YORKSHIRE Carnegie quickly needed to reassert some authority in the Championship after losing their 100 per cent record to leaders London Irish and did just that last night when inflicting a comfortable win over derby rivals Doncaster Knights.
It was far from pretty at times with Bryan Redpath’s side still lacking some composure but, in fairness, conditions were filthy and eventually it mattered little as they nudged themselves to victory at Headingley.
Two tries from their driving maul, one in each half, first from Andy Saull and then the impressive hooker Mike Mayhew, was enough to see off spirited but limited opponents.
Carnegie were actually without a trio of injured locks in Mike Myerscough, Matt Smith and in-form Dean Schofield but, after some initial teething problems, it was hard to notice as their line-out began to tick too efficiently for their visitors.
The returning Richard Beck, operating alongside Jack Whetton, fared well as the home side’s pack gradually wore down their under-strength rivals, Mike Cusack, the Doncaster-born prop making only his third appearance since rejoining Carnegie, also enjoying his work against his hometown club.
Knights, for their part, had barely any chances; Will Owen charged down a kick in the first period to put Carnegie under pressure on their own line only for his own side to then infringe. That was about as close as they got. Last season’s beaten Championship finalists have now lost four of their opening nine league games but it was perhaps no surprise here given some of the players they were without.
Doncaster, who won against London Scottish last week, are certainly badly missing the leadership of Michael Hills who is still yet to play this season.
However, they also saw another openside – the former Australia international Beau Robinson – and influential No8 Alex Shaw absent here so it was understandable why Carnegie’s pack eventually took such a hold.
That said, Clive Griffiths’s side only trailed 14-6 when Carnegie’s fly-half Joe Ford missed a simple penalty almost in front of the posts in the 55th minute.
However, not long after the hour mark, Mayhew crossed and there was no hope of a valiant fightback, Ford making sure with his fourth penalty with the last play after a charging Phil Nilsen had just been denied on the line.
Carnegie were 14-6 ahead at half-time and, conceivably, given the amount of possession and territory they garnered, should really have had more of a lead.
There was some lax moments that slowed their progress; Ford proved that it is not just England rugby league players who miss touch with penalties, the fly-half doing just that here, and then Mayhew seeing his line-out in Doncaster’s 22 picked off by Dave Nolan.
Earlier, Knights full-back Sean Scanlon spilt Ford’s grubber into touch inside his own 22, Carnegie took a quick line-out only to lose possession as they drove close.
However, Redpath’s side did deliver the best moments of fluidity, not least when Seb Stegmann produced some dazzling footwork to break free when returning the restart after Ford’s third penalty.
Although the winger was halted by Michael Heaney, he managed to offload to Beck who, in turn, found Ryan Burrows, the blindside only halted from striding clear by Will Owen’s desperate ankle tap.
Carnegie seemed to have wasted the chance when, at the next phase, centre Pete Lucock passed into touch – another sign of their profligacy – but soon earned another line-out deep in Doncaster territory and, this time, there was no erring. Whetton claimed the catch and his forwards were clinical as they duly arced the drive towards the goalline, former England No 7 Saull eventually profitting with his first try of the campaign.
Ford missed the conversion attempt of the 39th-minute score but Declan Cusack, who had swapped two penalties with the Carnegie No 10, missed a second penalty from halfway to leave the home side in control at the break.
Carnegie centre Andy Forsyth was ruled out with injury on Thursday so Tom Casson – initially recalled on the bench – started the game with Max Green earning a reprieve as a replacement.
They head to bottom-placed Richmond – still yet to win a point after promotion – next Friday while Doncaster host Cornish Pirates in a televised game next Sunday.
Meanwhile, Carnegie have expanded their Academy programme with the appointment of joint-managers Jon Pendlebury and Ben Lazenby to replace former Academy director Andy Rock who joined Bath earlier this year.
Yorkshire Carnegie: McColl; Holmes, Lucock, Casson (Wright 61), Stegmann; Ford, Davies (Green 67); Beech, M Mayhew, Cusack (O’Donnell 57), Whetton (Sanderson 71), Beck, Burrows, Saull, Stedman.
Doncaster Knights: Scanlon; Jarvis, Hayes, Clark (Flockhart 66), Lewis; Cusack (Humberstone 73), Heaney (Edgerley 66); Hislop (List 61), Hunter (Allen 57), Quigley (John 57), Challinor, Nolan, Makaafi (Orr 61) , Owen, Williams.
Referee: Steve Lee (RFU).