Leeds Carnegie’s relegation fate will be played out during a tense Survival Saturday this coming weekend after big rivals Newcastle Falcons failed to claim a bonus-point win to rubber-stamp safety against Bath.
In the end, Falcons were grateful for somall mercies in pocketing a losing bonus point in their 14-11 Aviva Premiership reverse, thanks to a debatable late try from Luke Fielden.
The result moved Falcons a point clear of Neil Back’s rock-bottom Carnegie, who suffered a fresh blow yesterday with Worcester Warriors – the only side to fulfil the RFU entry criteria of the Championship’s promotion candidates – coming from behind to dramatically beat Bedford Blues 23-22 in their semi-final play-off clash at Sixways, with Leeds just minutes away from safety.
Carnegie, who travel to Heineken Cup semi-finalists Northampton Saints, will need to better Newcastle’s result at Bath and secure at least two points to remain in the top-flight as the Falcons have a superior points difference and are ahead in the head to head between the two sides.
The pain of defeat for Newcastle was softened considerably by Fielden’s controversial score after he narrowly won the race to Tane Tu’ipulotu’s well-weighted kick.
.The Falcons players embarked on a subdued lap of honour after the match, and director of rugby Alan Tait admitted: “The lads didn’t know whether to celebrate or not.
“I asked Luke if he’d scored and he shrugged his shoulders, so there you go. But given the fact we’ve been on the end of some really contentious decisions this season, we’ll take that one.
“It was a great kick from Tane and he’s moving on at the end of the season so he’s paid us back big time with that kick.
“We were very nervy and couldn’t get anything going at the scrum, at the line-out or in the backs. We have to now go to Bath and get a result. We have to go there believing we can win as we really didn’t perform. But we’re pleased with the point.”
Defence coach Brad Davis stills believes Bath can sneak a play-off place after their fourth win on the spin, which also confirmed their place in next season’s Heineken Cup, as they moved them four points behind Northampton with a game left.
But while Bath will fancy their chances of claiming the win they need in the second part of their double-header against Falcons at the Rec, they will also require. Leeds to claim victory over Saints.
“We had two main aims going into this match. The first was to secure Heineken Cup qualification and the second was get to the last game of the season with the target of making the Premiership play-offs,” Davis said
“We have done that, we have taken it to the last day of the season and now we have to finish off the job.”
Bath had to grind out their victory with Michael Claassens scoring their only try in the first-half as they relied on two penalties from Butch James as well as another three points from Sam Vesty to secure the win.