Leeds Carnegie produced their most impressive win of the Greene King IPA Championship season as they overturned highly fancied Bristol at the Memorial Ground with a display which balanced determination on defence with clinical excellence on attack.
Ambitious Bristol, led by former England and Scotland national coach Andy Robinson, have invested heavily in their squad this season in a bid to return to the top flight and they dominated the early exchanges in this clash. However, they were held up three times over the Leeds line and the visitors punished them for their wasted opportunities.
Carnegie used attack as their best form of defence as they spread the ball wide from deep inside their own half and the prolific talents of full-back Stevie McColl and wingers David Doherty and Jonah Holmes always had Bristol on the backfoot.
McColl and Doherty combined to set Fred Burdon up for the first try after 12 minutes before Holmes crossed for two tries to give his side a 21-5 lead at half time. The first came from a crossfield kick from Josh Griffin, which still left the winger with plenty to do, and the second from fine play by his backline colleagues. Glyn Hughes converted all three tries but missed a penalty before the break that looked like it could have been costly.
However, Leeds edged further in front at the start of the second half when prop Ben Harris benefitted from some good work by James Doyle to power his way over. Having secured the try bonus point and leading 28-5, Leeds faced a nervous 30 minute period to hold on for the victory. That task was made harder when captain Jacob Rowan was sin binned following a string of penalties. Leeds were on the wrong end of a huge penalty count of 23-6 which made the victory all the more remarkable. Bristol crossed for a try just after Rowan went off but did not score again until the final second to secure losing and try bonus points.
Leeds head coach James Lowes said: “I am very proud of this group of players.
“To be under the sort of pressure they were in the opening minutes but continue to believe in each other and the way we want to play speaks volumes about them.”
Bristol: D’Arcy, Watkins, Rennie (Short, 57), Eves, Amesbury, Roberts (Jarvis, 53), Tipuna (Braley, 55), Traynor, Lawrence, Hall (Rodrigo, 55), Glynn (Townson, 49), Sorenson, Mama, Merriman, Skirving (Eadie, 55). Unused replacement: Hayes.
Leeds Carnegie: McColl, Holmes, Griffin, Burdon, Doherty, Hughes, Hampson, Harris, Nilsen, Currie, Hannay (Smith, 70), Green, Beck, Doyle (Walker, 70), Rowan. Unused replacements: Graham, Lozowski, Goss
Referee: Greg McDonald