Leeds Carnegie: Spirits up for Falcons Boxing Day showdown

Director of rugby Andy Key says Leeds Carnegie are thoroughly switched on as they prepare for Boxing Day's Premiership crunch clash at Newcastle Falcons.

Temperatures may be ice cold but Carnegie's form is red hot with Key's side completing a quickfire Amlin Challenge Cup double over Crociati Rugby on Sunday with a 46-6 success in Parma.

The rout followed the previous weekend's 55-6 romp at Headingley Carnegie and Key admits his team are thriving ahead of Boxing Day's basement battle cruncher.

"The whole squad has been lifted massively," said Key.

"We've always felt that the performances were there, it was just a case of switching the right switches and they've done that.

"We should give the squad massive credit for what they have done in the last two weeks – they have scored 15 tries and conceded none.

"I think the conceding of nil has been massive for us, our defence has been really good. We haven't given them many opportunities and those that we did, the defence was more than equal to their attack.

"We go into the weekend's game in very buoyant mood, really chuffed with where we are and we're looking forward to the game now."

Falcons, second bottom in the league and seven points ahead of Leeds, were also in winning Amlin Challenge Cup form at the weekend, recording a narrow 26-24 success at home to an Exeter Chiefs side who had beaten

them 36-10 the weekend before.

However, Leeds have now recorded back-to-back victories in style and Key admitted he was delighted with Sunday's display in Italy.

"We were really pleased and I think the squad was very focused following on from the previous week at home," he said.

"We knew that it would be a potentially tougher ask because they were going to strengthen their squad with a few guys who they had rested

over at our place, which they did.

"For probably about 40 or 50 minutes they tested us and credit to them but the good thing was we stuck to our game plan, we stuck to our objectives and in the last 30 minutes we demonstrated again the

strength of the team.

"Our fitness levels showed and our last three or four tries were very clinical which is very pleasing."

The victory also kept alive Carnegie's chances of qualification for the quarter-finals, Leeds are currently five points behind leaders Stade Francais who they visit in January.

Key knows that game, too, promises to be an important showdown in European terms but it is undoubtedly the Boxing Day clash at Falcons that matters most, a game followed by the league hosting of mid-table Gloucester on New Year's Day.

Analysing his side's prospects of qualifying for the European competition's last eight, Key said: "Mathematically we still have a

very, very good chance.

"Stade Francais have been winning and winning as comfortably as we have – picking up the bonus points – and we are on, there or thereabouts, equal sorts of points for and against.

"They lie five points in front of us and it's going to be a great game over at Stade with everything to play for.

"But we'll measure the importance of that and where we feel we are at as a squad when we get those two games out of the way after Christmas."

Kalvin Phillips celebrates scoring Leeds' second goal of the game Picture by Simon Hulme

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