IN THE aftermath of their 29-18 Championship final first leg defeat to London Irish, Yorkshire Carnegie’s Bryan Redpath said it would be the greatest achievement of his coaching career if his side could overturn the deficit and earn promotion.
It certainly wasn’t hyperbole; for all an 11 point margin does not seem gargantuan ahead of Wednesday’s second leg at at the Madejski Stadium, statistics prove otherwise.
This is the final season of play-off rugby in the second tier but from the 17 ties since the two-legged format was introduced in 2011, on only a couple of occasions has the side that lost the first leg then gone on to win.
Ironically, both times it was Carnegie who squandered leads.
They had a seven-point advantage heading into the semi-final second leg at London Welsh in 2014 – indeed, that was then extended to 13 points with just seven minutes remaining – only to somehow fall short.
Similarly, the year before, Carnegie were five points to the good against Newcastle after the first leg at Headingley only to, crucially, lose the second leg 15-6.
History, then, suggests they will find it difficult to usurp the favourites next week but captain Ryan Burrows is undeterred.
His side led 15-13 early in the second period on Wednesday and it was mainly the unerring accuracy of Tommy Bell’s boot – the full-back slotted five penalties – after Carnegie’s scrum began to wane that left the home side in deficit.
“In the first half we put them under a lot of pressure,” explained Burrows.
“At times I don’t think they could live with us and what we spoke about during the week came off especially regarding the way they defend.
“We saw lot of weakness there and executed that.
“I’m sure nothing will change next week so we’ll get opportunities there again but we just need to tighten up our set-piece. We need to keep the ball for longer periods while the scrum was poor in the second half and that let us down.
“We have to be better next week as if we trail like that in the scrum for 80 minutes it will be a cricket score.
“But there’ll be pressure on Irish and I think they’ll be more worried than we will be.”