Its Challenge Cup time again and maybe that’s why the sun was shining on the South Leeds Stadium as the Hawks started their second cup campaign of the season, this time against amateurs Warrington Wizards.
Things were looking good for Hunslet as early as the first minute when David Clayton pounced on a charge down from Cakacaka to put Hunslet’s first points on the board, with Danny Ratcliffe adding the extra two. As in previous weeks, the Hawks defence was on top form moving up quickly at the play of the ball to deny the Wizards any space and keeping their yardage to a minimum. It was not long before the ever reliable Tommy Haughey put Waine Pryce through with a delightful pass that gave the Warrington defence no chance, as Pryce sped past them. Unfortunately Danny Ratcliffe hit the post with the conversion giving Hunslet a 10-0 lead after only 8 minutes. The Hawks dominance was total and four minutes later a grubber through from Waine Pryce sent Luke Haigh over the line to make the score 16-0. Danny Ratcliffe increased the lead to 18-0 with an easy conversion. Tabua Cakacaka was leading the attack with some unstoppable runs drawing two or three of the Warrington defence each time he had the ball. With Warrington having no time to settle themselves due to the Hunslet forwards powerful running and the backs swift handling, Danny Grimshaw was able to cross the line two minutes later after receiving a long pass from David March which split the Wizards defence and Hunslet had crossed the line for the fourth time in the first quarter of the game. No extras were added but Hunslet had a stranglehold on the game and at this point the Wizards did not even look like scoring and the Hawks looked like they could score at will. Shortly afterwards, a neat kick through from David March was grounded just beyond the goal line – or that was the verdict of the touch judge! March made amends for this with a delightful inside ball for Danny Ratcliffe who again sliced open the Warrington defence with a storming diagonal run. Again the extras were not added but with the score at 24-0 it hardly seemed to matter.
At this point the Wizards picked up their game but Hunslet’s defending, which has improved with every game, denied them enough room to throw the ball about as they had done in previous rounds. Warrington’s persistence paid dividends, however, on 28 minutes when Darren Forshaw came round the back of the Hunslet defence to ground the ball from a chip over the top, which the Hawks defence were trying to shepherd over the dead-ball line. With Warren Ayres failing to convert from the touchline the last ten minutes of the first half were played out with neither team really threatening the line, leaving the score at half time 24-4.
The second half followed in much the same vein as the first when, on 44 minutes, some brilliant passing between Grimshaw and Oakes set up Matthew Harding to score in the corner, although Hunslet’s lack of conversions continued even after David March had taken over kicking duties. Shortly afterwards, Danny Grimshaw was sent to the bin after something happened in the tackle which was not obvious from the stands. After this some strong running from John Oakes set Hunslet on their way again making 25 yards and from the play of the ball, half back Richard Chapman scooted between two Wizard defenders and over the line giving Hunslet a 32-4 lead; yet again no extras added. Richard Chapman was running rings around the Warrington defence with his quick ball and equally quick feet, another scoot and quick ball to wing man Matthew Harding put Hunslet over in the corner and, unbelievably, a fifth conversion chance missed, this time by Danny Ratcliffe, who had taken back the goal kicking duties, giving Hunslet a 36-4 lead on 54 minutes.
Despite constant pressure from the Hawks, Warrington never gave up, but their hearts were broken again when eight minutes later John Oakes battered his way over the Wizards line right under the posts, making sure that this time the try was converted, by Danny Ratcliffe. Warrington were trying their hardest but resolute defending by the Hawks was still keeping them at bay. Hunslet scored their last try of the game when Danny Grimshaw stepped off his left foot ten metres out and side stepped two of the Warrington defenders to score a wonderful try on 70 minutes, the extras again by Danny Ratcliffe. All Warrington’s hard work paid off when a fumbled ball by Matthew Harding was carried over the line by Matt Taylor to give Warrington a well deserved consolation try, successfully converted from the touchline by Warren Ayres to put the Wizards into double figures.
With a score line of 48-10 the final hooter went and Hunslet must have wondered how their points tally was not at least 20 points greater, but a win is a win and all in all the lads played well and must have impressed their coach Paul March who was watching from the stands. Well done to all the Hunslet players; a real team performance.
Two games from a Blackpool final and four games from Wembley, with the League due to start next week against York City Knights, these are exciting times for Paul and his boys.
See you next week at the South Leeds Stadium, 3.00pm kick off for the game against York – a big crowd will be really appreciated.