwhile, comes in for Ethan Waller at loosehead prop.
“Winning the Six Nations was a brilliant experience,” added Barrow.
“Having lost our game against Ireland we talked about the importance of the Wales match which became a winner-takes-all affair.
“We really worked hard throughout the week to make sure we got the right performance and result.”
n Former Headingley player, coach and committee member Bernard White has died.
White was coach when Sir Ian McGeechan, now the Leeds Carnegie executive chairman, first came into the Headingley side.
McGeechan, one of the greatest coaches the game has seen during his time with Wasps, Scotland and British Lions, said: “Bernard was one of the best and wisest coaches I have ever worked with.
“He was years ahead of anyone around at the time and his advice and wisdom stuck with me throughout my career.
“Even in my early days, we would spend hours chatting about the game and devising tactics to beat certain teams and styles of play.
“It was during my formative years with Bernard that I was bitten by the coaching bug.
“Undoubtedly he left a fantastic mark on the game in Leeds and Yorkshire.
“We all follow in the footsteps of people such as Bernard, who pioneered the way forward for the rest of us.”