YORKSHIRE Carnegie ran in six tries to defeat Nottingham, secure third place and set up a Championship play-off semi-final tie with fierce rivals Doncaster Knights.
Bryan Redpath’s side quickly put behind them last week’s disappointing British & Irish Cup final defeat to London Welsh by winning their penultimate regular league game in some style with a bonus point success.
Wingers Oli Goss and Max Wright, full-back Joel Hodgson and centre Fred Burdon all crossed for tries as the hosts’ backline found their rhythm heading into the business end of the season. There were further tries for replacement forwards Lee Imiolek and Andy Saull although Kevin Sinfield could convert only twice and slotted one penalty.
Carnegie led 20-8 at half-time at Headingley and the victory means, after their last match at Jersey next Saturday, they will tackle second-placed Doncaster in a two-legged semi-final starting the following weekend.
Knights have been the surprise package in 2015-16 but forwards coach Dave Baldwin says his side will relish the challenge as the battle for promotion heats up.
“It will be tough as it’s always tough against Donny home and away,” he said. “We always struggle to play well at their place but I think if you look over the two games this season we beat them well here and only lost on the last play down there. So, we should not go there with any fear and will look to take that challenge on.”
Baldwin, who will move to a new role as rugby manager at the end of the season, was pleased with his his side’s repsonse after their poor display in the B&I Cup showpiece.
“We needed to bounce back from that disappointing result and we showed a lot of intent today,” he said. “We really tried to move the ball – we tried a bit too much at times when the final pass or off-load probably wasn’t on – we’re delighted. We wanted to secure that third spot. We’d been there for a while now pushing Doncaster quite hard. We’ve had some good results and won seven out of our last eight games so we’re very pleased to get that confirmed.”
Hodgson was man-of-the-match, the fly-half playing full-back and showing his versatility.
Nottingham also secured a bonus point with tries from winger Viliame Longi (2), George Cox and Viliame Hakalo but Carnegie always had enough. They will look to complete their season with another win in the Channel Islands although Baldwin concedes they will look to rest some personnel.
“It’s an interesting dilemma the coaching staff have with selection,” he said of Chris Jones and Burdon coming off with head knocks. “Anyone who’s played a lot of rugby recently will probably get rested and anyone carrying knocks will be rested, too. “It might not be wholesale changes but it’s crucial we have our best team fit and fresh for the semi.”
Yorkshire Carnegie: Hodgson, Goss, Lucock, Burdon, Wright, Sinfield, Pilgrim, Beech, J Walker, O’Donnell, Schofield, Smith Beck, C Walker, Burrows. Replacements: Nilsen, Imiolek, Hooper, Jones, Saull, Northcote-Green, Leonard.
Nottingham: Robinson, Iongi, Woods, Stevens, Coghlan-Murray, Mugford, McConnell, Carey, Vickers, Heard, Cooper, Freeman, Langley, Everard, Grant. Replacements: Harris, Morley, Cox, Hakalo, Veenendaal, Rayner, Cobden.