Leeds Carnegie head coach Diccon Edwards says his side are ready to make the most of their late-season surge following this hard-earned 33-24 win at title rivals Bedford Blues.
Edwards’ side have risen to third in the table following this penultimate game of the season and face second-placed Nottingham next Saturday afternoon at Headingley Carnegie to cement their top-four play-off place.
Edwards said: “I am very proud of the squad. They showed how much they have matured this season. We are the youngest squad in the Championship and it is great to see the development we have made throughout this season, coming together to secure a win against an experienced Bedford side on their own patch.
“Our fate is in our hands now and we need to make the most of it on Saturday against Nottingham.”
Leeds and Bedford have created some intriguing games in recent seasons, not least the humiliation Leeds suffered against the Blues at Otley earlier this season. However, Leeds showed how far the squad has come with this mature, accomplished and clinical display at Goldington Road, where only leaders Newcastle and Bristol had previously won this season.
The win was built on a solid first half foundation when Leeds ran in three tries inside the opening 17 minutes. The first came from Joe Ford, reinstalled in the fly-half role. he made the most of an advantage near the Blues line to chip ahead and touch down himself.
Brendan Burke hit back for Bedford before a brace of tries from Carnegie saw them take a decisive lead. Josh Griffin finished off the first with a huge hand-off and powerful run to smash through the Bedford defence and then, from the re-start, Stevie McColl set David Doherty to race down the wing to score.
Ford converted all three and added a penalty to put his side 24-5 in front heading towards half-time.
That penalty came after an unpleasant passage that saw Bedford reduced to 13 men with two in the sin-bin and Calum Green shown a yellow card for Leeds.
Burke grabbed a second try for Bedford, against the run of play, however Ford edged Leeds further in front with a penalty either side of half-time.
As expected Bedford mounted a second half revival, mainly through their pack and had the lion’s share of possession but could only muster tries from close range from number eight Tom Armes and second-row Paul Tupai.
Crucially Ford had kicked his fourth penalty in between the tries and that was enough to secure the win for the visitors.
Bedford Blues: Ransom, Stephenson, Burke, Atkinson (Dodge, 64), Bassett, Sharp (Dorrian, 58), Baldwin (Veenendaal, 78), Fearn, Cochrane, Seal (Cooper, 58), Howard (Fenton-Wells, 58), Tupai, Gillanders, Fox, Armes (Vandermolen, 56). Sub not used: Locke.
Leeds Carnegie: McColl, Goss, Griffin, Lucock, D Doherty, Ford, Hampson (J Doherty, 35), Imiolek (Harris, 60), Freer (Graham, 60), Currie (Tussac, 78), Green, Barrow (Phillips, 70), Baldwin, Walker (Burrows, 56), Rowan. Sub not used: Georgiou.
Referee: Ian Tempest.