Leeds Carnegie 12 Worcester Warriors 10: True grit enables Leeds to seal survival following nervous finale

THE rousing pre-match rendition of "Time To Say Goodbye" was not a maudlin forecast of what was to come. Not for Leeds Carnegie anyway.

The Yorkshire club are staying in the Guinness Premiership. It is Worcester Warriors whose six-year stint in the top flight is now ended.

Typically, it did not come easy for Leeds who tried their hardest in the nerve-shredding final minutes yesterday to give their relegation rivals a reprieve.

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Holding onto a slender 12-10 lead, they nervously and aimlessly kicked possession away but none more so than full-back Jon Goodridge who haplessly fired straight into touch with just seconds remaining.

His error handed desperate Worcester – who needed to win to have any chance of surviving – one last opportunity.

Fortunately, this Leeds side have displayed courage, determination and desire throughout their first season back in the Premiership and all those traits were on full display as they rallied heroically to deny Matthew Jones's drop kick.

With the clock already run down, three players charged out at the replacement fly-half and it was Kearnan Myall who got the all-important block, Tom Denton hacking the loose ball dead to finally signal the end for Worcester and new life for Leeds.

The celebrations, in front of a season-high attendance of 10,146, began immediately. They could well still be going on this morning.

It was the least Andy Key and Neil Back's men deserved. A side that has now won seven games does not warrant demotion; a team that has failed to win away from home all season should know why it has fallen.

Leeds, who knew they would not only secure their safety but an extra 1m funding for next season by avoiding defeat, did not care it was so scrappy.

The pouring rain in the first half suited their game plan, especially after they had established a 12-0 lead. The second period was always going to be unpleasant.

They lost their most inspirational player before the contest even began when Hendre Fourie hobbled away from the pitch with a cramping calf muscle just minutes before kick-off.

Rhys Oakley stepped up from the bench to play openside and Jacob Rowan was hastily drafted into the replacements.

Henry Paul had already failed a fitness yesterday morning meaning Jonny Hepworth was a late addition but the pre-match drama did little to affect the home side.

Worcester had their own problems, missing their hugely influential captain Pat Sanderson, and their nervousness was apparent early on.

Chris Pennell was short and wide with an early penalty attempt, Myall expertly stole their first lineout and – even when Oakley fumbled in the resulting possession – Sam Tuitupou hurriedly kicked straight out to hand the initiative back to Leeds.

Pennell was penalised for a deliberate knock-on as the hosts created a promising overlap and Ceiron Thomas showed no such jitters by calmly slotting the penalty on seven minutes.

He did likewise two minutes later when the hapless Pennell dropped a towering kick and Chris Cracknell was caught offside and made it 9-0 with his third successful kick at the end of the first quarter.

Willie Walker produced the cardinal sin of kicking the re-start straight into touch – maybe surprised by Leeds' narrowed Headingley pitch – so the hosts were further encouraged.

Erring Worcester just could not help themselves. At least three of their chasers were offside when Walker hoisted another kick but each ignored Dave Pearson's warning and so, instead of benefiting from Goodridge's knock-on, they were marched back 20 metres and Thomas extended the lead to 12-0.

Worcester finally eked out some position but did not have the wherewithal to trouble a well-disciplined home defence.

Leeds captain Marco Wentzel was imperious in the line-out, continually stealing Worcester ball, and all they could muster was a solitary Walker penalty five minutes before the break.

Crucially, he missed two attempts at the start of the second half and, after Wentzel had nicked another lineout, Pennell was forced to make a desperate tackle on the ex-Leicester second-rower.

Luther Burrell and the outstanding Argentine prop Juan Gomez both burrowed close but Worcester survived.

It was the excellent Wentzal – leading by example all afternoon – who typically got over to drag Cracknell into touch when the flanker spotted half a gap but then began Leeds' attempts at self-destruction.

Thomas fatally missed touch with a penalty and, soon after, Jones' well-judged kick to the corner bounced horribly back above Lee Blackett's head for the on-rushing Alex Grove to sprint over.

Jones converted to make it

12-10 and left anxious Leeds fans holding their breath for the final 11 agonising minutes.

Jones tried an ambitious penalty from six metres inside his own half which fell short, Worcester wasted another opportunity when, from a lineout move, Dale Rasmussen coughed up under heavy pressure and then came Goodridge's gaffe. However, digging deep into their last reserves of energy, Myall led the charge down and Leeds were safe.

Leeds Carnegie: Goodridge; Fa'afili, Burrell, Rabeni, Blackett; Thomas, Mathie; MacDonald, Titterrell (Nilsen 61), Gomez (Swainston 58), Lund, Wentzel, Myall. Oakley, To'oala (Denton 58). Unused replacements: Nilsen, Hardy, Swainston, Denton, Rowan, Gomarsall, Ford, Hepworth.

Worcester Warriors: Latham; Pennell, Grove, Tuitupou (Rasmussen 75), Garvey; Walker (Jones 55), Ayr (Silver 44); A Black (C Black 50), Lutui (Fortey 64), Taumoepeau (Sourgens 74), Rawlinson, Kitchener (Gillies 55), Horstmann, Cracknell (Collins 78), Talei. Unused replacements: Collins, Jones, Rasmussen.

Referee: D Pearson.

MATCH FOCUS

Hero: Marco Wentzel

The towering lock made an absolute mess of Worcester's lineout, continually disrupting their set-piece while driving his team forward in the loose and popping up everywhere to make timely defensive interventions. Just what any team wants from their captain.

Villain: Matthew Jones

The Worcester replacement foolishly backed himself to land a penalty from 56 metres with six minutes remaining. If Worcester had gone for the corner, they may have breached the Leeds line a second time.

Instead, he had to rely on a pressured drop kick which was equally unproductive.

Key moment: 80th minute

It all hinged on the final play but Matthew Jones could not convert his chance as gutsy Leeds squeezed out the space. Kearnan Myall has never made a more important intervention.

Next game

Bath v Leeds: Saturday, May 8 3pm.

Verdict

Importantly, Leeds started the contest better than their opponents and it was their composure early on which set up the crucial victory.

Given the circumstances, nerves would always play a part near the end and they did retreat into their shell but responded when it mattered most.

Quote of the day

Shaky? That final whistle could not come soon enough. We thought we were trying to lose the game rather than win it.

– Leeds director of rugby Andy Key assesses the later stages.