By Cameron Hogwood
Confidence is high in the Leeds Beckett Carnegie camp as they prepare to face the Sheffield Hallam Warriors in Sunday’s Division One North Final.
The two conference rivals will compete for a third time this season and Carnegie’s Will Johnson believes his side are well-equipped to bring home the win having learnt from past experiences.
He told the Yorkshire Voice: “We’ve played Hallam twice already this season so we’re quite familiar with their setup, we’ve got a game plan which if we execute I believe we will be coming home with the win.”
Hallam beat their Yorkshire foes on the two occasions in which the sides met, once 23-0 and then 28-7. Beckett’s impressive run of form, however, has turned the contest into a difficult one to predict.
Johnson and his teammates secured their place in the final last week with a dramatic two point conversion play that saw them overcome Nottingham 28-27 in overtime and cause a notable upset.
Sheffield’s route was somewhat less gruelling yet still entertaining as they demonstrated their red-zone efficiency to outscore the Hull Sharks 42-29.
Johnson, who plays as a linebacker for Carnegie, has praised the unity within his side’s admittedly small roster and the visible commitment to the cause from each individual.
“I think we’ve had a great season with the squad size we have. We’ve been the underdogs for a number of games this season and we’ve shown you don’t need 50 man rosters to win games. You just need a bunch of guys who are willing to put their bodies on the line.”
Carnegie’s chairman Chris Jones identified the need to combat a dynamic Hallam offense that scored 252 points in the regular season compared to Beckett’s 187.
He told Double Coverage: “From a general point of view, we are looking to slow down that high octane spread offence with key third down stops and turnovers. On offence we’re looking to try to find holes to exploit just like every other team would be looking for.”
The Leeds based counterpart are expected to confront their hosts with a powerful and relentless running game as opposed to focusing on testing Hallam’s cornerbacks.
Knowledge of Sheffield’s 12-6 loss and tight 7-6 win against the UCLan Rams, who Beckett beat 20-13 and 31-0, promises to give the travelling team hope.
The winner will play in the National final on 26 March at the Six-Ways Stadium in Worcester.