Preview to Leeds (H) 08.03.14

07/03/2014


J Lo, swing low, and half-way to the moon

One way or t'other, Leeds Carnegie will be making their last-ever visit to Jersey this weekend. It's not that the visitors are odds-on for promotion (and yes, we know Jersey aren't sure of their Championship place either), but by the time next season starts they will have a new name, Yorkshire Carnegie.

Leeds Logo

The move, announced a month ago by Executive Chairman Sir Ian McGeechan, will end 22 years' use of the Leeds name, dating back to 1992 when local clubs Headingley (Geech's old team) and Roundhay merged.

Sustainability is a word you hear a lot in Championship rugby circles, with a general admission that under current levels of income, fully professional clubs aren't viable. Many clubs are only able to balance the books through the efforts of volunteers, or thanks to the deep pockets of wealthy backers such as Steve Lansdowne, the man who is bankrolling Bristol's Premiership push and recently wrote off the debts of Bristol City Football Club - a cool £35million.

The Championship clubs, including Carnegie and Jersey, are lobbying hard for increased funding from Twickenham. But Geech and his colleagues are also seeking to broaden their appeal by creating a county-wide team, capable of achieving promotion and holding their own in the Prem.

Leeds supporters seem divided on the new move, and there has been a predictable hue and cry, including accusations of arrogance, from elsewhere in Yorkshire, and further afield. But few would disagree that the current model isn't quite working, and therefore something with a bit of vision is required. Chief Executive Gary Hetherington has called it Yorkshire's last chance at creating a sustainable and successful Premiership club.

It's possible that the Leeds name could have a grandstand last hurrah and achieve promotion on June 4, although likely play-off rivals Bristol, London Welsh and Rotherham will have something to say about that. But Leeds are in good nick; having noted that Bristol notched 24 tries in four game in February, it should be pointed out that Leeds scored 23 during that time - in a game fewer.

Leeds may be on song, but their hosts will be hopeful of an upset, having taken heart from emerging from a Cornish mudbath (as modelled by our skipper, pictured below by Brian Tempest) - the sort of thing they'd charge £195 for at a posh hotel 'n' spa in St Ives - with a consolation bonus point, and genuine disappointment at not achieving even more.

Alex Rae Pirates

The visitors are travelling on the morning of the game and home supporters - a large crowd is expected and the weather forecast is decent - hope the visitors may have bumpy landings both before and after the game kicks off at 3pm. The record of bottom six sides against those in the top half (now seven wins in 50 contests) suggests it's odds-against, but the Islanders will certainly be giving it a crack.


News from the Jersey camp

Jersey's squad will be confirmed late on Friday morning. Look out for new signing Ryan Hodson in the back-row. One likely absentee however is Sam Lockwood, the loosehead prop on loan from Leeds since late January. Lockwood is unavailable due to the terms of his loan agreement. Scrum-half Nicky Griffiths (below, another Brian Tempest shot from Penzance-under-Water) will hope to get the chance to show his paces (and beautifully exfoliated skin, thanks to the mud treatment) from the start.

Nicky Muddy Kick Sml


Head-to-head in 2012 and 2013

September 2012 (league): Leeds 32 Jersey 19. Michael Le Bourgeois claimed Jersey's first Championship try at Headingley, but this was cancelled out by Josh Griffin, Jacob Rowan and Jamel Chisholm. Full report HERE

October 2012 (B&I): Leeds 27 Jersey 33. The first win of the season for the Islanders in a cup match played at York RUFC. Guy Thompson and Donovan Sanders got the tries, 'Booj' landed eight kicks at goal. The report's HERE

December 2012 (league): Jersey 20 Leeds 17. A muddy old day in which 'Doc' Doherty somehow managed to score two excellent running tries but was outdone by the hosts, who scored through a penalty try and another by Max Stelling. See MATCH REPORT

January 2013 (B&I): Jersey 12 Leeds 27. The home side were never at the races in this dead cup rubber, trailing 0-22 at the break but at least fighting back to achieve some respectability. Full report HERE

November 2013 (league): Leeds 29 Jersey 13. The home side were just moving into their stride, but even so Jersey had hopes of a useful bonus point until Carnegie scored twice in the dying moments, although they fell a try short of their own BP. 'Doc', Jacob Rowan, Josh Griffin and Jersey's Drew Locke were the day's try-scorers. Report & pics HERE


Alumni corner

A couple of Jersey old boys who have been confirmed in the Leeds' squad this weekend.

Nathan Leeds

Nathan Hannay (above) joined Leeds last summer, although it was mid-winter when the giant Halifax-born lock was first linked with Carnegie, prompting an unsettling end to three seasons in Jersey.

After signing for the Islanders in the summer of 2010, Hannay made more than 50 appearances. He missed almost six months of his first season through injury but returned to help Jersey to National Two play-off success, scoring two tries in the 30-5 victory over Loughborough Students.

