Hunslet kicked off their home National Rail Cup campaign with a visit from West Yorkshire rivals Batley Bulldogs. The match itself was preceded with a minute silence for Hunslet and Great Britain Legend Brian Shaw who passed away earlier this week.
Hunslet started the game off at a furious pace making all the early running, including a ball steal in Batley’s first set. Hunslet dominated playing the majority of the first quarter in the Batley half, with their pressure nearly telling when David March was held up on the Batley line. Before long the pressure did tell when Neil Lowe popped up a ball for James Houston to score in the 24th minute. The conversion was kicked by Danny Ratcliffe who had taken over goal kicking duties from David March.
Shortly afterwards, Hunslet increased their lead with a penalty from 40 meters out off the boot Danny Ratcliffe making the scores 8-0. New loan signing from Crusaders Elliot Kear showed the attributes which have made him a super league player with good handling, impressive tackling and movement off the ball. The Hunslet defence was solid as the Bulldogs pressed the Hunslet line looking to reduce the deficit before half time. This proved too hard for the Batley side, leaving the score at half time 8-0 with Hunslet looking good.
The way the Batley players came out fighting in the second half was no doubt in some way due to whatever Karl Harrison said to them during the break. They looked like a different team as they ran faster and harder at the Hunslet defence than had been shown in the first half. Hunslet were pinned back on their own line during the early parts of the second half and after sticking to their task for 12 minutes they were undone by a neat ball over the top from Ashley Lindsay lead to Gareth Moore grounding the ball on 52 minutes and converting his own try to put Batley back in the game at 8-6.
The tackling looked to be taking its toll on the Hunslet players but they continued to work hard in defence, even though their legs were starting to look a bit leaden, not helped by the heavy conditions underfoot. Neil Lowe and David March were working exceedingly hard putting in more than their fair share of hits, but to be fair all the lads were defending as if their lives depended on it. An excellent interception from Danny Ratcliffe, who was a stand out player for the Hawks, saved an almost definite Batley score. Unfortunately for Hunslet all the hard work was undone when Paul Handforth picked up kick through to slide over the Hunslet line in the 78th minute, this was then converted by Gareth Moore putting an end to Hunslet’s hopes of a home cup win.
In a game Hunslet hardly deserved to lose, some of the performances by the Hawks players were outstanding, particularly Danny Ratcliffe, Elliot Kear and Richard Chapman. If Hunslet continue to progress in this manner a first win in the competition is surely on its way.
See you next week at The South Leeds Stadium, kick off 3pm against Workington Town.