CHRIS WALKER isn’t accustomed to scoring tries, let alone hat-tricks.
However, the young flanker bagged a treble inside 32 minutes yesterday to help Leeds Carnegie rattle off their 16th Championship win of the season and confirm their place in the play-offs.
Walker, 22, had only scored seven times previously for the club. The hosts had to do it tough. James Lowes was forced to make a raft of changes to the side that had defeated Plymouth 41-21 in the British & Irish Cup nine days earlier.
Ex-England Sevens captain Rob Vickerman was a late withdrawal on the eve of the game with concussion, too, and Leeds were so short of numbers they did not have a single back on their replacements bench.
They have now confirmed fourth spot at least but could yet swap positions with third-placed Rotherham Titans who they face in a much-anticipated televised game at Sheffield’s Abbeydale Sports Ground on Saturday in the penultimate round.
Lowes is looking forward to that prospect though he was irritated yesterday by some of the officials’ calls, especially when Fred Burdon’s thunderous tackle on Jack Arnott was deemed high.
“Their (officials’) knowledge of high tackles or high shots is well off the mark,” he said.
“It was very, very poor – it was one of the best tackles I’ve seen yet we’ve got punished.
“I’m really pleased for the lads, though. They were in control early and played some good stuff. We were disappointed conceding two tries but one was from an unbelievable forward pass. Hopefully we’ll have some more players returning – Vickerman should be all right – as we couldn’t find any back replacements today.”
Walker got his first inside two minutes after Jonny Bentley’s kick deflected into his path and Alex Lozowski added a second straight from the restart after Ryan Burrows’ bulldozing burst.
Walker got his second as Leeds’ impressive rolling maul went to work in the 20th minute, repeating the move to finish with his third after Harrison Tovey was sin-binned following persistent infringing.
Hughes’ 100 per cent success rate with the boot continued for a 28-0 interval lead, the full-back twisting over for a try of his own early in the second period. Plymouth lock Ien Ascroft-Leigh scored a try in the 46th minute and, though Burrows picked up at the back of a scrum to score after Lowes’ had changed his entire front-row, Burdon then saw his pass intercepted for Tom Bowen to race in for a second, Declan Cusack converting both. But it could not take the shine off yet another convincing Leeds display.
Leeds Carnegie: Hughes; Holmes, Burdon, Lozowski, Georgiou; Bentley, Hampson; Beech (Imiolek 54) , Graham (Nilsen 54), Currie (Hooper 54), Beck (J Walker 62), Myerscough (Green 40), Rowan, C Walker (Barnard 71), Burrows (Sisi 55).
Plymouth Albion: Elder; Bowen (Shanahan 75), Warner, Howley-Berridge (Setter 67), Arnott; Cusack, Cushion (Bolt 57); Morton (Harrison 65), Saunders, Shields (Fairbrother 65), Beukeboon, Ashcroft-Leigh, Tovey (Evans 65), Grace, Oakley.
Referee: Ian Tempest