Rhinos Win the Lazenby Cup 14-28 in difficult conditions at South Leeds Stadium
A strong first half display from the Hawks was overturned in the second half with the Rhinos experience and fitness showing.
Following on from last season’s success, the Hawks looked to launch pre-season 2015 with a win in the traditional derby against Leeds Rhinos for the Lazenby Cup.
The Rhinos, returning from a pre-season trip to America, named a strong side for the game with seven of the Rhinos first team getting the call.
The Hawks opened the scoring just 7 minutes in, following errors from both sides, Prop Brad Brennan pushing his way through to score under the posts.
Danny Ansell cleanly kicked the conversion to give hope to the home fans and give them a lead of 6 within the first 10 minutes.
Hunslet looked to take the game to the Rhinos following the early try keeping possession in their opponents half before nearly doubling the lead from a kick. Fortunately for the visitors, youngster Ashton Golding was there to prevent the kick being pounced upon.
A further chance fell again for the Hawks as Leeds’ captain for the day Brad Singleton fumbled the ball, but the Hawks could not capitalise on the incident, the worsening conditions obviously taking their toll as they knocked on from the restart.
Both teams had a chance to catch their breath momentarily 21 minutes in as Rhinos first team player Mitch Achurch left the field with an eye injury, following a tackle that would unfortunately be his last action of the game.
The Rhinos looked to build from the stoppage in play and use their energy in their first attack of the home end of the pitch. The experience in the Leeds side attempted to push the ball wide to Ash Handley on the wing, but excellent defensive work managed to ensure Handley was in touch before he could make the most of the attack.
Leeds piled on the pressure making the most of handling mistakes and penalties again courtesy of the weather, but couldn’t capitalise thanks to the Hawks’ impressive work as a team.
The Hawks managed to score once again just before the half with a short pass from Matthew Tebb finding the hands of Liam MacKay to increase the lead with 38 minutes gone. Ansell again added the Extras as a jubilant Hawks prepared to leave the pitch with a healthy lead from capitalising on the mistakes from both sides.
The Hawks earned a penalty on the hooter, which Ansell dispatched yet again to increase the home side’s lead into the half to 14-0. The long trip many of the Rhinos players had made from their pre-season camp showing in some of the mistakes.
Hunslet started the second half much as they ended the first, applying plenty of pressure to their Super League opponents, but failed to fully assert the lead as the rain began to take hold causing more unfortunate handling errors from both sides.
The Rhinos superior fitness following their training camp abroad slowly began to become a presence as the territory war in midfield sank slowly back into the home half of the pitch. The Rhinos capitalised, scoring in the 54th minute when George Milton broke the line and scored under the posts, leaving Jordan Lilley an easy conversion and the Rhinos a small window back into the game.
The Rhinos again managed to get Ash Handley in the corner 58 minutes in. This time the winger just about completed the move to bring the Rhinos within range of a full comeback. Lilley missed the conversion on the angle but the Rhinos looked eager make the most of the pressure now being applied to the Hunslet defence.
The Rhinos scored again just 6 minutes later when Brad Singleton collected his own kick after a fortunate rebound landed directly in front of him, Lilley this time made the conversion to give the Rhinos their first lead of the game.
Hunslet didn’t give up though and were unfortunate to concede a penalty for an offside player during an attacking kick 76 minutes in, following pressure only matched by the Rhinos now trademark excellent goal line defence.
The Rhinos had now stolen all momentum and began capitalising on the Hawks’ errors with Ash Handley pouncing on a dropped ball on the goal line to make the game 14-20. Again Lilley converted to take the game 2 scores away from Hunslet.
The visitors, playing to hold out for the win, attempted a drop goal to take the game that bit further from the Hawks. But with the weather again rearing its ugly head allowed the kick to go short only for a wicked twist of fate to see the kick bounce into Jimmy Keinhorst’s hands taking the game out of reach with just seconds left.
With that the visitors took back the historic cup winning 14-28 on the day. The experience and superior early season fitness of the Rhinos a factor in a poor second half.
Lots to take forward now for the Hawks. A difficult loss against the local rivals can only spur them on for a battle against Salford next Saturday (24th) and Doncaster on Sunday (25th)
The real winners today though are the fans following a fantastic effort from everyone at both clubs to ensure the game went ahead despite the weather doing its best to prevent proceedings and usher on the next nine months of fun for the Hawks.
Congratulations to the Hawks’ Jack Lee who was named man of the match.
Match report by Tom Leak