Yorkshire Carnegie brought their improved British & Irish Cup form to the club’s league campaign, delivering a gritty victory over Jersey.
Coming from behind in each half, the men in white flew back from the Channel Islands with a first league win since September. Four hard-earned points propelled Carnegie above Jersey into sixth position in the Greene King IPA Championship. A sterling shift by the forwards, committed defence throughout and good game management from half-backs Chris Pilgrim and Harry Leonard were at the heart of the Carnegie win. Leonard also nailed his three shots at goal, in contrast to a man who previously wore the number 10 shirt at Headingley; Jersey’s Jonny Bentley landed just one of his four attempts.
Jersey began at a high tempo and landed a second-minute penalty, and then Bentley put winger Mark Foster over in the corner. Carnegie got a foothold in the game and won a series of penalties thanks to an assertive scrum platform and good work at the breakdown, where skipper Ryan Burrows was outstanding.
Leonard’s penalty touch-finder brought an attacking line-out 15 metres from the try-line, and Jersey had no legal answer to the Carnegie rolling maul, referee Maxwell-Keys racing to the posts to signal a penalty try.
Behind by a point, Leonard stroked over a penalty just before half-time to put his side 10-8 in front. Jersey regained the lead through a series of attacking bursts. Centre Drew Locke almost scored in the corner, denied by a magnificent covering tackle from Jonah Holmes, but soon afterwards fellow centre Lewis Robling crashed over.
After 66 minutes, Locke flew out in defence and his late hit on Jonah Holmes earned 10 minutes in the sin-bin. Carnegie sensed their chance: Leonard kicked the penalty to Jersey’s 22-metre line and the pack unleashed a marathon maul that was eventually pulled down. Leonard again kicked for touch, and this time the Carnegie pack applied the finishing touch, with replacement Chris Walker claiming the try and Leonard adding a touch-line conversion.
“We knew it would be tough, we’d seen the weather during the week and knew it would be a real battle, especially for the forwards,” said McGee. “It’s vital to keep 15 men on the field in games like these – we’ve suffered from having players carded earlier in the season, and Jersey lost one of their danger men at a key time.
“We still need to improve and we want to do that, but I think the B&I Cup break came at a good time and four straight wins is a good record. It would be great to make it five to finish the year – I think we can give Worcester a real run for their money.”
Jersey: Pointer, Foster, Locke, Robling, McCrea (Jones-Davies 58), Bentley, Glynn (Dudley 64); Lockwood, Garcia-Veiga (Harris 5, Lancuba 41), Williams, Campbell (Noone 71), Phillips (Markham 52), Rae (capt), Hodson, Kaho. Replacement (not used): Herriott.
Carnegie: Georgiou, Goss, Vickerman, Lucock, Holmes, Leonard, Pilgrim; Beech (Harris 57), Nilsen (Walker J 52), Hill (Imiolek 60), Smith, Casson (Walker C 57), Beck, Bainbridge (Williams 65), Burrows (capt). Replacements (not used): Dudman, Peters.
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys.
Stephen Depledge scored a slick hat-trick of tries for Otley who snatched a last gasp victory by 25-24 at strugglers Preston Grasshoppers in National 2 North.
After conceding an early penalty, Otley recorded the first try through hooker Ben Steele following a catch-and-drive.
The 5-3 lead was lost to a second Preston penalty until scrum-half Depledge cashed in on good forward pressure to nip over for Otley’s second try to make the score 10-6.
But the hosts led by the break with a try from a flowing move. Back came Depledge again after the interval with great vision to score his second and take it to 15-11 but a try on the break put Preston ahead once more.
Otley then conceded two penalties but the forwards took the game by the scruff of the neck and a huge drive ended with Depledge completing his hat-trick and sealing victory with the conversion.
Harrogate, meanwhile, recorded a 28-13 derby victory over visitors Huddersfield – made all the more satisfying as the hosts were without four first-choice players, including the bridgegroom, who were at a wedding.
It was also a game marked by the 150th appearance of hooker Aarin Yorke.
Huddersfield were first to score from a smart Joel Hinchcliffe drop goal, but Lewis Minikin crossed in reply between the uprights, leaving Joel Rowntree with a straight-forward shot at the conversion.
Pretty soon Harrogate were 17-6 up and in control.
Wharfedale’s team spirit in National League 1 games this seasons was never more evident than Saturday’s 27-26 victory visit to Darlington Mowden Park.
Dale out-layed Mowden Park for the first 45 minutes of the game, but when the home side rallied the visitors looked like they’d blown it as a seemingly unassailable 24-7 lead had turned into a 26-24 deficit with only a few minutes to spare.
Philip Guy gave the visitors that slender victory with a well-taken penalty in the 79th minute.
Three tries from Dan Salomi and one from Chris Steel, with two James Guy conversions, gave Dale the bonus point and – for a time – a substantial lead.