LEEDS CARNEGIE coach Jimmy Lowes saluted his side after they reached the British & Irish Cup quarter-finals for the first time.
They secured a home draw after this entertaining win over Bristol saw them wrest top spot of Pool Five from their opponents.
The draw is made a week today with Rotherhams, Plymouth, Munster and Pontypridd potential visitors to Headingley on the weekend of April 5/6/7.
Ex-Castleford Tigers star Josh Griffin impressed after being switched from centre to wing, scoring one try, running hard and coming up with some big defensive plays, while Jonah Holmes looked comfortable at full-back filling in for the injured Stevie McColl.
Ex-Wharfedale scrum-half James Doherty buzzed around, too, as Leeds – though outscored two tries to three – did enough to see off their previously unbeaten rivals. Leeds visit Championship leaders London Welsh on Sunday.
Lowes said: “I was pleased for the players. I thought that was a tough game against a very good Bristol side. We had to defend for long periods and came up with nice plays to turn the ball over which set us on our way to the win. It is nice to be in the knock-out stages and obviously good to be at home.
“I was pleased this was our last game in the pool stages because the intensity was up there with a league match and we face a tough trip to London Welsh next Sunday. We are in good shape and looking forward to that challenge.”
Second-row Matt Smith’s 17th minute try came after Glyn Hughes’ impressive break and countless phases near the Bristol line and, with Hughes adding the conversion, Leeds led 13-0 when he kicked a second penalty just after the half-hour.
Leeds were finally broken with the last play of the first half when a long looping pass from ex-Wales fly-half Nicky Robinson exposed their right flank and full-back Auguy Slowick finished off. Robinson failed with the conversion.
From a re-set scrum, Rowan and Doherty worked a clever blindside switch to usher Griffin over for his seventh try of the season. Slack midfield defence, however, allowed Bryan Rennie to glide over between the posts in the 52nd minute, Robinson’s conversion making it 18-12.
When Leeds lock Nathan Hannay was yellow-carded soon after for killing the ball, Bristol sensed it was time to strike.
But blindside Nick Foster was brought back for obstruction and it was the hosts who struck via Hughes’ boot.
The visitors did respond with a score initiated by a clever midfield chip from Robinson inside his own half, Slowick gathering the bouncing ball and then a flowing passing move seeing Ryan Edwards eventually escape Leeds’ scrambling defence.
Robinson improved to narrow the deficit to just two points but Bristol were cut to 14 when Mark Sorenson dragged back a Leeds player off the ball. Hughes slotted the kick and, though his replacement Oli Goss missed a simple effort late on, Leeds’ defence was in no mood to throw this one away.
Leeds Carnegie: Holmes; Vickerman, Clarke, Burdon (Barker 74), Griffin; Hughes (Goss 74), Doherty; Harris (Lockwood 49), Nilsen (Currie 58), Beech (Walker 58), Hannay, Smith, Myerscough (Williams 68), Beck (Walker 40), Rowan.
Bristol: Slowick; Watkins, Rennie (Amesbury 58), Mosses, Edwards; Robinson, Tipuna (Braley 40); Traynor, Johnson (Lawrence 58), Hall, Skirving Townson (Sorenson 61), Koster, Merriman (Eadie 71), Mama.
Referee: Kieran Barry (IRFU).