Relief was the dominant emotion at Emerald Headingley yesterday as Yorkshire Carnegie narrowly withstood an impressive second-half fightback from Richmond to secure a tense bonus-point victory.
The famous old stadium currently resembles a building site while the iconic South Stand and North Stand are rebuilt and, for much of the opening 40 minutes, James Lowes’ men reduced their visitors to rubble.
They were 28-7 up and in total control at half-time, the bonus point having been achieved with scores from Pete Lucock, a penalty try, Stevie McColl and George Watkins.
If that was supposed to end the game as a serious contest then nobody told Richmond, who utterly dominated the second half, kept Carnegie scoreless and hit back with two more of their own to ensure a nervous finale.
Carnegie held on, just about, but Richmond were game opponents throughout and contributed to an entertaining encounter which saw them strike first through winger Jono Woodward.
It came in the 15th minute when visiting fly-half Rory Damant intercepted an errant pass from Carnegie full-back McColl and sent Woodward scampering over in the right corner.
Carnegie, who had no qualms about trying to pass their way out of their own 22-metre line, hit back four minutes later after fashioning a spell of pressure inside the visitors’ half.
It culminated in scrum-half Alex Davies producing a delightful short reverse pass which allowed half-back partner Lucock to saunter over the line unopposed.
That sent self-belief flooding through the veins of Lowes’ men and they forged ahead in the 30th minute when another period of pressure saw them awarded a penalty.
They opted not to go for goal and a quick-tap forced a penalty try and also saw Richmond No 8 Chris Davies shown a yellow card for pulling down a maul.
Still the hosts continued to probe and it came as no surprise when they breached Richmond’s line for a third time when a deft offload from loosehead prop Marc Thomas sent McColl scampering clear from around 40 metres out.
Two minutes before the interval, right winger Watkins intercepted a pass and had the pace to race 60 metres for Carnegie’s fourth try. Davies’ fourth successful conversion made it 28-7 and should have finished the game off.
It did not. Three minutes after the restart, Richmond capitalised on their field position as fly-half Damant dived over.
A third try arrived iwhen a fine break down the left culminated in Jordan Simpson-Heft producing a sublime inside pass for Rob Kirkby to dash clear.
Kirby missed the conversion but booted a penalty with 10 minutes remaining to cut Carnegie’s lead to six points and the visitors continued to probe without further reward, leaving the home faithful in the 1,756 crowd mightily relieved.