Hat-trick for 17-year-old debutant Jack Walker as Leeds beat Doncaster
Jack Walker enjoyed a dream debut as Leeds Rhinos cruised into the last 16 of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup with a 64-28 fifth-round victory over part-timers Doncaster RLFC.
The 17-year-old full-back, whose skull cap provides him with a permanent reminder of the fractured skull he suffered early in his career, ran in a sparkling first-half hat-trick of tries to earn the man-of-the-match award and put his side into a 44-4 lead.
That ensured the back-to-back winners in 2014 and 2015 became the first team into the hat for Tuesday's sixth-round draw, although the Kingstone Press League 1 club caused some embarrassment for their Betfred Super League hosts with a spirited fightback that brought them five second-half tries.
Walker, deputising for the injured Ashton Golding, showed some delightful touches on his big day while 18-year-old Poland-born forward Mikolaj Oledzki also marked his debut with a try.
Signed match ball for Jack Walker after his debut hat trick pic.twitter.com/GtXZoo8zwO— Leeds Rhinos (@leedsrhinos) April 21, 2017
The pair have a combined age of less than Doncaster's 39-year-old Papua New Guinea forward Makali Aizue and amply demonstrated the depth of Brian McDermott's squad in the post-Easter period.
Doncaster suffered a 82-6 league hammering by Toronto Wolfpack a fortnight earlier and they fell behind after just two minutes when winger Ash Handley produced an acrobatic finish for the first of his side's 12 tries.
A trademark offload by loose forward Adam Cuthbertson got scrum-half Rob Burrow scampering over and barnstorming prop Mitch Garbutt took a pass from hooker Jordan Lilley to crash over for the first of his two tries.
When skipper Danny McGuire twisted and turned his way to the line for his side's fourth try, the Rhinos were scoring at more than a point a minute but Doncaster scrum-half Kieran Cross briefly halted the one-way traffic when he jinked his way over for a 16th-minute try.
Walker then came into his own, gliding through the Doncaster defence for his first try and profiting from the industry of McGuire and England centre Kallum Watkins to complete his hat-trick, all his tries coming within the space of 13 minutes.
The Rhinos book their spot in the next round of the Cup, congrats to Doncaster on a great display from their side pic.twitter.com/zD8G32W37Q— Leeds Rhinos (@leedsrhinos) April 21, 2017
Garbutt proved unstoppable from 10 metres out as he grabbed his second try and Watkins kicked his sixth goal before half-time.
Lilley extended the lead with the first try of the second half but Doncaster were far from overawed and produced their best rugby of the match to give their hosts plenty to think about.
The Dons' enterprising play was rewarded with tries from substitute Ryan Wright, winger Louis Sheriff and second rower Charlie Martin, with full-back Tom Carr adding one conversion.
Burrow finished off a break by Josh Walters to score his second try and Cuthbertson's clever hands created one for Oledzki but still the League 1 club came back and captain Kyle Kesik finished off a fine break by Wright to score his side's fifth try before Sheriff added his second.
There was never any threat to Leeds' stranglehold, though, and the Rhinos wrapped up the scoring through centre Joel Moon, with Lilley kicking his second goal.
Leeds coach McDermott said: "I think the last time someone was as impressive on his debut was Stevie Ward in 2012.
"He (Walker) scored a couple of great tries which he needed to finish. We know his game is about support and he probes in attack but he went above and beyond to get the ball down.
"It just wasn't his tries, though, he showed some real good awareness in defence."