YORKSHIRE CARNEGIE head coach Bryan Redpath admitted he did not know why his side were so abject when suffering a shock six-try home defeat to Cornish Pirates.
One thing is for sure, though – unless he quickly gets to the bottom of the issue, more results of this nature will undoubtedly follow and any hopes of promotion back into the Premiership will disappear.
Granted, this was just their second league defeat of the whole season, their first being at unbeaten leaders London Irish on November 5, and their only home reverse in any competition.
However, the signs had long been there that they were far from infallible; numerous times patchy Carnegie have invited opponents back into games only to recover but, on this occasion, Cornish went for the jugular and finally made them pay.
The hosts largely dominated the first half but gifted their visitors two tries with awful intercept passes, firstly by the woeful Chris Elder as winger Kyle Moyle scored and then Joe Ford, who saw Cornish No 8 Tom Duncan rumble in from 40m.
Bizarrely, Cornish did not even have any phases in the hosts’ 22 until as late as the 35th minute when Duncan duly added his second, slipping through untouched as Carnegie’s ruck defence went missing, a sign of things to come.
Still, Phil Nilsen’s two tries from line-out drives allied to seven points from the boot of Alex Davies meant Redpath’s side only trailed 21-17 at the break.
When Ford then dropped a goal two minutes into the second period to narrow the gap further, it seemed Carnegie would rouse from their erratic nature and push home.
How wrong could you be?
Redpath conceded: “Even then (21-20), I never saw us have real confidence in the game.
“We had a really good set just before that where we actually carried really strongly to get us in that position and then took a drop.
“But, on the whole, we just weren’t good enough from the start of the game to the end of it.
“I don’t know why. As coaches, we will take some responsibility as well, things we may or may not have done in the week – training, selections, anything – it’s not just the players today.
“It was a bit like Ealing away in the B & I Cup where we gave them some free runs and free points. If you do that, you get stitched up.”
Cornish, who defended magnificently, grew in confidence and dictated for much of the second period. Scrum-half Alex Day darted past a hapless Charlie Beech for a bonus-point try, Brett Beukeboom got another from a driving maul before a splendidly created score for prop Jack Andrew, Laurence May enjoying a 100 per cent conversion rate.
All Carnegie could muster was an effort from Ollie Stedman - who, in fairness, was a marauding force in the back-row alongside No 8 Ryan Burrows – in the very final play of the game, Stevie McColl converting.
Irish, the team Carnegie must realistically overcome in the play-offs to gain promotion, arrive at Headingley a week on Sunday.
Redpath’s side must improve immeasurably if they are going to have any chance of success there.
He was more realistic, however, and said: “We’ve Jersey away before Irish and that’s never an easy place to go on a Friday night.
“We need to be better as if we perform like that we’ll not win that game. We gifted Cornish two interceptions – 14 points – in the first 22 minutes and actually never really recovered from that.
“We lost our way a little bit and became quite individual. A huge credit must go to Pirates. They had a long travel up, then took their chances and grew in the game, dug in defensively as well.”
It was a sixth successive win for Cornish, who now fancy their chances of gatecrashing the top four. Redpath, meanwhile, accepted slack displays of late had caught up with his side.
He said: “Yes, ultimately. Some of the things we’ve seen in previous games have come out today.
“If that’s the kick in the teeth we need then we’ll take it.”
Yorkshire Carnegie: Elder (McColl 58); Holmes, Lucock, Seals, Prell; Ford, Davies (Green 58); Beech (Boyce 58), Nilsen (M Mayhew 58), Faletau (Thraves 55), D Schofield (Smith 55), West (Myerscough 73), Stedman, R Mayhew, Burrows.
Cornish Pirates: T May; O’Meara, Hendrickson, de Battista (Bodilly 45), Moyle; L May (Cargill 73), Day (Pope 64); Walker, Channon (Innard 55), P Andrew (J Andrew 45), Morgan, Beukeboom, Lee (Caulfield 66), Cheeseman (Parker 32), Duncan.
Referee: Matthew O’Grady (RFU).