Yorkshire Carnegie 27 Ulster Ravens 19: McGee’s Carnegie continue gradual recovery

Josh Bainbridge dives over for a try for Yorkshire Carnegie.
Josh Bainbridge dives over for a try for Yorkshire Carnegie.
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ANOTHER win, another venue and another step in the right direction for Yorkshire Carnegie.

Huddersfield YMCA was the latest ‘on the road’ host for Carnegie’s British & Irish Cup campaign, the National Three North club yesterday proudly following on from the likes of Hull Ionians and Scarborough in staging one of their fixtures.

Laund Hill proved another good fit as the Championship club continue their quest to try and embrace the whole county but, most importantly, they got the victory required to continue the rebuilding job after a dismal start to the campaign.

Tommy McGee, standing in as head coach following Gary Mercer’s exit, has now overseen successive wins over Aberavon and Ulster Ravens and he knows, in all likelihood, he will need only a point from Saturday’s final B&I Cup contest at Pool Two victors Rotherham Titans to progress into the quarter-finals.

That said, they will want victory, especially after rivals Rotherham embarrassed them in both competitions earlier this season.

And, indeed, there was enough here to suggest Yorkshire are finding their feet in readiness to not only avenge those losses but at last bring some purpose to their Championship campaign (only two wins all season) when they return to it in Jersey on December 20.

Certainly, if all the players follow Richard Beck’s lead they will be just fine.

Yesterday was only the flanker’s second full game since returning from shoulder surgery but he was involved everywhere and proved crucial in taking hold of a contest that could easily have gone the other way.

Starting at No 8 after Chris Walker was taken ill on the eve of the game, the 25-year-old proved a real nuisance in the line-out, stealing a couple of Ulster throws, and in open play was a genuine force, often appearing with some telling handling.

Meanwhile, 19 year-old prop Paul Hill looked more like a barnstorming centre as he scored his first-ever try to nudge the home side in front for the first time in the 56th minute.

Despite their dominance up front, both in the scrum and line-out, Carnegie were 12-8 down at the break and then conceded a soft try to prop Dave Ryan immediately after the restart to go further behind.

However, Yorkshire captain Rob Vickerman popped up in midfield to latch onto his excellent centre partner Peter Lucock’s offload and race in from 35 metres to begin the fightback on 45 minutes.

Then, with Yorkshire beginning to make their pressure tell, Hill came up with his brilliant effort in the 56th minute to give them the advantage for the first time.

Beck, typically, started the move from the back of a scrum in his own 22, peeling off before sending Lucock into space.

A few phases later, Hill emerged out on the left flank where the teenage front-row showed great finishing skill to bump off both Ulster half-backs on his rampaging run to the line.

It was a good day for the prop fraternity; Charlie Beech came off the bench to rumble over for a bonus-point score in the 68th minute, Beck continuing his superb afternoon’s work with the pass.

Of course, for McGee, the most crucial thing was delivering another win to help restore confidence for a side that reached the B&I Cup final and Championship play-offs last term but now languish in 10th.

“It was tough out there,” he insisted. “I deliberately stood at the bottom right-hand corner to see just how windy it was.

“It was always going to favour a kicking side and Ulster did it well.

“Most of the guys did really well.”

Josh Bainbridge, 18, scored Carnegie’s first try but only after wingers Jack Owens and Jacob Stockdale had both crossed for winless Ulster, exposing the hosts out wide.

Yorkshire’s Harry Leonard added two conversions and a penalty while Vickerman (dead leg) and Jonah Holmes (head knock) came off and will be doubtful for Saturday.

Yorkshire Carnegie: Georgiou; Goss, Vickerman (McIlwaine 53), Lucock, Holmes (Pilgrim 55); Leonard, Dudman; Harris (Beech 62), Graham (Walker 62), Hill (Imiolek 65), Hannay, Smith, Casson (Ramshaw 64), Bainbridge (Grange 72), Beck.

Ulster Ravens: Nelson; Owens, Andrew, Arnold, Stockdale; Bingham (O’Hagan 58), Heaney; Ryan, Jackson (Andrew 55), Ross (McCall 49), Stevenson (Joyce 65), McComb, Raaymakers, Reidy, Butterworth.

Referee: D Jones (WRU).