Hannay played 26 games in 2011/12 as Jersey claimed the National One title, and also won three Siam Cup caps. He captained the team during the first half of last season, and was also selected for the representative RFU Championship XV who faced the Maori All Blacks in November 2012.

Yorkshireman David Doherty began his career with Leeds in 2004 before moving on to Sale and Wasps. He spent seven months on the Island in 2010/11, making 19 appearances and scoring 19 tries. His last touch of the ball in a red shirt was the final try against Loughborough in the National Two play-off, before moving to Cornish Pirates in summer 2011.

'Doc' transferred to Leeds in summer 2012 and last season he played 21 Championship games, scoring 13 tries.


Leeds in 2013/14

Having ended last season with play-off defeat by eventual champions Newcastle, Carnegie faced another top-four side, Nottingham, on the opening (double-header) day of the season, and were disappointed to go down 24-16 at Castle Park, Doncaster. It remains to be seen how significant the outcome of the 23rd game proves for both sides.

The team had a new Head Coach in James Lowes (pictured below, they call him J Lo of course), a former rugby league player with Hunslet, Leeds and Bradford who was promoted from an assistant role when former HC Diccon Edwards resigned in June.

J Lo

Nathan Hannay was among a clutch of signings that also included fly-half Glynn Hughes from Moseley and the permanent capture of prop James Currie, who joined on loan from Worcester last season. Leeds are led by Jacob Rowan for the second season - the 24-year-old is still one of the division's youngest skippers.

The team found their form on the road with consecutive wins on the road against the Pirates (20-27) and Bedford (28-29). The match against Ealing at Headingley on October 4th was the latest home start to a league season in Leeds' history, and they celebrated with nine tries in a 64-3 thumping of the newly-promoted side.

Another away win in the league at Moseley (18-27) was followed by a chance to test themselves against the unbeaten league leaders. Carnegie performed creditably against London Welsh but eventually went down 24-31. This was followed by a hard-fought home win over Rotherham (19-10), a defeat at London Scottish (26-15) the result of the season so far at the Mem - a superb 22-28 win, and some festive revenge alongside the leftover turkey at home to Nottingham (30-19).

2014 began with a narrow squeak at Plymouth (14-15) before Welsh did the double by winning 19-10 at the Kassam. Then the season hit overdrive in February, with sound thrashings handed out to Bedford (50-5), Ealing (11-46) and Moseley (62-5), and March started with a somewhat more restrained 27-18 victory over London Scots.

The B&I Cup isn't a priority this year, but Leeds cantered through the easiest of this season's pools along with Bristol. Each beat the other once and their second-string sides were not tested against Gala or Aberavon. Leeds are home to Plymouth in the quarter-finals at the start of April.

Top try-scorers for Leeds with nine so far this season are wingers 'Doc' and Jonah Holmes. Fly-half Alex Lozowski, whose father Rob won a lone cap for England in 1984, has kicked 110 points and scored four tries, but will be leaving to go to the old man's former club, Wasps, in the summer.

Carnegie have bolstered their squad considerably during the season as they build towards the play-offs. Several signings are likely to be on show, including former England Sevens player Rob Vickerman, ex-Northampton and Worcester centre Jon Clarke, on-loan Bath flanker David Sisi and the latest addition, fly-half Jonny Bentley from Gloucester.

Leeds' average attendance so far this season is 2,286, a place ahead of Jersey (2,051) and closing fast on Bedford (2,368) while Bristol remain top of the pops (5,052).


Leeds Rugby Union: a historical cocktail

The history of Leeds Carnegie is a cocktail of different aged components, matured separately before being combined during more recent times and blended into a series of modern interpretations.

Headingley Football Club were founded in 1878 and played games on Cardigan Fields, site of the current ground. The club withstood a lean spell for rugby in Yorkshire during the early part of the 20th Century, and after the Great War, but in the 1930s was prospering with excellent facilities, impressive results and representative honours.

Two notable names from the 1960s were Ian McGeechan and John Spencer. The latter was last encountered by Jersey in the club's only previous trip to Yorkshire, when they played the Wharfedale club of which he is now President last January, while McGeechan's career has gone full circle and he is now back at Leeds as Executive Chairman.

Geech1

In the 1980s Peter Winterbottom was the most notable Headingley player of his era, winning 58 caps for England and seven for the Lions. His father John, a member since 1950, also played a key role in the history of Leeds, brokering the merger with Roundhay that led to the formation of Leeds RUFC in 1992.

Roundhay were formed in 1924 and had a golden era in the 1950s which included a first-ever appearance in the Yorkshire Cup Final. The loss to the Royal Signals was finally avenged in 1975 when England internationals Richard Cardus and Keith Smith helped Roundhay defeat Headingley 20-16 in a replay which followed a 13-all draw.

Merger discussions were initiated by John Winterbottom with a view to forming a single, much larger club from Headingley, Roundhay and Morley. Morley subsequently withdrew, but the merger was finalised in July 1992 with the first game played two months later.

