Back can’t help but think about what might have been

Neil Back said he afforded himself a cautious smile after learning of pointless defeats for relegation rivals Sale and Newcastle this weekend, but felt his side wasted a golden chance to capitalise with a disappointing opening 20 minutes against the Premiership pacesetters.

Leeds did chip away at the advantage Newcastle and Sale have over them by picking up what could prove a priceless losing bonus point, thanks to a stirring second-half recovery against Leicester Tigers.

But they left themselves with too much to do after going 10-0 down in an opening 20 minutes when they couldn’t even force their way into their opponents half.

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Head coach Back said: “We are bitterly disappointed, we started the first half poorly and gave them too much respect.

“We can’t do that against the top sides and that was the main topic of conversation at half-time.

“We performed much better in the second half and it was an outstanding tackle to stop Luther Burrell scoring late on, but with a scrum deep in their territory we should be coming away with points.”

A drastic overhaul of the pack and the introduction of new signing Adrian Jarvis at fly-half for the injured Ceiron Thomas, inspired a revival that closed the gap on the second-bottom Falcons to three points.

Newcastle were beaten at London Irish on Saturday while Sale are still within range after a defeat to Bath left them on 20 points, 11 ahead of Leeds but having played a game more.

Back said: “That bonus point is massive for us. I watched the internationals because you can’t do anything about the other results, but I did smile when I saw they’d not picked up any points.

“It makes you think that when you pick up a point you have made a difference. And if we keep playing like that we’ll get enough points to stay in the Premiership.”

Leeds have two games against Newcastle which will go a long way to deciding their fate but Back is not looking too far ahead.

He said: “We are now focussing on Saracens next week, there are 10 Premiership games remaining and 50 points to be grabbed.”

On Jarvis’s debut performance, Back said: “We put him on earlier than we’d have liked to, but he showed all his experience.”