Yorkshire Carnegie’s Josh Bainbridge says his side feel encouraged they can cause a shock against star-studded London Irish – after a glowing reference from their actual opponents.
Carnegie host the Championship leaders, who are closing in on an immediate return to the Premiership, at Emerald Headingley tomorrow.
They were embarrassed 72-5 in the reverse fixture in October when embroiled in a seven-game losing run.
However, Chris Stirling’s side turned things around before Christmas, embarking on a sequence that saw them win nine of their next 10.
On the back of that, when they returned to the Madejski Stadium to face Irish in the Championship Cup semi-final a fortnight ago, they only lost 22-8 and know the margin of defeat could easily have been less.
“There’s a lot of confidence in the camp after the last game we played against them,” admitted former England Under-20s flanker Bainbridge.
There’s a lot of confidence in the camp after the last game we played against them.Josh Bainbridge
“But also some feedback we got from their end on how astonished they were with our physicality in defence.
“They gave some feedback to Chris Stirling just on the scoreline and how they thought it would be a bit more of a wash-away than it actually was.
“We thought that was a huge compliment given the struggles we had at the start of the season and ongoing. But to hear that from them – probably a Premiership side – is quite positive and something the players really enjoyed hearing.
“Leading into this game we need to match that physicality in defence with a bit more attacking ownership; looking after the ball in key areas.”
Irish have lost just once in their 14 league outings since being relegated, a 17-14 reverse at Jersey in November.
If 10th-placed Carnegie are to make that twice, they know the best way to fulfil their aim.
Bainbridge, 22, said: “We realise we can’t play too much rugby in our own half. Obviously a strength of ours this season has been our kicking game.
“We’re going to try and minimise our phases in our half and play a lot of our footy in theirs.
“We’re excited about trying to achieve that and know if we stick to it we could come away with points or even the win.
“It’ll need some discipline but we know what we need to do.”
Carnegie are certainly full of confidence, especially after the surreal win at Bedford Blues last Friday when they staged a brilliant comeback to win 45-44 with the last kick of the match.
“If I could describe it in one word it would be chaos,” said Bainbridge, his side 27-7 down after 50 minutes and then 44-35 behind entering stoppage-time.
“From the first minute to the last. Chaos. It was probably my best ever win with the club so it puts into perspective how big a win it actually was and how good it felt as part of that group.”
He drops to the bench tomorrow with captain Richard Mayhew returning having been ruled out in the warm-up at Bedford.
Fit-again winger George Watkins replaces Myles Thoroughgood and lock Fa’atiga Lemalu is also back with Tom Hill.