April 19 2017
So, we are there. A semi Final place in the Championship play offs, and the chance to win promotion to the ‘Promised Land’. London Irish were always the favourites, and apart from a late blip at Jersey, would have gone through the entire season undefeated. They are worthy favourites to return to the Premiership, but, for possibly the first time this season, the pressure is on. They know, that one under par performance could see their dreams shattered.
As for Carnegie, they have, in my opinion, flattered to deceive. Winning games by narrow margins when they should have been out of sight was a feature earlier in the season. Then a few defeats seemed to highlight all the issues that had been covered up while they were winning, but, in the last two games, the winning streak has returned, and we now face a two-legged tie against Ealing Trailfinders. Interestingly enough, the London Scottish coach believes that Ealing are the best equipped of the semi-final teams to push Irish the most.
A comfortable victory against the same opponents last weekend will count for nothing. Both sides were under strength, and with nothing to play for gave their fringe players a gallop. Next week will be different.
My biggest concern is how we cope with the set piece. We have struggled at times in the scrum and we seem to be short on experienced props to pull us through. Beech and O’Donnell have been under the knife, Lee Imiolek is a long-term injury, and that only leaves Faletau, Cusack and Boyce with any experience. Whoever, plays up front will be severely tested in the next few weeks.
The line -out, when it works, is as good as any in the league. Smith, Myerscough, and West are big enough to take anything thrown at them, as are Beck Stedman and Buzz. But that is a problem, half the time it doesn’t get thrown to them, and we cough up the ball, often in sight of the opponent’s try line. For that reason alone, Phil Nilsen must start at hooker.
I’d take our back row against anybody’s in the Championship. (Beck, who would be my choice at 6), and Stedman offer different attributes, and Rich. Mayhew and Buzz are as good as anybody.
The backs almost pick themselves. Elder is nailed on at 15, (if he remembers he is allowed to pass the ball), and Jonah, Lucock, Ford and Davies will surely start as well. The other centre is a bit of a puzzle. Casson has the class, but is he fit enough? A big call in a big game, so for me I’d go for Forsyth to partner Pistol Pete, and while it may not happen if Stegmann is fit, I’d have Oli Goss on the other wing.
The next four matches are huge for Yorkshire Carnegie. Are we good enough to do what is required? We need to sort out the discipline and stay focussed, if we can, then who knows. Let’s get behind them and hope for the best. Come on Yorkshire.
There are just 320 minutes of rugby between us and the top flight!