Leeds Carnegie: Doherty’s delight at retaining start spot

James Doherty.

James Doherty.

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IMPROVING James Doherty hopes he can play a part in Leeds Carnegie’s bid to wrest Championship top spot from London Welsh.

They head to the leaders at Oxford on Sunday knowing a ninth straight victory should see them usurp last season’s relegated Premiership side.

Scrum-half Doherty has seen his chances in the Championship limited this term due to the consistent form of regular No9 Chris Hampson.

But he won man-of-the-match in Saturday’s 24-19 British & Irish Cup victory over Bristol, a success which sees them safely into the quarter-finals, and has now got the nod for their next crunch contest.

“I was chuffed to get 80 minutes as it’s what I needed,” said the ex-Wharfedale schemer.

“I felt good out there and only found out about man of the match later on in the shower.

“I was waiting for my bubbly afterwards but apparently you don’t get it in the B &I Cup so I had to have some words!

“But there is loads of competition here and that’s across the board, not just at nine.

“At front-row, for instance, there’s a hell of a lot of competition at Leeds at the minute.

“I’ve got this chance now and it’s up to me to take it.”

Coach Jimmy Lowes is in an envious position given the players at his disposal and he certainly has plenty of options ahead of Sunday’s prime fixture.

Doherty, who wins his first league start of this term after three appearances off the bench, added: “We’ve won eight on the bounce now and we’re absolutely flying.

“Regardless of the competition we’re in we just want to win games. It becomes a bit of a habit.

“Whoever’s playing – we’ve a squad of 38 and including uni lads who’ve we’ve used in the B&I we’ve now used more than 40 players – just goes onto the pitch just wanting to win.

“We don’t really look at the table too much. More than anything, it’s just focusing on the little bits of detail we do during the week, analysing sides and looking at our own performance. But what we’ve done well over the last few weeks we’ll take into this Welsh game.

“We know they’re a top side. They are where they are in the league for a reason. But we’re looking forward to going down there and taking them on.”

Matt Smith (dead leg) drops out and Charlie Beech has been recalled by Bath but Leeds are boosted by the return of Ryan Burrows.

Carnegie, meanwhile, will discover who they play in the B & I Cup quarter-finals when the draw is made on Monday.

Doherty, 26, lifted the inaugural competition with Cornish Pirates in 2010.

He said: “I was lucky enough to win the first ever B&I Cup with the Pirates and it was a great feeling. We beat Munster A in the final at home. With this competition it’s always drawn and one of the sides will play the final at home to increase the crowd so it’s never a neutral venue.

“By qualifying on top of our pool we’ve got a home quarter and hopefully home semi too.

“Then it’s a toss of the coin for the final. It’d be great to have a final at Headingley. If we could get there it’d be a brilliant opportunity. You don’t get many chances to win silverware – some players go their whole career and don’t win a thing – so it’d be great if we could do that with Leeds.

“Obviously our focus is always going to be the Championship, but the form we’re in an the minute we just want to go out and play and win.”

James Tincknell

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