AROUND 500 Leeds Rhinos fans made the most of a cut-price deal to see their legendary former captain Kevin Sinfield appear for Yorkshire Carnegie last night but, unfortunately, there was no glory attached.
Dogged London Welsh ruined his big night at Headingley as they managed to dig out a dour win over the under-performing hosts.
Sinfield made his first Championship start since switching codes last month and, swelled by those loyal and possibly inquisitive Rhinos fans, Carnegie saw a season-best home crowd of 3,672, a big improvement on their the club’s previous highest which was 2,373 versus Doncaster Knights.
But second-placed Carnegie slipped up badly and actually remained pointless until the 77th minute when Joel Hodgson, who ironically replaced Sinfield at fly-half not long before, finally broke Welsh’s stubborn resistance.
He converted, too, from the touchline to leave it at 10-7 and set up a frenetic finish but all of the problems which had seen Bryan Redpath’s side stutter for much of this game then returned to haunt them.
Carnegie secured a penalty in injury-time and kicked to the corner only to then lose the line-out, fumbling to concede a scrum and relieve all the pressure for opponents who arrived down in ninth and out of sorts since being relegated from the Premiership last term. It had been a common theme.
Sinfield, the former England captain, was steady enough in what was only his third appearance, the other two coming in the British & Irish Cup.
Danny McGuire and Adam Cuthbertson were among his former Rhinos team-mates on hand to offer support.
James Lowes, the Bradford Bulls coach and former Leeds and England assistant as well as ex-Carnegie chief, was also in attendance along with Barrie McDermott and new Rhinos signing Beau Falloon.
Amid a gloomy encounter, there was a couple of comical moments not least when, as Sinfield lined up his first kick of the night, the ball slipped off the tee just at the critical moment.
With the one-minute rule, he then had to hurriedly prepare once more and, considering that, did well to see his 40m effort drop just short.
Then, as Welsh’s Chris Elder struck his third unsuccessful penalty of the game against a post to the backdrop of some crowd noise, the public announcer had to remind “new supporters” – Rhinos fans – that such antics are not the etiquette in rugby union and all the crowd must remain quiet.
With Elder off-target and Sinfield also wayward, it looked like the first half might actually remain scoreless as each side struggled to create any momentum or incisiveness. However, with a rare sequence of slick interplay, Welsh did score via winger Elder after great handling from Carlisle and Thretton Palamo.
Carlisle converted and, with their only real pressure of the second half, added a drop goal in the 68th minute that ultimately proved the difference.
Yorkshire Carnegie: Holmes; Stegmann, Forsyth, Casson (Lucock 40), Prell; Sinfield (Hodgson 68), Dudman; Beech (Imiolek 71), J Walker (Nilsen 72), O’Donnell (Hooper 71), Myerscough, Jones (Smith 66), Beck, Bainbridge, Burrows.
London Welsh: Jewell; Elder, Reynolds, Palamo. Armitage; Carlisle, Lewis (Glynn 72); Marfo (Trevett 79), Morris, Cooper (Aholelei 67), Snyman (McNally 67), West, Pienaar, Liston, Murphy (Waters 53-55).
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth (RFU).
An impressively dominant scrum saw Northampton register their first Aviva Premiership win of the season at Franklin’s Gardens as they defeated Gloucester 15-3 last night.
Their scrum won three of the five penalties that Stephen Myler kicked.