LEE BLACKETT says Leeds Carnegie are under no illusions about the importance of Sunday’s monumental relegation showdown with Newcastle Falcons at Headingley – and has labelled the game as a “cup final.”
The encounter is comfortably rock-bottom Carnegie’s biggest match since their never-to-be-forgotten Survival Sunday victory over Worcester Warriors last April, with three-quarter Blackett desperate for the same outcome.
That spring victory – labelled the £1m match with so much riding on its result financially for both clubs – sealed a stupendous Great Escape from the drop and while Carnegie would still have plenty of work to do even if they clinch victory over second-from-bottom Falcons, it would lay a huge psychological marker.
Blackett said: “We can’t wait for Sunday. We really need to win the Newcastle game and it’s literally a cup final for us.
“There are similarities with the Worcester game at the end of last season, although I remember the week before, we went away to London Irish and won. We were hoping it would be the same last week, but it wasn’t to be. If we’d gone to Saracens and won, it would have taken some pressure off.
“It’s a bit different to then, because there will be still be eight games to go and even if we win, we’ll still have to fight our way out of it. Having said that, we’re treating it as a cup final and a game we literally we can’t afford to lose.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to put a lot of wrongs right from last week and for us to beat them and get off the bottom.
“When you are in the middle of the table, these games don’t come around too much. These are the ones you want to play in.
“It may never be a classic, but I don’t care as long as we win, to be honest. I’d take a 3-0 win now!”
A bumper – and largely parochial – five-figure crowd heartily roared on Carnegie to victory against Worcester and provided a “12th man” element, with Blackett and his colleagues anxious for a similar lift to give them the edge over Falcons, three points above them in the table with both having played 13 games.
He said: “We need the crowd we had in the Gloucester and Worcester games and seem to do better in front of the big crowds and if would nice in the Yorkshire public got down to the ground and made it a great atmosphere.
“The roar of the crowd can be really big and help you with line-outs and things like that to get on the back of the opposition. And if don’t think people realise how much a (noisy) crowd can affect the referee and things like that.
“It would be massive for us to have a big crowd. I think everyone involved with both clubs will be there at the weekend, as it’s a big game for Newcastle as well.”