Nathan Hannay has urged his Leeds Carnegie team-mates to seize a golden opportunity to win promotion back to the Premiership,
Hannay flies back to former club Jersey with Carnegie on Saturday as the Headingley club look to continue their fine form in the Greene King IPA Championship promotion run-in.
A run of eight wins from nine league games, which began with victory over Jersey in Christmas week, has seen Leeds rise to second. Their win over London Scottish on Sunday effectively sealed their place in the Championship’s top four and the end-of-season promotion play-offs – barring a catastrophic collapse in the final five games of the season.
There is very little to choose between Leeds, Bristol and London Welsh in the promotion race, with Rotherham Titans – the fourth team in the equation – at last slowing up after their relentlessly fast start.
With Worcester favourites to tumble out of the Premiership this season, they will enter next year as well-resourced favourites to win promotion, just as Newcastle were last season.
“This could be our best chance to win promotion,” insisted second-rower Hannay.
“It’s not a case of all or nothing this year for us because we’re a team that’s building, but this is a major opportunity for us and one we have to grab with both hands.
“The club is making the right signings for next season and the right noises about winning promotion so let’s go for it.
“We’ve got the two guys coming in from Newcastle (scrum-half Chris Pilgrim and centre James Fitzpatrick) so we’re making some exciting signings for next season.
“We want to make sure they’re Premiership players.”
Seizing the moment will require no let-up in the pace Carnegie are currently setting.
On paper, today’s visit to the second-bottom hosts looks like another five-point haul, but as Hannay – a veteran of three seasons on the island – knows, playing Jersey is never as simple as the league table suggests.
Last season, in the week before Christmas, Leeds lost to the Channel Islanders on a bog of a pitch, in a game in which Hannay impressed in the colours of Jersey.
“I’m determined to be on the winning team again,” said the 29-year-old Halifax-born summer signing.
“This is a potential banana skin for us and it’s a game we have to take seriously.
“Last year’s game was a must-win for Jersey, just as it will be this season because they still need the points to ensure they avoid relegation.
“It was a really boggy pitch that day and played to our advantage.
“This year, we’ve got to be braced for everything they’ll throw at us.”
Despite their lowly position, Jersey present a tricky challenge on their home patch, although their record at St Peter is not as good this year as it was last term, when they took a lot of established Championship outfits by surprise.
“I think opposing teams treat it as a weekend away, especially the teams in the national leagues,” said Hannay, who helped Jersey win promotion to the second tier in the second of his three years on the island.
“Teams just go there to relax and forget about the rugby. But rest assured, we won’t be taking them lightly at all.
“We still want to finish as high as we can in the league to set us up for the play-offs.”