NEIL BACK has handed a vote of faith to fly-half Adrian Jarvis – and is backing him to rediscover his kicking radar in the closing weeks of the campaign.
The former Bristol player suffered rotten luck on the kicking front in last Friday’s unfortunate 15-12 Aviva Premiership loss at Sale Sharks, missing a conversion and three penalties, two of which struck the posts in the first half.
By contrast, kicking king Charlie Hodgson was metronomic in his accuracy, landing all five penalties to hand the hosts victory – despite being outscored two tries to nil –much to the despondency of Carnegie, who host Exeter Chiefs in another monumental game on Sunday with time running out regarding their top-flight status.
Chiefs triumphed 15-9 in the reverse game at Sandy Park in November, with all the points arriving from penalties in a try-less encounter.
And with Sunday’s clash hardly expected to be an open and expansive try-athlon and the West Countrymen having their very own points machine in Gareth Steenson, kicking could again ultimately decide proceedings.
But Back is fully supporting Jarvis, with Ceiron Thomas again unlikely to be available through injury.
Head coach Back said: “Jarvo doesn’t practice hitting the post, but he’s done it four times in the past couple of weeks. But he’ll put that right and it will help us get the victory we need.
“In our last three games, we’ve scored six tries and conceded three and hit the post through penalties four times. Certainly, the level of performance is there; we’ve just got to do it more consistently.
“Our performance against (London) Irish was fantastic and could have got us a bonus-point win, let alone a win. But we knocked off and were poor against Northampton.
“What we now need to do is back up a good performance against Sale – a game we should have won – and get that win this weekend.
“The mood, confidence and belief belies where we are (in the table). We’ve taken a number of losing bonus points which on another day could have been wins.
“We know it’s very much in our hands and we’re looking at who we have got in the run-in as opposed to other teams. We’ll concentrate on Exeter and we need to be at our best to beat them, although they are in a good place and high on confidence at the moment.
“But we know if we play at our best, we can beat anyone and Exeter are no different.”
Exeter have arguably been the headline act of the Premiership in 2010-11 with the Devonians having made scores of pundits eat humble pie after being cast off as cannon fodder ahead of the season, much in the same way Carnegie were last term.
Rob Baxter’s troops have kept it simple with their pragmatic approach backed by a hugely reliable goalkicker in Steenson, with Back full of praise for their efforts.
He added: “Exeter are safe in the Premiership and can start building now for next season.
“I’ve been really impressed. Coming up from the Championship last year, they have recruited really well and were fully financed.
“They have taken their opportunities. They don’t play massively expansively and do the basics outstandingly well and have got good results on the back of that.
“They have a good kicker in Steenson, who has taken his opportunities well and led well. But he’s not quite in Charlie’s (Hodgson’s) shoes.
“Last week, Charlie showed his quality and had five opportunities and kicked five between the posts and that makes a difference when you have a quality international ‘ten’ in your team.”
Carnegie will make a late call on talismanic skipper Marco Wentzel, who was ruled out at Sale following a late fitness test on his injured calf.
But stand-in captain and England hooker Steve Thompson is definitely fit, having trained all week despite being taken off as a precaution at Edgeley Park with a foot problem.