AS A VETERAN of so many Championship play-offs campaigns, Yorkshire Carnegie’s Ollie Stedman realises the job is not yet complete for his promotion-chasing side.
The experienced back-row – who has been in these situations now with four different clubs – is taking nothing for granted ahead of tonight’s semi-final second-leg against Ealing Trailfinders at Headingley.
Granted, Carnegie hold a healthy 18-point advantage from last week’s first leg and are clear favourites to push on and face, in all likelihood, London Irish in the final.
Stedman was at Newcastle Falcons when they won the title in 2013, helped London Welsh defeat Bristol in the 2014 showpiece and also featured last year when Doncaster Knights almost denied Bristol promotion during a dramatic two-legged final.
But he said: “The game is not over yet; 18 points can be turned around if we don’t switch on and stick to our processes.
“We were pretty happy with the first leg at Ealing but there’s still a job to be done and we have to put the game to bed early.
“They’ll be quite dangerous. If I was them I’d try and throw the ball around, give themselves a chance and try make something happen which is quite a dangerous entity as it goes away from their usual game.
“But it’d be brilliant for Carnegie to get promotion. A club like this should be in the Premiership. We have everything off the field in terms of infrastructure that a Premiership club needs and we’re just missing the final piece which is promotion. Potentially, only we can make that happen.”
Head coach Bryan Redpath has retained the same starting XV as last week but strengthened his bench with the return of fit-again winger Seb Stegmann – who scored in that 2014 final for Welsh – and prop Charlie Beech who come in after surgery for Max Wright and Max Beesley.
Carnegie, who finished the regular season second, won the first leg 34-16 against foes who sat one place below them but were relegated in their maiden Championship campaign of 2013-14 and almost suffered the same fate last term, too.
Asked if he had been surprised by their progress currently, Stedman said: “In a way yes but also no. They signed some very good players, have a very good team with a strong squad so that’s no surprise.
“But they have risen pretty quickly through the ranks and they are where they deserve to be at the minute.
“We still had missed opportunities last week, though, and still made errors so there’s areas of improvement for us.”
Table-toppers Irish, who lost just one of their league game after suffering relegation, annihilated Doncaster 35-3 in their first leg in South Yorkshire before tomorrow’s return.
Stedman, 25, said: “I caught bits of it. Obviously, Irish looked pretty strong. I don’t think Doncaster gave a full account of themselves and it played into Irish’s hands but there’s opportunities there for sure from what I saw so we’re not scared of them. They are there to be beaten. The last time we faced Irish we lost by six.
“A couple of kicks go our way and that’s a draw and the pressure builds.
“They are there for the taking as Jersey showed; they beat them in the league and in the cup so definitely there’s chances there.”