THE NEXT two games will be pivotal in Yorkshire Carnegie’s season, captain Richard Mayhew believes.
Carnegie will take a four-match winning run – two of those victories coming in Championship fixtures – into today’s visit of Nottingham.
The Leeds side are fifth in the table, one place behind Nottingham, but the teams have near-identical records, both having won six, drawn one and lost four of their Championship games so far, collecting five bonus points in the process.
Yorkshire’s next match is at eighth-placed Doncaster on Friday and Mayhew knows successive Christmas wins would send them soaring into 2018 and well in the promotion race.
“We’ve got two Championship games and then the break and if we win those two we will probably be pushing close to third place,” he predicted.
“Nottingham are a pretty good team and they are playing well, but we managed to beat them last time and it is exciting, especially being at home.
“They have got a good forward pack and they like to throw the ball around. They are not scared of having a go and last time they caused us a few problems early doors.
“We sorted things out and had a good win, but it will be a big challenge.”
Recent results have boosted confidence in the Carnegie camp. A win at Jersey was followed by victory at home to Rotherham – both in the Championship – and then a much-changed team recorded back-to-back successes against Dragons Premiership Select in the British and Irish Cup.
“Winning is a habit,” Mayhew said. “You get on a roll and it is massively important to keep winning, keeping the vibe good and morale high.
“We have worked pretty hard the last few weeks – we’ve had a few changes, but the young lads who’ve come in have done a good job and we’ve got two wins. We’ve got some players coming back into it this weekend and we are keen to crack on.”
Mayhew was appointed captain at the start of the season and, after returning from a foot injury, has been a key member of Carnegie’s pack in league competition.
“I’m really enjoying it,” he said. “They are a great group of lads and I am enjoying the responsibility. First and foremost I want to play well, then lead the team. I have got a good group of experienced players around me and that makes my job a lot easier.”
A new challenge Carnegie are having to face this season is playing at a building site, with Emerald Headingley’s North Stand now demolished and work underway on the new South Stand.
“It’s a bit different, but it’s actually not too bad,” Mayhew said. “We just accept what it is and we have to crack on with it.
“As captain, if I win the toss I like to play away from the Carnegie Stand in the first half, then play towards the crowd in the second.
“That seems to be working and the field here is as good as any around the country, which makes a difference.”
Carnegie will welcome back vice-captain Alex Davies, who is named on the bench after recovering from a hand injury suffered in October.
Yorkshire Carnegie (v Nottingham): Elder, Watkins, Forsyth, Casson, Atkins, Lucock, Homer, Thomas, Buckle, Beech, Whetton, Myerscough, Beck, Mayhew, Stedman. Reps: Newborn, Capps, Thraves, West, Bainbridge, Davies, Burdon.
Kick-off: Today, 3pm.