Belief kept Leeds up says Middleton

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The Independent Online

Leeds defence coach Simon Middleton insists there was never a moment when the Yorkshire club felt they would slip out of the Guinness Premiership.

Four penalties from Ceiron Thomas saw Leeds beat Worcester 12-10 at Headingley Carnegie yesterday and secure their own survival and condemn the Warriors to the drop to the Championship.

Leeds were the bookies' favourites for the drop at the start of the season and they appeared to heading for the trapdoor at Christmas, but a run that has seen them record five wins from their past nine league games allowed them to climb out of the drop zone and they currently lie ninth in the table.

Middleton has experienced relegation from the top flight in 2006 and 2008 with Leeds, but he never doubted that this season's squad would survive.

"No there was no point where I thought we would go down," said the former Castleford rugby league man.

"I have been here a long time and there have been times when we were not good enough to stay up and be in this league.

"But I said from the word go this year that with the guys Andy Key and Neil Back have brought to the squad there was never a moment where I thought we would not stay up.

"I felt we had enough quality and experience to be competitive. There were one or two dark days but I never thought it was irretrievable because it never got to that stage."

Rugby director Key is now looking forward to the task of building a squad for next season with the club having confirmed a host of departures, including former England scrum-half Andy Gomarsall, following yesterday's win.

Key said: "We have got ourselves into a fairly strong position and now we have work to do bring some players in, there are some players who won't continue the journey with us but we need to look at what we need to do to be a top six side."

Head coach Back agreed that securing survival is a big boost for the club's recruitment plans.

"We have been working hard behind the scenes but it's tough for teams that come up and teams at the bottom to recruit players as the top players want to play in the Premiership.

"We have lost some players as a result of having to wait to secure our status but we have players we can now speak to in a good position and that's great for the squad."