Leeds Carnegie set up a winner-takes-all clash with Championship rivals Bristol at Headingley Carnegie next Saturday in the final pool game in the British and Irish Cup as they produced a workmanlike performance to beat Scottish outfit Gala and gain a try bonus point.
James Lowes’ side needed a late try from replacement centre Joe Barker to ensure the full quota of points but they now know victory next week will secure a quarter-final spot, and a potential visit by Munster to Headingley Carnegie.
Speaking after the game, Lowes said: “First and foremost, I am pleased to get the win as always.
“I thought we bombed a few chances and did not play as much rugby as I would have liked. It looks like we have come through without any more injuries so that sets things up nicely for Bristol next week at Headingley Carnegie.
“The boys are looking forward to that game and hopefully we can do enough to progress in this competition.”
Leeds Carnegie had run in 14 tries in the last meeting but in the first half at Netherdale they looked hesitant and were unable to create the chances which have become a trademark of the team this season.
Gala, who have to deal with the disruption of integrating players from the Scottish pro teams into their matchday squads, were much better than the previous game. Their defence was well drilled and they managed to deal with most threats Leeds threw at them.
However the weight of possession would eventually tell and it was back row Jarad Williams who was awarded the try when he emerged last from a mass of bodies from a line out catch and drive. Hughes missed the conversion attempt having previously kicked a penalty.
Leeds were reduced to 14 men when young second row Harry Casson, making his first start since joining the club on loan from Worcester, was sent to the sin-bin for fighting in back play.
The start of the second half was a messy affair and it took 20 minutes for Leeds to get their second try courtesy of a penalty try.
With nine minutes to go, Chris Walker finished off good play by the forwards before Gala got a consolation try, with the referee again deciding to award a penalty try, after Sam Lockwood became the second Carnegie player to be sent to the bin.
But with time running out Barker popped up to make the most of a Bristol error and score his second career try for the club. Hughes kicked his third conversion to complete a 29-7 win.
Leeds: Goss (Barker, 63), Griffin, Clarke, Burdon, D Doherty, Hughes, J Doherty (Hampson, 61), Imiolek (Lockwood, 57), Graham (J Walker, 57), Beech (Hooper, 47), Hannay, Casson (Beck, 43), Williams, C Walker, Rowan. Replacement not used: Doyle.
Gala: Dods, Sibanda, Auld (Spiers, 55), Baird, N Walker, Mein, George Graham, Sutherland (Palepoi, 68), Hilterbrand (Christie, 64), McQuillin (MacKintosh, 55), Borthwick, Toolis, Cairns, Gary Graham (Hidalgo-Clyne, 64), Cox. Replacements not used: Chapman, Leonard.
Referee: Andy Brace (IRFU).