Match Report by Official Matchday Reporter Tom Leak
Big money Salford squad show their guns in big win over Hawks in the first of the weekend’s big clashes.
In the opener to this weekend’s double showing for the Hawks an almost full strength Devils came to the South Leeds Stadium and showed they’re worth the money paid to assemble them, in a dominant display.
The Hawks coming off the back of a difficult loss to local rivals Leeds Rhinos in the Lazenby Cup named four of their new recruits on dual registration from Rhinos in the game. Looking for a better display defensively, Hawks fans could only look up.
The Hawks started strong against the Devils forcing the visitors towards their own line and a kick, both sides set into an early rhythm, completing sets and battling to take the early upper hand with neither taking control of the game.
Until 6 minutes in Niall Evalds, in support of Gareth Hock, took his chance and saw a break in the Hunslet line. Quick defence from the Hawks managed to drag Evalds down, but now just 10 meters out the slick passing play now a feature in the Devils play, saw Scott Taylor over for the first points of the game.
Rangi Chase converted the score to give the visitors an early advantage and a quick 0-6 lead.
Hunslet kicked off looking to take back some of the early control they had but less than 2 minutes later with both teams bunching towards the centre of the pitch Salford found an open Caton-Brown who ran it home to make it 0-12.
Again Chase kicked the extras to double the initial lead making Hunslets route back into the game that little bit harder.
Hunslet kicked off, this time attempting a short kick targeted at Gareth Hock, Hock not expecting the short kick was carried back nearly 30 meters before spilling the ball which was swiftly picked up to surely give the Hawks their first points of the game.
The crowd’s cheers swiftly turned to boos as the referee disallowed the try for what appeared to be a knock on just shy of the line.
Salford’s penalty couldn’t find touch, but the Hawks luck was now well and truly gone as the ball was knocked on accidentally giving Salford again the advantage. The visitors used the boost of the lucky knock on and tried to take it to the Hawks, but another penalty turned the ball over yet again, the Referee, conditions and fatigue all playing a factor in the sloppy play.
The Hawks took over the ball just over the half way line, another Salford penalty taking them yet further into Salford’s territory, the Hawks beginning to look strong as they neared the line. But again a mishandled pass handed the visitors the chance to take all the momentum back following the drive.
The Red Devils spurred on by the unlucky loose pass took the ball back to the Hawks’ end in an attempt to regain the momentum. The short burst from both teams was now beginning to slow back to the earlier midfield territory war, Salford and Hunslet throwing everything at each other.
Salford again began to slowly apply the pressure they showed in scoring the early trys, with Hunslet again relying on their strong goal line defence, neatly dealing with the attempted kicks to force multiple drop outs for the home team.
The Devils continued their attack until a Rangi Chase, relatively quiet until now, used a burst of his distinctive flair in the 20th minute of the game to create the inch of room in the Hunslet line to score the third of the game and extend the visitors the lead, going in under the posts and converting his own try to make the game 0-18.
Hunslet again attempted a worked kick off this time managing to take control of the ball 20 meters from the line.
The Salford forwards, in a show of experience and skill held off the attacks. Another penalty gave Salford yet more trouble on the line, something not easily dealt with, but the Devils handled the attack well.
The Hawks looking to work their way back into the game attempted to spread the ball to the wing but another missed pass prevented the Hawks from making the most of the well worked kick and a strong attack.
Both teams sank deep and protected their own halves as the game grew on. The Hawks slowly coming more and more into the game, the Super League side a difficult challenge for the home team.
A penalty took the Hawks again just past the half way line, on the attack again and now pressing, the home side quickly gained territory but with luck well and truly on Salford’s side, the final pass to complete what had been an excellent move was intercepted.
A lucky Greg Johnson on the end of a wayward pass sprinted the length of the pitch to take the game even further away from Hunslet. Chase again converted to make it 0-24 with 12 minutes remaining in the half
A knock on from another short kick off gifted the home team a scrum, the Hawks now looking decent every chance of possession. But just 20 meters from the line, the Hawks, their own worst enemy again, gifted another knock on to Salford again loosing all forward momentum
The game now awash with errors and penalties sunk back into a midfield battle with both team’s forwards providing big offence and defence. A huge hit from Brad Brennan sent Harrison Hanson flying, a war of attrition developed in the midfield as both teams showed off their big guns.
