We know we still have huge task ahead of us, says Back

LEEDS Carnegie claimed a nerve-jangling Premiership victory in their must-win game at Newcastle Falcons on Saturday but no one at the Yorkshire club is under any illusions that survival is now certain.

Not head coach Neil Back, despite his side’s third win in five games overhauling what at one stage was an 11-point deficit at the foot of the table.

Nor Adrian Jarvis, who put behind him a horror kicking show at Sale two weeks ago to drive home the last-gasp drop-goal that helped Leeds leapfrog Newcastle at the bottom.

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“We’ve got to play better than we did (at Newcastle) to beat Wasps next week,” said Jarvis, who kicked two drop-goals and a further nine points as Leeds claimed a priceless victory in a game that, had they lost it, would have almost certainly meant relegation to the Championship.

“We’ve still got to improve and keep building in the last few weeks.”

Back, whose side now have a one-point lead over Newcastle having played a game more, added: “You need to stand in the circle at the end of the game to see that the guys’ feet are firmly on the ground.

“They’ll celebrate Saturday’s win, it’s important they do that, but we’ve got a huge task ahead of us.

“We’ve just got to knuckle down, regroup, go through the review process so we continually improve, as we have done all year, so when we face obstacles we’ll make better decisions going forward.”

While understandably remaining focused on the task at hand, there was still much cause for celebration at Kingston Park on Saturday.

Leeds went into the game knowing defeat to their closest rivals would have pointed them towards Championship rugby next season.

Having frozen £1.5m in debt at the start of the season chasing Heineken Cup qualification, the club’s targets for the season were quickly reassessed after they lost their first nine Premiership games.

Three wins since the turn of the year, including the crucial victory over Exeter eight days ago, set up the second part of a relegation showdown with Newcastle, who seven weeks ago had won so convincingly in West Yorkshire it looked like the race had been run.

Multi-millionaire backer Paul Caddick told the Yorkshire Post last week that relegation would not plunge Leeds into financial meltdown, yet no one at Headingley Carnegie wants to put that theory to the test.

And after prevailing in a game of see-sawing emotions on Saturday – Leeds at one stage trailed by 13 points and the lead changed hands four times in the second half – Back vowed that his team will not stop fighting.

“We’ve got continued belief that we’ll do this,” said the head coach, who is maturing into the role of club figurehead since the departure of his trusted ally and director of rugby Andy Key two months ago.

“We are absolutely fighting for our lives. The character of the squad might have been questioned externally but never internally and we have a group of guys that want to stay in the Premiership.

“And they demonstrated that once again.

“The job now is to focus on what we’ve got to do. We’ve got three games, starting against Wasps next Sunday.

“I’ll let Alan Tait (Newcastle head coach) and his boys worry about what they’ve got to do.”

Leeds have claimed nine points from their last three games against Sale, Exeter and Newcastle, and since defeat to the Falcons on February 27, have earned 13 points to the North-East club’s five.

Back’s men are finding form at the right time yet their leader’s faith in their mentality has never wavered.

“The character of the squad has not just evolved in the last two or three weeks, it’s the whole season,” said Back.

“We felt we’d strengthened last summer in terms of quality but with less numbers our worst fears were realised with the injuries we’ve suffered.

“That’s contributed partly to where we are, but we’re not going to moan about that, it’s still in our hands, and this is a little step forward.”

On the game itself, in which Leeds scored tries through Steve Thompson, Pete Wackett and Gareth Hardy, Back said: “The squad were under a lot of pressure, we all were.

“It was non-negotiable this week as it was last, and the character of the squad was shown just before half-time.

“At 20-7 it was absolutely critical we got on the board. We got a seven-pointer and the boys were massively lifted.

“At 24-20 ahead we could possibly have taken different decisions. In a sense it’s good that we can go into the review process this week and be critical of some of the errors we made.”

The game served as redemption for 28-year-old Jarvis, who missed 11 points in the three-point defeat to Sale.

He said: “For that last drop-goal I was trying to get the boys to get the ball a bit closer.

“We’d done a couple of drills in training and fortunately it went over.

“We didn’t play particularly well but we got the job done, which is what we came here to do.

“There were a couple of decisions that weren’t right, but that’s for Monday.

“For now it’s just happiness and relief.”

Centre James Tincknell, who suffered a near fatal car crash two months ago, joined the team on the eve of the game. He is making good progress in his recovery.

Match report: Page 7.