Hunslet travelled to the Leigh Sporting Village to face the unbeaten league leaders with a squad shorn of a number of regular players. With a strong wind at their backs, the visitors rather bizarrely began with a short kick off and found themselves immediately under pressure. Some decent defence kept Leigh at bay and the Hawks worked their way upfield. Smart footwork and a great offload from Dave March put Danny Ratcliffe in the clear. Ratcliffe kept a cool head to draw the cover defence and give Richard Chapman the perfect pass to cross under the posts. Ratcliffe converted to give Hunslet the dream start and memories of the trip to Widnes began to come to the minds of the travelling faithful.
These dreams did not last for long, however, as Leigh replied with three tries in the space of 10 minutes. Hunslet were not in the mood to lie down and a tremendous run by debutant Dennis Tuffour took him from within a few yards of his own line to deep into Leigh territory. Tuffour seemed to be held down when he was eventually tackled but the referee chose to penalise Leigh at the next tackle. Quick hands from this penalty enabled centre John Oakes to crash through a despairing tackle. Ratcliffe was unable to land the conversion, but at 16-10 the Hawks were well and truly back in the game. A tremendous hail shower at this point put the dampeners on the Hawks, who allowed Leigh to score two more tries. By some coincidence, Hunslet received a penalty as the half time hooter sounded for the second time in three games, and Ratcliffe duly obliged with the 2 points.
Hunslet could feel reasonably satisfied with a half time score of 28 – 12.
The second half began with Leigh scoring after just two minutes and the visiting fans began to wonder if the flood gates were about to open. Thankfully, the Hawks did not show any signs of giving up and held the Leigh attack at bay. Leigh pressure eventually told and two further tries were conceded before Hunslet showed some attacking flair of their own. First good work from Danny Grimshaw and Dave Clayton put wing Matty Harding over in the corner, but the “try” was disallowed for a foot in touch. Stuart Kain then made a long break from deep with his own half which lead to Dennis Tuffour crossing in the other corner for his first try for the club. Ratcliffe’s excellent conversion brought a further two points, although Leigh finished the scoring with their own converted try.
Overall, it has to be said that the Leigh forwards, and some of their backs as well, were too strong for the Hunslet tacklers to stop effectively, and the speed of the Leigh play around the play the ball also caused problems for the Hawks defence all game. Despite this, Hunslet could take some satisfaction for the way that their attack found holes in the Leigh defence and for their backing up. Had Hunslet not allowed Leigh to score a number of “soft” tries – for example when a short kick-off was gathered by a Leigh player, from a Hunslet tap back, who ran over unopposed – then the score line would have been much more respectable.
Let’s hope for more consistency in defence next week at Bramhall Lane against the Sheffield Eagles.