Thursday, 3 December 2009

Leeds Carnegie vs Harlequins: Preview

What is it about the doom and gloom merchants?  I've barely had time to open the first few doors on my Thomas the Tank Engine advent calendar and already they're casting their eyes towards the final fixture of the season when Leeds take on Bath at the Rec.  This game is already being touted as the game that might decide the relegation battle, but seriously, we aren't even half way through the season yet and there is plenty more rugby to play.

I know Bath are perilously close to the bottom of the table, but if Leeds can pull off a victory against Quins tomorrow night at a chilly Headingley Carnegie they stand a chance of leapfrogging the Baarth Boys into 11th place.  Why do I bring this up?  It's because I think Leeds are going to kick start the rest of their season and beat Quins tomorrow, whilst Bath are going to lose to away at Northampton - that's why, and that's why one fixture at the end of season does not a season make.

Leeds coach Neil Back doesn't appear to be stressing out about Leeds' current home at the foot of the table.  If anything he is positively realistic:

"Our objective this year is to finish 11th or above and if we can continue to take steps forward that will give us a boost going into the next two European games. [After Harlequins] we then face two big games back in the Premiership, up at Newcastle and at home against Bath over the Christmas and New Year period. We have now got five massive games that can determine the pathway that we take this season, starting on Friday."

OK, so he does admit that Leeds have to start winning games, but I think they are about to turn that corner and will hopefully do so tomorrow night.

Leeds will undoubtedly have been disappointed in the way they let a 17-3 lead slip through their fingers at home to Sale a couple weeks ago, and their frustration will have been compounded at Welford Road last Saturday when a 6-6 hard fought half time score developed into a 39-6 final score line.

Neil Back remains positive

Speaking of the defeat at the hands of his old club, Back said:
"We gave the ball up cheaply at times and we knew that that could come back to hurt us in the second half and that was case.  We will learn from that experience though."

And that is why Harlequins should be nervous.  After an away win at Wasps, what should have been an away win against Saracens (had it not been for an incorrectly disallowed try), and excellent first half performances against Sale and Leicester, Leeds are almost there and they will be desperate to nail down their first home win of the season.  Of course, a game of rugby lasts 80 minutes and not 40 so Leeds have to maintain their focus and discipline tomorrow night.

The bad news for Leeds is that they will face a Harlequins side who will arrive at Headingley fresh from a 35-29 victory over Gloucester last week.  In that game ex-Leeds boy Danny Care and Kiwi Nick Evans (who would undoubtedly have won more than his 23 international caps if it hadn't been for the arrival of a certain Daniel Carter into the All Blacks team) ran riot over Gloucester.  Leeds will really have to nullify the threat of this half back pairing if they want to hold onto the reins of this game.  Luckily for Leeds they have wily Andy Gommersall at their disposal: ex-Quin and one time mentor of Danny Care.  Gommersall will undoubtedly use all his guile and experience to try and teach his protege a thing or two on the pitch, and this will be a fascinating battle to watch.

We miss you Danny

Other bad news for Leeds is the injury problems that have hit the back row.  Arguably Leeds' best player Hendre Fourie (openside flanker) is out with an infected leg (nice), whilst number 8 Alfie To'oala has a damaged leg muscle.  Fly-half Ceiron Thomas is not included in the squad after injuring himself in the warm up before last weekend's game at Leicester, so 19 year old Joe Ford wins his second cap after doing enough last weekend to justify his starting place above Jason Strange.

However, good news for Leeds is that Argentina prop Juan Gomez returns to add some muscle to the scrum, and that Ugo Monye is ill (no offence Ugo).  This means that Tom "Bloodgate" Williams will take to the wing along with David Strettle.  I'm sure there won't be any squirting of tomato sauce or offensive chanting about the fake blood fiasco as we're a nice lot up here in Leeds - well, at least I think we are!  We really need to concentrate on the rugby and everyone needs to put all that rubbish behind us.

In conclusion, after watching Leeds over the course of the season I think they are ready and poised to shift up a gear and clinch their first home game of the season.  Everyone and his wife knows about the events which unfolded at the Stoop this summer, and whilst Quins started off the season in a shaky manner, they too are starting to pull together convincing winning performances.  Please excuse the pun but I expect this game to be full of bang and an early Christmas cracker.

My prediction:  Leeds to win by 3.


  1. Leeds Carnegie 27 - 30 Harlequins.

    I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed with this result. Leeds picked up a losing bonus point but I should have left Headingley tonight having witnessed their first home win of the season.

    In the end mistakes at key times allowed Quins to score. In contrast with the Sale and Leicester game where the opposition ran riot in the second half, this time it was Leeds' first half performance that let them down as they conceded three soft tries. The most notable of these was a to-me to-you Chuckle Brothers moment, involving two Leeds players who both failed to claim a high ball which bounced then in between them and popped up for the onward rushing Quin to catch and dash over the line.

    Speaking after the game Back said, "Our first-half performance, conceding three soft tries, killed us basically.

    "We turned out a really good display in the second half but ultimately the experience of our opposition's number nine and 10 controlled things in the latter stages of that game and at times we were dull and lacked composure.

    "This game and our last home one against Sale could and should have been five-point wins for us and we have effectively missed out on eight points.

    "So yes, I am disappointed and so are the squad."

    Yes, and so am I :-(

  2. Bamberio, I know bugger all about rugby, except I know that I once had a lovely evening with a rugby player...(Leicester team..??). But as you are my new mentor AND you put up photos of ruby players, consider me a new follower!

    Rapunzel x

  3. Haha! Thanks for becoming a follower Rapunzel. Rugby is brilliant. You never know, by following my blog you might become a fan via osmosis or something... :-)