Emphatic response sees Leeds maintain pursuit

Glyn Hughes of Carnegie tries to get away from Mike Howard of Bedford

Glyn Hughes of Carnegie tries to get away from Mike Howard of Bedford

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AS responses go this was not bad at all.

Leeds Carnegie were keen to show their narrow loss at leaders London Welsh would not have a lasting effect on their Championship title credentials when they returned to action yesterday.

A resounding victory over Bedford Blues was ample proof they have not lost any focus after their eight-match winning run had been brought to an end in frustrating circumstances a week earlier.

Winger Rob Vickerman scored twice, his first tries since re-signing for the club before Christmas, while No 8 Ryan Burrows was on blistering form up front with a series of devastating runs which shows just why the ex-Rotherham Titans forward is believed to be attracting Premiership attention.

The bonus-point victory lifts Leeds back up to third in the table, five points behind new leaders Rotherham who fully capitalised on Welsh’s shock 36-15 defeat at Plymouth.

Leeds, who head to bottom-placed Ealing Trailfinders on Saturday, got off to a flying start.

It was no’t quite as quick as Yoann Huget’s but Jonah Holmes’s stunning effort after just 85 seconds certainly had far more class than the fortunate French score that had stunned England the previous evening.

The on-loan Wasps winger returned a kick on his own 20m line and set off on a mesmerising run.

He baffled the first clutch of defenders and then, after finding open space, immediately changed his angle of running to leave full-back James Pritchard rooted and helpless.

Holmes could have had a second inside the opening eight minutes but was brought back – perhaps harshly – for a forward pass from Richard Beck after some clever handling from Jacob Rowan.

Pritchard had reacted to Leeds’s opener with a penalty but then it was the hosts who dominated.

David Doherty almost crossed when Leeds showed slick handling to the left once more but he was just bundled into touch at the vital moment.

The winger had also fumbled when Rowan and Beck created another sighting after Vickerman had done well to defuse a midfield chip from Bedford.

It was that sort of first-phase error which would eventually compound Bedford’s problems – centre Mark Atkinson fumbled off a lineout ball, they missed jumpers and got held up in the tackle in their own 20 – and it was surreal to think many of these players forged their way to last season’s Championship play-off final.

However, initially, Leeds did not make them pay for such scruffiness. Glyn Hughes kicked one early penalty but was then badly wayward with a couple of other attempts and so, for all their territory, there was little to show for it.

When Bedford’s Joe Vandermolen was sin-binned in the 32nd minute after his side’s repeat offending, Leeds did get a second try, prop Ben Hooper eventually edging over after Hughes – understandably after his earlier misdirections – opted to kick the next penalty to the corner.

He messily skewed the conversion attempt, though, so when Bedford finally got out of their own half long enough to earn Pritchard’s second penalty, it was, somehow, still just 18-6 to James Lowes’s side.

When Leeds bullied their opponents off their own ball at a scrum in front of the Bedford posts in first-half stoppage-time, Hughes did gain them three further points but it was clear they wanted more.

Fortunately, they started the second half just like they started the first with a swiftly created try.

Burrows, typically, was central to it with the No 8 bustling his way through for another line break from inside his own half.

Beck provided the link and David Doherty the finish with just 73 seconds on the clock, the 27-year-old scoring his 10th try of the campaign between the posts to make Hughes’s job more comfortable.

It had proved a costly yellow card for Vandermolen, his side conceding 15 points in the 10 minutes he was off the field.

Leeds were given a let-off when Corey Hircock had a ‘score’ ruled out for his foot grazing the touchline only by the merest of contact.

That could have made things interesting but, instead, the Yorkshire side just powered on.

Burrows, in particular, seemed to be everywhere, scattering defenders with his thunderous running style. It is hard to believe it was only the week before that he was returning from a two-and-half month lay-off following knee surgery.

Bedford simply did not know how to handle his ferocity but there were some subtle off-loads too which caused problems.

Frustratingly, Hooper could not make the most of one of the forward’s advances when the prop agonisingly dropped possession with the line in front of him.

So then, given they were leading 28-6 and presumably striving for the crucial try bonus point, it seemed bizarre when Hughes decided to kick another penalty from just 20 metres in front of the sticks in the 55th minute.

Burrows slipped Fred Burdon away with another cute pass but the centre was eventually hauled down and other opportunities were missed.

However, Leeds managed to finish with the flourish their endeavour and dominance deserved.

James Doherty made an impact after coming on at scrum-half and it his ingenuity saw him sneak into just enough space to put Vickerman over for the vital fourth try with just 10 minutes remaining.

Soon after, lock Paul Tupai was yellow-carded as Bedford struggled to deal with the constant pressure and, after fellow forward Tom Jubb was stretchered off with a serious knee injury, they had to pull down a scrum resulting in a penalty try being conceded.

Alex Lozowski converted and did likewise in stoppage time when another perfectly-timed James Doherty pass saw Vickerman angle through and finish his second.

dave.craven@ypn.co.uk

Leeds Carnegie: Holmes; Vickerman, Burdon, Clarke, D Doherty; Hughes (Lozowski 60), Hampson (J Doherty 65); B Harris (Imiolek 60), Graham (Nilsen 65), Hooper (Currie 56), Hannay, Casson (Smith 50), Beck (Walker 60), Rowan, Burrows.

Bedford Blues: Pritchard (Burke 65); Tapley, Hircock, Atkinson, Morris; Sharp, Veenendaal (Peck 57); Steenkamp (T Harris 50), Clare (Auterac 57), Boulton (Gilardon-Paz 71), Tupai, Gulliver (Jubb 50), Gillanders, Armes (Barrell 50), Vandermolen.

Referee: Tim Wigglesworth

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