Birmingham Solihull 24 Leeds Carnegie 26
Leeds Carnegie overcame a massive fright from Birmingham Solihull in the EDF Energy National Trophy to book their place in the semi final with a 26-24 win
Leeds Carnegie overcame a massive fright from Birmingham Solihull in the EDF Energy National Trophy to book their place in the semi final with a 26-24 win.
However, with six minutes remaining at Sharmans Cross Road the National Division One league leaders were trailing 24-12 and it looked as if they would slip to their first defeat of the season against a side from outside of their own division.
However, late tries by youngsters Scott Freer and Phil Swainston, the latter on his debut, got them level and Argentinean fly half Alberto Di Bernardo stepped up to add the last minute conversion and give the visitors a fortunate victory.
The Bees had caused a Cup shock five years ago when they took European Champions London Wasps all the way and they looked live the current hive of players would write their own page in the club's history for most of this game.
Carnegie made a bright start with a try inside the first six minutes when Adam Hopcroft bundled his way over after good work by the forwards. Jason Strange added the conversion and Leeds looked set to build on their early advantage.
However, the home side were not afraid to play rugby as they threw the ball around and attempted chip kicks over the defence to keep Leeds on their toes. They missed a penalty through Mark Woodrow after nine minutes but did get off the mark after 24 minutes through scrum half Rod Petty. His opposite number, Scott Mathie, had put a clearing kick in up to half way but a quick line out from the Bees set them on their way, Petty then collected his own chip kick and spun out of a tackle to score beside the posts. Crucially, Woodrow added a missed conversion to his earlier missed penalty.
Carnegie once again took control of the scoring after that when Mathie caused problems in the home defence with a number of darting runs before the ball was moved wide and Leigh Hinton touched down in the corner. Strange was unable to add the conversion but Leeds now led 12-5 with eight minutes remaining in the half.
Coaches Neil Back and Andy Key would have been frustrated at half time after their side produced a number of uncharacteristic errors.
Birmingham Solihull though were full of confidence and once again came at Leeds at the start of the half. They got their reward after 57 minutes when Phil Murphy spilled the ball ten metres from his own line and the centres of Scott Young and Cameron Mitchell combined to put the latter in for a try between the posts. Woodrow added the simple conversion to level the score.
The fly half then missed a long range penalty however his side were well on top at this stage. Joe Bedford had a kick blocked that nearly led to a try and Petty set off on a break down the touchline that could have resulted in another score.
As it was full back Reece Spee finally broke the deadlock. Mitchell put in a crossfield kick which was worked along the line for Spee to score outwide.
The home fans were sent in to dream land two minutes later when Simon Hunt was the beneficiary of some quick hands to score in the corner almost straight from the restart. The conversion was missed but the signs were ominous for Leeds as they trailed by ten points with time running out.
However, they never gave up and came straight back into the game with new signing Tim Davidson adding an experienced head to the pack. However, it was a young man who finally scored his side's third try in Scott Freer. The replacement hooker had only just come on for Vili Ma'asi but he showed great strength to hold off an initial tackle near the line and power over. Di Bernardo converted quickly and it was now just a question of whether the Bees could hold on.
With time running out, Leeds were awarded a penalty ten metres out. The fly half kicked to touch and from the ensuing line out, former Harrogate Grammar schoolboy Phil Swainston marked his first appearance in the first team with a try. That left Di Bernardo to step up and kick the conversion that took his side into the final four in the EDF Energy National Trophy.
Birmingham Solihull: Spee, Hunt, Young, Mitchell, Palm, Woodrow, Petty, Long, Phillips, Davies, Davidson, Pammenter, Clayton, Connolly, Halavatau
Replacements: Voisey for Davies (47), Ogree for Davidson (53), Brightwell for Clayton (69), Aston, Ward, Tomlinson for Mitchell (77), Preece, Davies for Long (56)
Leeds Carnegie: Hinton, Welding, Blackett, H Paul, Goodridge, Strange, Mathie, Hopcroft, Ma'asi, Swainston, Lund, Myall, Boyde, Rowan, Dunbar
Replacements: McGee, Freer for Ma'asi (70), Murphy for Myall (50), Davidson for Dunbar
(50), Bedford for Mathie (50), Di Bernardo for Strange (63), Hepworth for Goodridge (50)
Referee: Keith Lewis