Any spectators hoping for an open flowing game of rugby league would have been disappointed as the weather deteriorated towards kick off with wind, torrential rain and freezing cold conditions ensuring that this encounter would be a battle rather than a spectacle.
As in recent games the Hawks started the game at a fast and furious pace dominating all the early play and after 5 minutes came close to scoring when a difficult ball was not gathered in by Richie Barnett who would have almost certainly scored. The conditions lead to both teams spilling the ball a number of times but all the early play was in the Sheffield half. Hunslet’s early pressure paid off when on 15 minutes a brilliant ball from Paul March was pounced on by Tommy Haughey who cut inside the Eagles defence to score just under the sticks.Danny Ratcliffe, who assumed kicking duties, knocked the ball over to add the extra two giving Hunslet a deserved 6-0 lead. The rest of the half carried on in much the same vein with Hunslet spending almost the whole time in the Eagles’ half of the field. It was a mystery how the score stayed 6-0 until half time with only desperate defending from the Sheffield side keeping the Hawks at bay.
With conditions brightening up but the ball still being slippery, Hunslet unfortunately knocked on from the Sheffield kick off giving the Eagles a scrum. Two plays later a Sheffield grubber kick which appeared to go beyond the in goal area was touched down by Menzie Yere giving Sheffield a hardly deserved lifeline, which was successfully converted. After this the ball was mainly in the possession of Sheffield. One of Hunslet’s rare attacks ended in Tommy Haughey being laid flat out from a high tackle. Hunslet regained their advantage when Sheffield ripped the ball from a Hawk’s hand during a 3 man tackle, the resulting penalty saw Danny Ratcliffe add another 2 points putting the Hunslet side 8-6 up. The earlier high tackle from Sheffield was one of many which eventually saw another penalty given against the Eagles, again put over the sticks by Danny Ratcliffe who was having a stormer of a game. The two penalties converted by Hunslet were a much needed break from the Sheffield onslaught which had been on going from the second half kick off. The pressure told when they crossed the line on 60 minutes after a high ball bounced out of Richie Barnett’s arms and was pounced on by Sheffield’s Corey Hanson, again converted, putting Sheffield in the lead for the first time in the game at 12-8.
This seemed to be a wake up call for the Hawks who now started to apply their own pressure, resulting in a penalty which was put narrowly wide by Danny Ratcliffe. Hunslet were forcing issues with the players giving their all for the cause; Richard Chapman, Danny Ratcliffe, Neil Lowe and Danny Grimshaw all having excellent games. Hunslet were now attacking the Sheffield line at will and the vocal travelling support were sent into raptures when Danny Grimshaw latched onto a Paul March pass to weave his way through the Eagles defence in his usual style. Danny Ratcliffe rounded off an excellent individual display by putting the game out of Sheffield’s reach.
All in all an excellent display again by the Hawks giving them every chance of progressing through to the quarter finals of the National Rail Cup.
After the match, coach Paul March paid tribute to his team’s defence. “To keep a clean sheet for 120 minutes of football is excellent defence by anyone’s standards. We only conceded in the second half today after a couple of speculative kicks, which are hard to deal with in these wet and windy conditions. We will look forward to our meeting with Warrington Wizards next week in the Challenge Cup, when we know that our defence will have to be up to our usual high standards.”
Well done to the lads, and hopefully another cup victory over the Wizards in next Sunday’s Challenge Cup Tie at The South Leeds Stadium, kick off at 3pm (and free admission to all season ticket holders!)
See you there