LEADING try-scorer Josh Bainbridge believes 2016 could be Yorkshire Carnegie’s year for promotion back to the elite – and their driving line-out could be their most lethal weapon in achieving it.
The teenage flanker has amassed 15 tries from just 11 games so far this season with the majority of them coming from that set-piece move.
He scored four in Sunday’s 43-9 rout of Rotherham Titans and, no doubt, will be looking to add to his tally when they head to Championship strugglers Ealing Trailfinders tomorrow.
Carnegie are in third place and desperate to return to the Premiership for the first time since 2011.
On their driving line-out, Bainbridge admitted: “If we can get it right and if it’s something we continue to work on – as long as we preview the opposition about how we can go forward and how they might defend it – it is a weapon.
“And, let’s say we’re into the play-offs, it could provide the game-winning moment.
“I’m not taking anything away from the backs; they were good on Sunday defensively and especially in attack, just staying high. We looked dangerous.
“We know we’re not the finished article yet but going ahead that’s something we want to be and we want to be on fire before April time.
“Hopefully 2016 is going to be our year, especially for challenging for promotion.”
Ealing have struggled all term but moved off bottom with only their third victory of the season when winning 28-22 at London Scottish on Boxing Day.
Bainbridge, 19, knows their confidence will be bolstered by that success and added: “It is going to be tough.
“Just the situation with the weather at the minute, too – we’ve not been able to use our (training) facility due to the flooding but it didn’t change anything last weekend.
“We’re all the same; we all buy into the same stuff here and if there’s any bumps in the road, collectively we stay strong and hopefully get through it.
“We do face a strong challenge with Ealing away but it doesn’t change for us and we’ll give it all we can.”
Bainbridge, who debuted last season and earned recognition with England Under-20s at their Rugby World Cup, faces a real battle for the no7 jersey at Carnegie.
The former pupil of Prince Henry’s Grammar School in Otley said: “There’s four of us now – me, Andy (Saull), Chris (Walker) and Jack Barnard.
“There’s a lot of healthy competition among the squad and I’d say it’s bringing the best out of all of us.
“If we get the nod that we’re playing obviously we want to do our best and retain the jersey but, going ahead, we can all help each other and I’m especially learning from all those three as they are all playing really well when they get their chance.
“It’s something I’m exciting to be involved in and this season is a bonus for me.
“I feel like I’m developing just by learning from the other guys in squad, not just on the pitch but off it as well. It’s a good environment to be in, a very happy place and I think that’s probably the ultimate foundation for us.
“We want to be in a good place and reflecting on that we didn’t train before Rotherham; we trained Christmas Eve but not Christmas day or Boxing Day yet came straight into the game and delivered.”
Director of rugby Mike Aspinall has revealed the attitude of the next generation of leaders at Harrogate is keeping him motivated at Rudding Lane.
Aspinall sat in on a three-hour meeting with senior players before Christmas. He said: “It was really key for me to be in there and see how motivated and inspired they were. Their motivation is what motivates me.
“If I came out slightly uninspired, that might make me start thinking of my future. It was one of the best leadership psychological meetings we have had. I want to build up a big legacy at Harrogate. If I have to develop this group as leaders and players, so they can take it forward, that’s what I will do.”
Eighth-placed National Two North Harrogate had a week off training over Christmas before beginning their preparations to take on second-bottom Luctonians at home tomorrow.
Divisional rivals Sandal and Otley – fifth and sixth in the table respectively – are both on their travels at Leicester Lions and Stourbridge, who occupy seventh and third in the table.
Second-bottom Wharfedale are also on the road in National One, at fourth-placed Esher.
Tomorrow’s selected fixtures:
The Championship: Ealing Trailfinders v Yorkshire Carnegie.
National League 1: Esher v Wharfedale.
National League 2 North: Harrogate v Luctonians, Huddersfield v Tynedale, Leicester Lions v Otley, Stourbridge v Sandal.