Leeds Carnegie have had their kick up the backside ahead of the play-offs – and it’s been a timely one.
That’s the emphatic message from head coach Diccon Edwards, who feels the reality check of back-to-back losses in the final week of the regular season to Esher and Nottingham will serve as all the inspiration they need going into the six-game Pool B play-off qualification, which starts at Cornish Pirates next Saturday.
Carnegie put those dual setbacks to bed when they pulled down the curtain on the 22-game Championship campaign with an eye-catching 39-29 win at London Welsh last Saturday, setting them up nicely for the cut-throat environment of the play-offs, when a defeat or two can rule you out.
Edwards said: “We lost two games in the final week and the Esher result, in particular, was a huge disappointment. I didn’t think our mentality was right on the day.
“But looking back, I think it was a well-timed wake-up call for us in terms of our mental approach and in terms of making sure we keep focused on what we do rather than worrying about expectation.
“If there ever was a time to under perform and lose a game, it was then – just before the play-offs start. it may be a blessing in disguise in terms of getting that blip out of the way now.
“Now is the time to put things right going into the play-offs, because we won’t get a second chance. You aren’t in a position to lose games in the play-offs.
“We need to go into every game in top form.”
In anyone’s language, the testing arena of Westholme, where hosts Pirates pulverised Carnegie 52-10 last September, represents a daunting introduction to play-off life.
But Edwards, who has taken the Carnegie players away on camp in rural Yorkshire this week for a change of focus and scenery, is confident his troops will be refreshed and ready come next weekend.
He said: “This week has basically been a recovery one following three games in a week and ending the first half of the season.
“It’s been a case of re-establishing and re-enforcing what our standards are and what is going to make a difference going into the play-offs.
“We fully understand that a new competition is going to start and the way that we have to approach that. We know the things we have to do differently to give ourselves the best opportunity.
“We’ve gone away as a group to reinforce those things in a small mini camp to ensure we give ourselves the best chance in the play-offs.
“It’s been a good chance to get away from our normal day-to-day routine and take us away from our comfort zone. Hopefully, it will give us further inspiration to get promoted.
“Cornish is a tough start, but we’ll be ready. Our previous two away games (at London Welsh and Nottingham) were both good tests in terms of our mental approach, irrespective of the results and will stand us in good stead for the Pirates game.”