PROLIFIC Yorkshire Carnegie flanker Josh Bainbridge continued his stunning try-scoring form yesterday, but it was his side’s overall performance that proved most encouraging as they destroyed derby rivals Rotherham Titans.
Teenager Bainbridge crossed four times, each from the hosts’ ruthless line-out drive, as they recorded their biggest-ever win over Rotherham.
The openside, who remarkably scored five times during defeat at Bristol in October, has now amassed 15 tries in just 11 games this campaign and this particular haul helped Carnegie retain third place in the Championship as they head into the new year.
It was a crucial victory; for all it was a third consecutive win after a brace of British & Irish Cup successes over London Scottish, it was their first in the league after three successive defeats.
Woeful Rotherham, though, are in dire straits; they have now lost five consecutive matches and seem destined to miss out on the top four.
Worryingly, even when Bainbridge was yellow-carded in first-half stoppage-time, they conspired to self-implode, a series of rash handling errors at the start of the second period wasting decent attacking ball while the hosts were down to 14 men and only 24-9 ahead.
Dominated Rotherham did not score at all from thereon in and, so, were restricted to just James McKinney’s three penalties before the break.
Their coach Mark Jones had warned his side of Carnegie’s potency at the line-out drive – Bainbridge’s rival No 7 Chris Walker scored a hat-trick that way against Scottish in Scarborough and they have now used it on 20 occasions this term to cross the line.
However, they did not heed his warning and, so, elated Carnegie head coach Bryan Redpath was left to cherish a much-needed success.
Carnegie have lost five Championship games so far this season, but all of them have been within a margin of just five points or fewer.
Redpath, therefore, admitted: “After some of the tight games we’ve had this year, we’re delighted to get such a (comprehensive) win.
“We got a few opportunities and we nailed them. It’s frustrating for the opposition, who played reasonably well in their phase-game, but I thought our defence was outstanding.
“On the whole, the two B&I Cup games and this have been great for us.
“With the line-out drive, we punished Rotherham almost every time.
“The build-up to how you get a driving line-out generally comes from someone giving a penalty away on the halfway line so, if they are ill-disciplined, we will get chances to do it.
“We probably had four opportunities against Scottish (away) and never took any of them, but we did here.
“I’m delighted with the boys’ response in these last three weeks. It’s been great.
“We’ve had to keep their confidence high as I think they were a little bit down – there was a few people criticising and talking about our league position – but we know where we need to be.
“We’ve got everyone to play again now and this was the first of those.
“We lost five, but they were very close; we’ve got everything in our hands and know what we need to do in the second half of the season.”
Carnegie went behind to an early penalty from McKinney yesterday, but their line was rarely troubled and the visitors were only really in touch 24-9 at the break due to the fly-half’s subsequent two kicks.
Shortly after Bainbridge’s return from the sin-bin, he added his fourth try after Rotherham were penalised at a scrum on their own ball 10m from their own line.
When Titans replacement Ali Birch was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on, Carnegie showed them how to capitalise with prop Ben Hooper scrambling over in the 74th minute.
Then, with just seconds of normal time remaining and Rotherham having some rare pressure, centre Andy Forsyth intercepted to race 90m for BBC Sports Personality of the Year runner-up Kevin Sinfield to slot his fifth conversion to add to an earlier penalty.
Rotherham remain in seventh place and face a significant game when they host Cornish Pirates on Saturday.
Jones, in his first season in charge at Clifton Lane, admitted: “The ill-discipline was fundamental to our defeat.
“We cannot give a side with the weapon like Yorkshire Carnegie’s driving line-out that much opportunity to use it.
“We committed unforced errors which just got the ball rolling for them. They got two driving line-outs in the first 15 minutes of the game and any jitters they might have had in a derby match were out of the window. They were in the driving seat.
“The mistakes we made are breaking up a lot of good work. We train well Monday to Friday, but that work is not transferred into what we do match-days.
“This is obviously a challenge for me, but the players have said they’ve got to be harder on each other, so we can put things right.”
Carnegie, whose long-serving hooker Phil Nilsen has been granted a testimonial year, head to joint-bottom Ealing Trailfinders on Saturday, the club who secured a surprise 28-22 win at London Scottish two days ago.
Yorkshire Carnegie: Holmes; Prell, Lucock (Forsyth 66), Leonard, Doherty; Sinfield, Pilgrim (Hodgson 71); Beech (Imiolek 40), Nilsen (Poole 76), O’Donnell (Hooper 66), Myerscough , Jones, Beck (Saul 71), Bainbridge, Burrows.
Rotherham Titans: Scanlon; Keating (Jones 66), L Hayes, Barker, J Hayes; McKinney (Keating 74), Davies (Carter 40); Hislop (Crobie 57), C Maddison (Tampin 56), Thiede (Preece 56), Salmon, B Maddison, Argyle, Caladine (Birch 66), Cree (Oram 63).
Referee: Greg MacDonald.