Leeds Carnegie v Rotherham Titans: Edwards draws hope from play-off opener

BACK IN THE ACTION: Lachlan Mackay made his return for Harrogate Seconds last weekend and will be looking to play some part in Carnegie's play-off campaign.
BACK IN THE ACTION: Lachlan Mackay made his return for Harrogate Seconds last weekend and will be looking to play some part in Carnegie's play-off campaign.
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The fact that Leeds Carnegie players trooped off the Mennaye Field pitch – which had been the scene of their biggest humiliation of 2011-12 – disappointed with a play-off draw seven days ago spoke volumes to head coach Diccon Edwards.

Carnegie, who host Rotherham Titans in a juicy televised Pool B home derby tomorrow lunch-time (12.15pm), exorcised a bit of a ghost in a hugely-creditable 14-14 draw at Cornish Pirates and proved that they have come a long way fast after being battered 52-10 there last September.

The uncompromising arena they encountered at Pirates’ west country citadel certainly didn’t lack intensity and neither will tomorrow’s Headingley derby, following two tough, no-holds-barred matches between the pair in the regular season.

But Edwards is confident that Carnegie won’t be found wanting, hopefully roared on by a parochial crowd.

He said: “We need to kick on from the Pirates. To pick up two points was a great start, it was a testament to how far we’ve come that we were disappointed that we didn’t win.

“After our first game down there, it was a big statement about how far the club has come and also about our ambition and intent for the rest of the season.

“It’s not just about going down there and competing; it’s about winning these play-off games and getting into semi-finals and finals and getting promoted.

“The attitude the players showed going down to Cornwall and dealing with a side who came at us with all guns blazing was outstanding. We were really proud of that performance and it has set us up nicely for the Rotherham game.”

Carnegie, who started qualification on plus one point following their record in rounds 1 to 22, took their points tally to three after the draw at Pirates, with Titans still seeking their first point.

Andre Bester’s side could – and should – have been celebrating a win against Bedford in their play-off opener last weekend, falling away at the death as the Blues secured a lopsided 32-19 victory at Clifton Lane.

But Edwards insists he is reading nothing into that result and feels that Titans – whose players Sean Dougall, Robin Copeland, Semisi Taulava, Rob O’Donnell and Sam Dickinson have already been snapped up by Premiership clubs for next season – will represent a potent threat after their defeat last time out.

He said: “We understand Rotherham were very unlucky. They should have been way in front of Bedford and we know exactly what they are all about.

“I’m sure they will come with an intent to really take us on physically. So we’ll have to man up and be ready for that.

Meanwhile, Edwards will adopt a “softly-softly” approach regarding injury-plagued ex-Australian international Lachlan Mackay, who is back in the first-team fray after a try-scoring return for Harrogate Seconds last weekend.

He said: “He (Mackay) was delighted to get the game under his belt. he has trained this week and we’ll build him up back into contention.”

Edwards has made two enforced changes to his side to face Titans, with England U20 international Tommy Bell has been released from the national side to start at full-back for Leeds.

Stevie McColl reverts to the wing in place of the injured Michael Stephenson, while Tom Denton comes into the starting line-up in place of the injured Jon Pendlebury in the second row.

Leeds Carnegie (v Rotherham Titans): Bell, McColl, Thornley, Barrow, Lucock, Ford, Cliff, Lockwood, Titterrell, Aulika, Denton, Hemingway, Williamson, Burrows, Rowan. Reps: Nilsen, Mustafa, Young, Beck, Paul, Shaw, Davies.

Carnegie try scorer, Josh Bainbridge. PIC: Steve Riding

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