By George Rogan
Yorkshire Carnegie took a big step towards the Greene King IPA Championship play-off final after a 34-16 win over Ealing Trailfinders in the semi-final first leg.
Yorkshire started the game under pressure and fell behind following a penalty from Rory Clegg. Ealing kept pushing but could not find a try as the Carnegie defence held strong.
Carnegie then took control of the game and two tries from Jonah Holmes, including a brilliant run to chase down Joe Ford’s cross field kick, put them in control of the match.
Ford then intercepted a pass before sprinting the length of the pitch and offloading to scrum half Alex Davies to cross for their third try. Ford converted the kick and then added a drop goal to give Carnegie a 24-3 half time lead.
After the break it looked like it would be more of the same as Ford kept his cool to score another penalty to extend the lead to 24.
However, Ealing then rallied and were denied two tries from some excellent last ditch defending. The pressure they were putting on Carnegie would soon pay off. An extraordinary run from Will Harries that wrong footed the Yorkshire defence got the Trailfinders their first try of the game.
This was followed up with Clegg’s second penalty of the game. The hosts were in full control and winger Curtis Wilson went over for another try following numerous scrums near the Yorkshire try line.
At this point the visitors were looking to break the rut and the captain duly led by example. With less than five minutes remaining Ryan Burrows collected the ball from a scrum and ran 25 yards to the line to score. Ford added the conversion to make sure they ended the game on a high.
The win gives Carnegie an 18 point lead heading into Friday’s second leg at Headingley. Burrows said after the match: “They are going to throw it around chasing those 18 points; we will have to expect the unexpected and make sure that we stick to our discipline and processes to handle that.”
Elsewhere, Doncaster Knights were convincingly beaten 35-3 by London Irish in their first leg at Castle Park.
The Knights were never really in the game and their only points came from a Dougie Flockhart penalty two minutes before half time. In the second half Irish put the Knights to the sword scoring 25 points without reply. Asaeli Tikoirotuma was particularly impressive scoring two of their four tries in the second half. Doncaster had both Aaron Carpenter and Paul Jarvis sin-binned in an ill-disciplined 40 minutes.
Doncaster, who last week announced that even if they won the play-offs, they would not accept promotion to the Aviva Premiership, now face an uphill battle against a side that only lost once during the regular season and it looks like their season will now come to a disappointing end at the Madejski Stadium next week.