IT IS still early days but Yorkshire Carnegie – one of only two teams still to have a 100 per cent record this season – are showing plenty of positive signs as this hard-fought 23-22 win at London Welsh demonstrated.
Bryan Redpath’s side had to show tremendous resilience and spirit to hold on following a late barrage of pressure from their hosts in a fiercely-fought Championship encounter.
They were down to just 13 men at one point with both flankers Richard Beck and Richard Mayhew yellow-carded during the on-going scrap.
Having battled so hard, they were also admittedly thankful that Joe Carlisle, the Welsh fly-half, was off-target with a last-minute conversion attempt.
Carnegie scored three tries themselves through prop Rob O’Donnell, Seb Stegmann – the former London Welsh winger – and full-back Jonah Holmes with Joe Ford slotting two penalties and a conversion as the Headingley outfit avenged April’s British & Irish Cup final defeat against the same opponents.
The hosts started off stronger and scored two tries within the opening five minutes as they used an initial physical advantage. A penalty at the ruck led to a kick to corner with the ensuing driving maul allowing No. 8 Kieran Murphy to dot down, Carlisle adding the extras.
Then, barely a minute after the restart, centre Heath Stevens picked up the ball after a Carnegie knock on before racing across to slide under the posts, Carlisle again converting.
Yorkshire’s response was almost immediate, getting an advantage at the set-piece.
Eventually the huge pressure bore fruit after Welsh illegally brought down a maul and fly-half Ford kicked to corner for O’Donnell to get the ball down following the catch-drive.
Barely two minutes later, full-back Holmes and captain Ryan Burrows linked well to release Stegmann for his score, the 27-year-old who played in the top-flight with Welsh.
But the home side extended their lead with Carlisle kicking over a scrum penalty before the break although full-back Chris Elder was yellow-carded early in the second period for obstruction when Carnegie seemed certain to score.
Ford slotted the penalty before his side took the lead with a well-worked backline move for Holmes to get over, Ford converting.
No sooner had Elder returned than they were a man down again when wing Kristian Phillips saw yellow for a high tackle, Ford slotting another penalty soon after. Welsh dominated the last 15 minutes, Carnegie holding off several rolling mauls but also seeing Beck and Mayhew sin-binned for technical infringements.
Nevertheless, they somehow won a scrum penalty despite being just six forwards versus eight.
Phillips finally crossed in the 79th minute but Carlisle’s kick was wayward meaning the visitors – who host London Scottish on Sunday – are in second spot, just behind leaders London Irish.