YORKSHIRE CARNEGIE fans will be rightly excited at the prospect of seeing Ollie Stedman back in their colours next season after the Doncaster Knights No8’s stunning performance in the Championship final.
The marauding back-row was arguably the best player on the pitch as Doncaster won 34-32 in the second leg at Bristol last Wednesday.
Of course it was not enough to secure promotion – the west country side won 60-47 on aggregate to rejoin the Premiership – but Stedman’s hard-running, line-breaking display was certainly a highlight on a remarkable evening.
It was announced in March that he would be joining Carnegie for 2016-17 having originally come through their academy while at university in Leeds.
He only played twice for them first time around, both times off the bench in the LV= Cup during 2010-11, before joining Newcastle Falcons, but returns now as one of the Championship’s most formidable ball-carriers.
Stedman had spent much of the latter half of this campaign on the bench after recovering from an injury, but was restored to the starting XV at Bristol – his final game – as Doncaster sought to overcome a 15-point first leg deficit.
“It’s been a tough time,” admitted the former England Under 20s international, who previously played in the Premiership with London Welsh.
“I knew I was moving to Leeds but I couldn’t have been more committed to Doncaster this season.
“It’s been a brilliant year. We pushed above our weight and everyone gave everything. I’m really proud of the boys.
“It was an excellent effort from everyone the other night.
“I don’t think we could have given any more than what we did.
“I thought we outplayed Bristol in that second leg and unfortunately just came up a bit short. The first leg cost us but we gave a really good account of ourselves and I couldn’t be prouder of the boys.”
Stedman, who will face stiff competition at Carnegie given their current No8 Ryan Burrows is in the Championship Dream XV, admits it was a bizarre contest as Doncaster came from 25-10 down to stun their hosts at the death.
“The game was wide open and there was chances for both teams really,” he said.
“We didn’t take all of them – probably about 60 per cent – and those ones we missed cost us and in the first leg as well. But it was a terrific night playing in front of 16,000 people.
“Credit to Bristol. They are a great rugby club.
“They’ve been waiting some time for this promotion and they are back where they belong now.”
Stedman’s late try put Doncaster 27-25 ahead.
But, for all their travelling fans started to sense a famous and highly unlikely victory aggregate win, he admits not even knowing what their predicament was.
“I wasn’t too sure – as the scoreboard was wrong!” he recalled.
“I thought we were still a bit away but actually we were in front.
“We just wanted to get ourselves back in the game and wanted to win on the night firstly and then see how far we could push them on aggregate.”
Stedman, who joined Doncaster from Welsh on a one-year deal having spent time there on loan last season, expects them to continue their stunning journey in 2016-17.
They finished second this time – the highest placing in their history – and reached the play-offs for the first time where they defeated Carnegie in the semi-finals.
“Pretty much the whole squad is sticking together. There with a few new additions and they will definitely be looking upwards rather than downwards,” added the 25-year-old.
“Hopefully they can cement their top-four status and then challenge for the top.”