Leeds Rhinos-Carnegie: Festive double-header may be staged again

A Leeds Rhinos-Carnegie double header could be staged again at Christmas this year.

Leeds Rugby officials were delighted with the success of last week's enforced experiment, which saw Carnegie's Arriva Premiership rugby union clash with Gloucester immediately followed by the re-arranged rugby league Festive Challenge match between Rhinos and Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.

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The combined attendance for both games was 12,105 – almost 4,000 up on Rhinos' 2009 Boxing Day gate and more than double Carnegie's previous best this term.

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Increased vocal support boosted Carnegie to their first league victory of the season and Leeds Rugby chief executive Gary Hetherington reported that the double-header went off with no major snags.

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Originally, Rhinos had been due to play on Boxing Day, but the game was put back six days due to a frozen pitch – with the Carnegie kick-off moved forward by two hours.

"It was a success," Hetherington said. "Certainly there were some logistical challenges, because it wasn't planned as a double-header.

"I haven't had a full report in yet, but everything went as well as it possibly could and as an exercise it delivered everything that we were hoping it would."

The "logistical challenges" included contacting 930 people whose seat for one code is shared by a season ticket holder of the other.

Hetherington paid tribute to the Rhinos fans who got behind Carnegie as they held off Gloucester to seal a precious 15-13 victory.

"Quite a few Rhinos fans came early and supported the Carnegie team," he said. "The Carnegie players made a lot of comment afterwards about how much difference that made, certainly in the last 10 to 15 minutes.

"It is not something they usually benefit from, having a big vocal support at a game which other clubs do. It certainly made a difference and all the players mentioned how good it was.

"Rhinos-wise, the game went well. Everybody played a part, everything went extremely well, the arrangements worked and it is certainly something we would look to do again."

There is an overlap – in the spring and late summer/autumn – between the competitive league and union seasons, but Hetherington said Christmas is the most obvious time for another double-header.

"There were things we got away with, like the line markings," he added. "Because the Rhinos-Wakefield game had the status of a friendly, we got away with playing on rugby union line markings.

"You couldn't have an engage Super League game doing that, but in the context of a festive game, it could be repeated.

"There had been a previous Premiership/Super League double-header – I was at Harlequins last year when Carnegie played the union team and then Harlequins RL played St Helens.

"But there was something like an hour and 20 minutes gap between one game finishing and the other starting.

"I think for it to be worthwhile there needs to be as minimal a gap as possible – 15 minutes like we had the other day.

"That makes it challenging, but we got through it pretty well and we'll certainly look to do it again next Christmas.

"We could look at Carnegie playing on Boxing Day, depending on how the fixtures fall."

The Headingley Carnegie pitch comfortably handled the back-to-back games and Hetherington described the playing surface as "outstanding".

A new policy, introduced following major problems last year, means training is banned on the pitch during the winter and it is now used only for Rhinos and Carnegie first team fixtures.

"We're giving it the best possible chance to be in as good a condition as it can be," Hetherington said. "The signs are that we are achieving that."

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