The tough defence and offence took its toll on the Hawks as Matthew Tebb was on the receiving end of a Salford drive, having to leave the field on a stretcher following an unfortunate collision.
The game stuck at the same momentum following Tebb’s departure up until half time. Although they struggled to find the line, the Hawks defence became the real showpiece of the first half, the big spending of the Devils showing its work exploiting even the most miniscule gap.
The Hawks began the second period with both feet on the pedal, much like the first half. But another mishandled ball halted the attack without anything to show.
A strong defensive set from Salford pushed Hunslet back to their own 10, Salford quickly capitalised on the the forward pressure from the Hawks, turning all their momentum against them managing to slip in a tight angled kick for another try, not the start the Hawks wanted for the second half.
Chase, in excellent form, again kicked the extras, taking the away side’s lead up to 30.
Following the kick off, back to back penalties gave Hunslet the gift of good field position and another chance to pile the pressure on, much like the first half and find the break in the game to score their first points. But once again the experience in the Devils side forced another mishandled ball giving Salford an opportunity to clear their lines and halt the Hawks attack.
Despite their experience, ill-discipline began to over as the Devils were penalised twice in quick succession for laying on and high tackles giving the home side repeat sets, and leaving Salford finding themselves placed on a team warning.
The pressure being applied by the Hawks was their best spell of the game so far. The home fans perked up at the thought of a way back in, increased their noise as they pushed the team on to find the elusive Salford line.
The Hawks began to look even more likely to score with almost constant pressure now, visibly tiring the Salford defence. The Devils more experienced players now attempting to slow down the play by laying on, Gareth Hock at his tempestuous best managed to draw both sides into a scuffle, the handbags well and truly out.
The scuffle largely caused by Hock worked favourably for the visitors though as the referee awarded them the penalty. Another decision the home fans were less than pleased with, the luck and now the decisions seeming to favour the visitors.
Salford did not let up though as they stole all momentum back and turned the game back into a battle between the teams, both Weller Hauraki and Brooke Broughton giving everything to take the momentum from the other team.
The war and pitch were taking their toll and the game became even sloppier, with both sets of players looking extremely tired. A slip from a goal line dropout gifted Salford great position to attack from and the Red Devils capitalised. The visitors piled on the pressure forcing a scrum just 10 meters out. Working it well, Rangi Chase showed the skill he’s gifted with and slipped past to score a second try. Tired legs could be the only reason he missed the subsequent kick, the score now 0-34 with just 7 minutes left to play.
The travelling Salford fans found their voice as the game reached its peak and the team duly delivered with 2 more trys in quick succession.
The first from Caton-Brown, his second of the game (kick missed by Chase) and the second less than a minute later scored directly from the kick off by Niall Evalds who took advantage of the unawares and tired Hawks. This time Chase successfully added the extras.
With the home fans restless and the away fans party starting the game was almost up.
The Super League side, perhaps as more of a statement to the teams they will face in the upcoming season didn’t stop there though. With seconds left the visitors tried another audacious move to add even more points to the scoreboard.
The luck finally swung in Hunslet’s favour, but it was all too late as the hooter sounded to bring what had been an incredibly tough game of rugby to an end.
Although the result may not be the prettiest, the Hawks performed well facing a full strength Salford, who despite their critics look a far better side ahead of the upcoming season.
It was a valiant defensive effort from all the Hunslet players, who were more than unlucky not to get any points on the board. There were solid debuts from the new players and a much better defensive performance, the hard work in training clearly showing.
The Hawks now Travel to Doncaster for their second game of the weekend, although hoping for a better scoreline the performance against the Devils may prove difficult to top.
Hunslet Hawks- Elliot, Agoro, Briscoe, Maun, Duckworth, Grimshaw, Gale, Mulhern, Ward, Reed, Cosgrove, Backhouse, Hardbottle. Subs- Tebb, Conway, Martin, Castle, Kain, Akaidere, Broughton, Brennan
Salford Red Devils- Evalds, Ford, Walton, Caton-Brown, Johnson, Chase, Fages, Taylor, Lee, Tasi, Hansen, Hauraki, Hock. Subs- Griffin, Walne, Morley, Forster, Menzies, Puletua, Hood, Gee