IT MAY be a new year but frustrating Yorkshire Carnegie clearly have the same old issue of failing to put opponents to the sword.
They picked up their 12th win from 13 Championship games yesterday but really should have utterly eviscerated London Welsh, beleaguered foes whose squad was decimated before Christmas having entered liquidation, suffering a 20 points penalty deduction in the process.
However, instead, Bryan Redpath’s promotion-chasing side were hanging on to a 20-13 lead at the death having been out-played in the second period.
Furthermore, when they did finally revive themselves to gain a chance to secure a fourth try and bonus point in injury-time, Ryan Burrows – normally the most reliable player in their ranks – crucially failed to take a line-out in the corner.
Still, Carnegie did get one last opportunity to make up for that error but, with the final play of the game, after a driving maul had this time edged close, Chris Walker spilled at the vital moment.
Arguably, though, it should have never got to that desperate point; the hosts, who had scored twice from line-out drives in a dominant first half to claim a 20-3 interval lead, had a perfect chance to add a third in the 44th minute and finish the game off there and then.
But Joe Ford, with captain Burrow’s agreement, opted to kick the simple three points – even though Redpath had urged from the touchline for them to go for the corner once more.
Granted, that sometimes happens – and senior players are given the power to make their own decisions in such situations. But, considering how they had destroyed Welsh before in that set-piece, it was a golden opportunity to show their dominance and snuff out any hope of a rally from their opponents. That rally, of course, did come as erring Carnegie saw two players yellow-carded – Oli Goss by mistaken identity and Ben West, the impressive lock on debut after joining from Welsh before Christmas – and it all became so scrappy.
Things had started so brightly; they got off the mark when openside Mike Mayhew profited in the ninth minute from that driving line-out tactic.
Ford slotted the kick and his side crossed again in the 24th minute via only Burrows’ second try of the campaign.
No 8 Ollie Stedman, a force throughout with two line-out steals to his name, made the initial bust clear and, from the next phase, there was no stopping his back-row colleague. Welsh prop Chawatama Lovejoy was the unlikely player who made a 20m burst to give Carnegie a rare scare defensively.
Full-back Chris Elder, also signed from Welsh, and Jonah Holmes did well to stop the giant tighthead who had gathered some pace but they were penalised on the floor and Glyn Hughes slotted three points.
Nevertheless, the visitors were penalised when in possession from the restart and, so, Ford kicked to the corner for Stedman to expertly take the line-out, Mike Mayhew this time scoring from a fearsome driving maul that left Welsh in tatters. Soon after, the hooker was celebrating at the other end as his side powered Welsh off their own scrum on Carnegie’s 22; it was a timely reminder of just who was in charge of this contest.
Furthermore, Burrows marauded upfield from the restart in the second period, splattering defenders as his customary style, but when Ford took that three points, the game turned.
Scrum-half Alex Davies, whose clearance kicks were excellent yesterday, produced a stunning tap-tackle to deny Robbie Nairn in full flight, just as the Welsh winger seemed to destined to score.
However, the Carnegie 9 blatantly then barged over Benjamin Vellacott off the ball from an offside position to prevent a quick ruck but it was Goss signalled out by referee Tim Wigglesworth.
Ironically, Redpaths’s side absorbed all of the pressure initially but, just as they returned to a full complement, they then conceded a try. Vellacott took a quick penalty tap and scampered over next to the posts with the offside Carnegie defence helpless and Hughes making it 20-10.
The visitors, who had stunned London Scottish 37-5 on Christmas Eve despite their precarious financial position, suddenly realised they had a chance to cause more problems and they did.
In fairness, Redpath’s side did defend well, though, and, even when West was sin-binned in the 76th minute, did not buckle.
But unfortunately their own chances went begging, too, so that bonus point slipped through their hands.
Yorkshire Carnegie: Elder; Holmes, Lucock, Casson, Goss; Ford, Davies (Green 71) ; Boyce (Beech 55), M Mayhew (Nilsen 66), Cusack (O’Donnell 62), West, M Smith, Burrows, R Mayhew (Sanderson 80), Stedman (Walker 69). Replacement unused: Wright.
London Welsh: Thomas; Phillips, Lewis, Jewell (Vellacott 40), Nairn; Hughes, Lewis; Marfo (Hallam 58), Kwasnicki (Morris 53 BB), Lovejoy (McNulty 58), Beckett (Safe 54), Clarke, Liston, Hodgson, Pienaar. Replacements unused: Hodson, Burne.
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth (RFU).