Back: Still a mountain to climb
January 1, 2011
Michael Stephenson scored the vital try for Leeds at Headingley © Getty Images
Neil Back praised his players for the sacrifices they have made to ensure Leeds Carnegie got a first Aviva Premiership win of the season with a 15-13 victory over Gloucester.
Tries from Hendre Fourie and Michael Stephenson edged the determined home side to victory as Gloucester continued to struggle on their travels. Ceiron Thomas added a conversion and a penalty.
James Simpson-Daniel got Gloucester's try in the first half and England Under 20 fly-half Freddie Burns kicked two penalties and a conversion, but the day belonged to Leeds who have endured a frustrating campaign.
Head coach Back said: "I'm just pleased for the squad and very proud. For all sports men and women this time of year, especially those with young families, it's difficult, you cannot celebrate as everyone else does.
"So it's about sacrifice, there's always going to be one winner and one loser and fortunately that's us today. At this time of year we are not where we want to be, but we are where we are and we know what we've got to do. We are still at the bottom with a mountain to climb, but with three wins in a row now, including the two in Europe, it's a good place to be.
"The squad 's positivity and belief belies where we are in the Premiership. I'm just proud they've dug in, we set objectives four or five weeks ago, post our last Premiership game at Harlequins where we were dished up that day. We had a hard look at ourselves - management, players and above to see where Leeds wanted to be in the future and we knew the response lay with the players.
"The three games we've had, we've won, so we're doing all we can and we hope to take that confidence and belief and winning mentality away to Bath, which is a difficult place to go.
"I said before today 65 points are still available, the team that finished top last year did so with 63, so you could still out-do what was achieved last year. We know what we need to do to stay up in the Premiership and that's to get more points than the team below. There's 100% belief we will stay in the Premiership and build Leeds Carnegie into a club fighting at the right end of the table."
Gloucester coach Bryan Redpath, by contrast, cut a frustrated figure as his side failed to strengthen their claims for a top-four Premiership place, something he feels will remain beyond them if they continue to make basic errors.
Redpath said: "We just didn't control possession enough, in terms of contact area, high balls, passing into touch. Our basics weren't good enough. It was a soft try in the first half and then the penalty, and outside of that they were hardly in our 22 other than the restart.
"We scored a reasonable try but we played too narrow and didn't have enough ambition at certain parts. When you play against a very efficient No 7 in Fourie you are giving it him easy if you keep running into his channel. That certainly wasn't the game plan but these things happen and pressure adds to it.
"We've flirted with the top four. We are realising how hard it is to get up there. "Until we can control and manage certain parts of a game well, especially away from home, then you tend not to win as often as other people.
"Today we needed to come here and perform, so I'm bitterly disappointed."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Jim Mallinder and Justin Burnell were sat on the same top table, but in different circumstances. Tom Hamilton reports on the Aviva Premiership season launch
Tom Hamilton reports back from the launch of the Guinness PRO12 where there is a renewed sense of optimism with all of the off-field changes to the league
So much for the great Australian revival, writes Greg Growden. It now has the potential of going off the rails after the capitulation at Eden Park
The latest Week in Pictures takes in photographs from the Rugby Championship, the Top 14 and the southern hemisphere domestic scene