Chris Walker admits there remains room for improvement among him and his Yorkshire Carnegie team-mates as the Leeds-based club look to regain their place in the Premiership in 2017.
Sunday’s 20-13 victory over crisis club London Welsh was their 11th win in 12 games in the Greene King IPA Championship this season, a sequence that leaves them comfortably in second place in the table.
Indeed, Yorkshire rivals Doncaster Knights – who knocked them out of the promotion play-offs last season – are three bonus-point wins adrift in third place, such is the gulf between the top two and the rest of the division this season.
Yet it is the one team above them that is the only one in Carnegie’s sights, that being London Irish who have won all 13 of their matches and sit 12 points better off than Yorkshire.
The two appear to be on a collision course for the two-legged play-off final that will determine who claims a place in the Premiership for next season, and for homegrown back-row forward Walker, the challenge now is for Carnegie to improve and close the gap.
“It’s a good feeling in the camp at the minute but it’s one where we all feel we can improve,” said the Keighley-born 24-year-old.
“Our goal is to get promoted, we know there’s a few good teams who want the same – London Irish being the obvious one, and we need to be beating the likes of Welsh to keep pace.”
Carnegie will almost certainly need to improve their ability to close out games.
Twice over the festive period – against Nottingham and London Welsh – they let commanding leads slip to the point where they were hanging on.
“We needed to calm things down against Welsh,” said Walker, after the hosts failed to run away with the game after building a 20-3 lead.
“We’ve been in a few winning positions. The week before we were 24-0 up and they came back to 24-17, so we know we need to show more composure in those situations.
“There are areas to improve on. We’ll come in in a week’s time and review this game and then move into the next block of 10 games.”
Head coach Bryan Redpath said after the win over Welsh: “We got a bit panicky and tried to turn the pressure on to them rather than creating our own pressure by looking after the ball.
“We didn’t execute on a couple of occasions. They had a big win last weekend and are not a bad side. We made them look very ordinary at 20-3.
“Sadly we never capitalised on it but it’s still a big win for us and on the whole I’m delighted.
“Defensively we were great virtually the whole game; it was two quick taps that created their opportunities so wasn’t necessarily a system error or any individual mistake.”
Former Welsh player Chris Elder, who was making his home debut for Carnegie, said: “It just got a little bit messy in that second half and we went away from the game plan.
“But we can build on the first half.”
Carnegie are next in action in the British and Irish Cup at Bedford on Saturday, January 14, before returning to the Championship at London Scottish on Saturday, January 28.