The new club climbed the leagues and appointed professionals Colin Stephens (Youth Development Officer) and Phil Davies (Director of Rugby) in 1995 and 1996, as well as moving to Headingley Stadium. In 1998 the modern era truly arrived when rugby union in Leeds became a brand, namely Leeds Tykes, in partnership with the city's league brethren the Rhinos under the ownership of Leeds Rugby Limited, and by September 2001 the Tykes had reached the Premiership, then sponsored by Zurich.

The highlights of a five-season stint in the top flight were finishing fifth in 2002/03, earning qualification for the Heineken Cup, and lifting the Powergen Cup in 2005. But the cup success was followed by relegation 12 months later, in spite of the presence of star names like Justin Marshall and Gordon Bulloch in the squad.

The most recent incarnation of the club saw Leeds Carnegie formed in 2007 after the club returned to the Premiership and formed a partnership with Leeds Metropolitan University, who acquired a 51% share in the club. The Carnegie names came from the Scottish entrepreneur and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie whose Carnegie Trust funded the establishment of a PE teaching training college in 1933. Carnegie College is now the Carnegie Faculty of Sport and Education within Leeds Metropolitan University.

Current England Coach Stuart Lancaster was involved with the club for 16 years, serving as Director of Rugby before leaving in 2008 to join the England set-up. He was replaced by Andy Key, while England flanker Neil Back became Head Coach. The yo-yo existence continued with two seasons at the top level, attracting home crowds of between 4,000 and 10,000, followed by relegation in 2011 and a mid-table performance in 2011/12 (6th in the league, 3rd in promotion pool B).

In May 2009 it was announced that the club was re-structuring with former Wales and British Lion international Gareth Davies joining a new board of Directors, and Leeds Rugby taking control of the club once again.

In order to attract further financial support for the club, Leeds Met returned its 51% stake in the club to Leeds Rugby and agreed a revised strategic partnership arrangement, which includes sponsorship. The name of the club remained as Leeds Carnegie RUFC.

Davies, who is a former Chief Executive of Cardiff RFC and BBC Wales Head of Sport, is the new Dean of the Carnegie Faculty of Sport & Education at Leeds Met and he will represent the university on a new board, which is headed up by Paul Caddick, the property and construction entrepreneur and former Headingley lock, as Chairman.

Last season, Leeds launched a perfectly-timed run to the play-offs by winning their last six games, and once there they made a fine fist of supposedly unbeatable Newcastle, winning 24-19 at home but losing the second leg 15-6 at Kingston Park.


Following the game

Don't forget that you can keep up-to-speed with news from Jersey v Leeds through the following channels:

• Live BBC Radio Jersey commentary on Saturday afternoon (available online and on your transistor-wireless device).
• Preview in Friday's JEP, the Inside Centre pull-out on Saturday (on sale from 7am) and full match coverage on Monday
• Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter and the 'Rolling Maul' rugby forum
• Reports and match action on Channel TV online and on Monday evening at 6.15pm; and on BBC Channel Islands on Monday evening at 6.30pm


The Greene King IPA Championship this weekend

The only other game on Saturday sees Bedford host Plymouth, with the hosts trying to cut down the six-point gap between themselves and Albion, who have 32 points, equal with Moseley.

The chance to keep supporters on site for some post-match imbibing while England swing low against Wales means four games take place on Sunday with early afternoon KOs. Two of these games are within a short stroll of Twickers - London Scottish against Ealing, and a one-off return to Old Deer Park for London Welsh, who host Moseley. Rotherham make the trip down the M1 to play Nottingham, who still need one more win to shake off the threat of relegation, while injury-hit Cornish Pirates have a mountain to climb at the Mem against leaders Bristol.

Saturday March 8
Bedford v Plymouth Albion, 15:00

Sunday March 9
London Welsh v Moseley, 12:00
London Scottish v Ealing, 12:30
Bristol v Cornish Pirates, 13:00
Nottingham v Rotherham, 13:00


And finally

Leeds Head of Finance Mike Bidgood was the club's only official to make both trips to St Peter last season, and will be here again this weekend. This is no surprise, as he has watched every competitive game played by the club since they were formed in summer '92.

Bidgood

Towards the end of last season Mike (above) passed the 600-game barrier, clocking up 131,000 miles in the process, and he has added another 30-odd games and another few thousand miles since then. His mileage would have taken him more than halfway to the moon, but has instead included trips to Spain, Romania and Italy, as well as Aspatria, Waterloo and Havant.

Other rugby action involving Jersey sides comprises Beeches v Guernsey II at 11.30am at LQ, St Jacques v Banks at 12noon at KGV in Guernsey, while the following day Jersey 2nds host LQ Lydian Lions at St Peter at 12.30pm

Enjoy your weekend's rugby!
Tom Innes

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