AFTER three successive losses, Yorkshire Carnegie’s Bryan Redpath admits he can ill-afford to do what most head coaches prefer to do when approaching a British & Irish Cup tie.
Ordinarily, where possible, they might like to give some of their battle-hardened regulars a little rest as the rigours of the Championship campaign begin to kick in.
Alternatively, they might use the cup competition as a chance to cast an eye over some promising young player who needs testing at senior level or give some extended game-time to their bench players, who have too few minutes under their belts.
All of these scenarios would normally have gone through Redpath’s head before tomorrow’s B&I Cup game against London Scottish at Scarborough’s picturesque Silver Royd.
However, Carnegie have followed up their last outing in the competition – a 14-9 loss at Munster A – with two painfully narrow defeats in the Championship, a 10-7 home reverse to London Welsh followed up by last Friday’s 14-13 result at Nottingham.
That was their second league defeat by just a solitary point this season and all six of their losses in all competitions so far have come by only five points or less so that is something to hold on to.
Nevertheless, Carnegie’s recent slump has seen them slip off the pace down to third with Jersey and Nottingham both in touching distance of usurping them from the top four so Redpath knows he has to arrest it in any way possible.
“Everyone is aware we’ve lost a few games now and suddenly you have got to try and make sure you get a performance somewhere along the line,” he said.
“If we need to pick a stronger side (at Scarborough) to get that performance and hopefully get a result off the back of it then, of course, we will.
“On Friday we had a great 40 but in the second half we just didn’t execute two or three things with our set-piece, then we missed touch once and suddenly they got the ball and kept it like we did in the first half and we just never got any rhythm into the game.
“Sadly, that came to bite us on the backside. It’s one of the things I’ve mentioned on four or five occasions where we’ve lost games and been in with a chance to win.
“But our opponents have probably played as well as they have all season and for 40 minutes we haven’t hit our straps the way we should so we take it on the chin.
“Teams are playing well against us but we’re not giving ourselves the best chance.
“Even though it’s tough, we’re still five points off being in second position – and that’s our main objective – so it’s not the end of the world and we have to try be as positive but objective as we can.”
For tomorrow, Redpath welcomes back from illness wing Jonah Holmes as Harry Leonard starts at inside centre while Kevin Sinfield returns at fly-half.
Phil Nilsen and Lee Imiolek start in the front-row while Dean Schofield and Matt Smith start in the second- row as captain Chris Jones reverts to the back-row.
Redpath continued: “We have to sort out some things for ourselves and that’s why we’re going as strong as we can.
“We have to be focused on that and try to build some confidence in the group as the close results are sometimes worse than having a big defeat – because you are so close to it.”
They face Scottish twice in six days now as they head to Richmond for the reverse B&I Cup fixture next Saturday before returning to Championship action with the crunch game against Rotherham Titans on December 27.
Scottish were one of those teams who inflicted a narrow loss on Carnegie earlier in the campaign, winning 30-27 at Headingley, although last season’s top-four semi-finalists are far from convincing this term.
“They probably played their best game against us,” added Redpath. “Speaking to (Scottish head coach and former Wasps and England scrum-half) Pete Richards they were confident and they played with a lot of width in that game. We can’t look back too much, though, and have to look at now.”
Carnegie’s last ‘On The Road’ B&I Cup game versus an Ospreys Premiership Select had to be switched from Huddersfield YMCA to Headingley last month due to heavy rain so Redpath is looking forward to hopefully getting one such fixture under his belt at the Yorkshire One club on the east coast.
“It’s a first time for me as I’m knew to this so it’ll be great,” he said. “It’s a different avenue for people to come and watch, a different part of Yorkshire which is great and that’s we need to put in some performances.
“It was a disappointment the Huddersfield YMCA game was moved because of the conditions but we’ve got a chance to go there now to Scarborough and perform and, hopefully, interest people in the area there to come and watch.
“Generally people do come if you are winning.”