CONSIDERING some of the selection problems they had, Yorkshire Carnegie head coach Bryan Redpath believes their British & Irish Cup win over Ealing Trailfinders was quite notable.
They came from 10-0 down to finish strongly at Scarborough RUFC’s Silver Royd ground on Saturday and gain the win that sees them qualify for the quarter-finals.
Admittedly, last season’s beaten finalists will be away in the last eight. There is no confirmation of who their opponents are yet but securing the bonus point victory and 23-point winning margin required to dislodge Ealing from the top of their pool and earn a home tie was never likely from as early as the 10th minute.
That was when Carnegie blindside flanker Ollie Stedman earned a yellow card after his side were already found guilty of one too many infringements trying to deal with Ealing’s impressive driving maul.
The visitors’ scrum-half Will Carter subsequently quickly darted over for the game’s first try, Rory Jennings converting, and – though they did not concede again during Stedman’s absence – it was clear Redpath’s side would not rack up the requisite points.
“It was tough in the first half; we just didn’t get our set-piece going,” he explained.
“It was tough for Rob (O’Donnell) playing at loosehead as he’d not played there for years while (tighthead) James Thrames was obviously coming back after long-term injury, too.
“Props Charlie Beech and Lee Imiolek are both injured and we haven’t managed to get visa clearance for Sione Faletau yet.
“A lot of credit has to go to Ealing. Their set-piece was good and when we did get it we knocked on.
“It was frustrating but at just 10-0 at half-time with that wind to come, knowing we had a stronger bench – they picked their strongest team to start – it was great to see us battle in those circumstances and come out with the win. I’m chuffed for the players.”
Fly-half Jennings also pulled two penalties wide – ultimately costly for an Ealing side previously unbeaten in the competition – during the first period.
He was successful with his next effort early in the second period for that 10-0 lead but Carnegie, pepped up by the introduction of 20-year-old fly-half Sam Allan, got back in it when openside Andy Saull latched onto Phil Nilsen’s lovely inside pass in the 63rd minute for Warren Seals to improve.
With evasive winger Taylor Prell particularly impressive, producing one stunning run down the middle of the park, they gradually wore their Championship rivals down for replacement prop Michael Cusack to get the all-important score in the 75th minute, after a driving maul.
Seals again improved and Redpath added: “Michael Cusack came on with a strong scrum game while it was great to see Mike Myerscough back too after being out since last April.
“It was good to give young Sam Allan some rewards as well and that side of things is really important to us. There’s eight to 10 changes we could make but we’ve stuck with this group for the B&I Cup. We’ve lost two games in our pool and sadly that game at Dragons (lost 22-20 in the last minute) has been a killer for us.
“But we’ve come a long way since then and also since losing heavily (51-35) at Ealing seven games into the season.
“Today they’ve changed that result around with a similar group of players. It does now mean we’re away, maybe at London Irish or Munster, but we’ve two big matches before that in the Championship – London Scottish away and Rotherham at home – so it was important to get people playing.”
Faletau, the 28 year-old Tonga tighthead signed on January 6, still awaits his debut. Redpath explained: “He has been picked for the last two games but his visa clearance hasn’t come through from the New Zealand rugby union. That is hugely frustrating as these games – especially today and the set piece battle – would have been great for him just to get his head around what’s coming in the next three months.
“He’s trained but it’s just his clearance from his club in New Zealand. The immigration side there only deals with visas on Wednesdays and Fridays so we’re tied with them but thankfully the RFU are trying to help us with that as we need to get him playing as Lee (Imiolek) is injured while Charlie (Beech) had surgery on Tuesday and is out for six weeks.”
Furthermore, Stedman limped off with a hamstring strain in the second period although openside Chris Walker, ill on Saturday, should be fit for Scottish.
Yorkshire Carnegie: McColl; Goss, Gray (Stegmann 68), T Casson (Allan 60), Prell; Seals, Green; O’Donnell (Cusack 45), Nilsen (M Mayhew 65), Thraves (Boyce 40), Sanderson (Myerscough 61), West, Stedman (Bainbridge 49), Saull, Burrows.
Ealing Trailfinders: Crane; Harries, Jenkins (Jones 72), Munro, Wilson; Jennings, Carter (Jones 73); Davis (Penny 60), Alun Walker (Lawrence 66), Penny (Gibbons 72), H Casson (Nagle-Taylor 70), Townson, Ryan (York 64), Smid, Bright.
Referee: Rhys Thomas (WRU).