Leeds Carnegie: Cup finalists’ season defined by more play-off heartache

Craig Hampson
Craig Hampson
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There may be a Cup final to come, with a British and Irish appointment with Leinster A in Dublin on Friday night, but to all intents and purposes, Leeds Carnegie’s season will be defined by play-off heartache for the second season running.

The team that will become Yorkshire Carnegie from next season will kick-off the 2014-15 campaign in the Championship for a fourth season running after the narrowest of defeats in their promotion semi-final.

Having lost by four points on aggregate to Newcastle Falcons last season, this time they were a penalty kick away from booking a place in the final against Bristol.

London Welsh prevailed over 160 minutes of rugby by two points, shattering the Premiership ambitions of James Lowes and his players.

Leeds finished one place higher in the Championship this season and crept two points closer to the play-off final.

Progress is being made, albeit at a glacial pace, but how ever they finish the season and their time as Leeds on Friday, Carnegie have come up short this season.

They were underdogs compared to Welsh and certainly Bristol, but in the tightest promotion race for years, they may well this morning be kicking themselves that they have let this golden opportunity to rejoin the elite slip through their grasp.

So what does the future hold for the Headingley men?

What shape will Yorkshire Carnegie be in when they take to the field in September and what are their chances of them ending their Premiership exile?

Carnegie are a club building for the future with the name change to Yorkshire this summer designed at attracting the finest young players the county has to offer and giving them a vehicle to get to the Premiership.

For the immediate future, the squad that will wear the county name for the first time in September is a long way from being shaped.

Up to press they have announced only three new signings, the Newcastle Falcons duo of scrum-half Chris Pilgrim and centre James Fitzpatrick, plus fly-half Harry Leonard from Edinburgh – though it is understood three more at least are on their way. Fourteen players so far have re-signed for next season, among them props Charlie Beech, Lee Imiolek, Ben Hooper and Damien Tussac; hooker Joe Graham; fellow forwards Mike Myerscough, Ryan Burrows, Chris Walker and Matt Smith; and backs David Doherty, Oli Goss and Pete Lucock.

Players like Glyn Hughes, Rob Vickerman, Fred Burdon, Richard Beck and Phil Nilsen are all under contract for another season at least.

Yet when measured against the list of departures, Carnegie look far from the finished article.

The spine of this year’s team is being ripped out with lock Calum Green heading to Newcastle, scrum-half Craig Hampson bound for Bristol and full-back Stevie McColl switching to Gloucester.

Another player rumoured to be moving to the Kingsholm is captain Jacob Rowan, which if true, will be a big blow to Carnegie’s hopes of retaining their home-grown talent.

Versatile back Alex Lozowski is joining Wasps, who will also regain livewire loanee Jonah Holmes, an explosive game-changer at times for Leeds this season.

David Sisi, who has produced some powerhouse performances in the back row since joining from Bath, will also return to his parent club.

A fascinating summer awaits at Headingley as the club looks towards the future.

James Lowes.

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