A young Hunslet side showed impressive composure in easing to a 44-18 home win over Salford Red Devils Reserves on Friday evening.
The Betfred League One outfit, who had earned plaudits in a 20-12 reverse against Championship bigwigs Batley Bulldogs four days earlier, rang the changes against Salford as head coach Alan Kilshaw continued his policy of giving each and every member of his squad a run-out in pre-season friendlies, which culminate on Sunday (12 February) with the home Harry Jepson OBE Memorial Trophy clash with Leeds Rhinos (3.00pm).
Salford, who fielded several players nurtured at the Wales National Rugby League Academy, led 18-14 at the break, Billy Walkley having converted tries by Alex Davidson, Euan Haynes and Samir Tahraoui.
But Hunslet, for whom Kieron Lawton had improved one of touchdowns by Jordan Syme, Brad Wheeler and Harvey Whiteley, had the capacity to up the tempo at the business end of the contest.
One of the team’s three trialists scythed his way through on 42 minutes, Aaron York and Lewis Wray swept in before the hour, and victory was sealed with tries in the closing quarter for York, Sean Croston and Jack Render. Lawton, meanwhile, landed two more goals and Morgan Punchard converted the last score.
Kilshaw said: “We let two or three opportunities slip in the first half, but improved after the interval, and kept a side that is quite handy with the ball scoreless.
“We’ve now had a couple of very useful hit-outs against two different types of teams. The match against Batley was very productive, when we performed well against a leading Championship side, and the game against Salford also served a highly worthwhile purpose, not least because we left our leadership group out and focused predominantly on our younger players.
“While I’m loath to pick out any players who have particularly impressed in our two friendlies, one I would like to mention is Brad Wheeler, who is a local lad from Hunslet amateur Rugby League. He performed well against Salford, taking his try well and setting up another with a very good run before we took him off; he’s only 18 and it’s only right to nurture him properly at that age. And what I can say is that I stressed to the squad at the start of pre-season training that we would not talk to them about energy and effort. That should be a given. Everyone has provided exactly that and deserves big raps.”
He concluded: “Everyone’s had a run-out now other than Rob Worrincy, who couldn’t turn out against Salford as he was held up at work at the last minute, Peter Ryan, who injured a hand playing student Rugby League, and suspended Jamie Greenwood. We’ll be selecting a fairly strong team against Leeds Rhinos, without too many substitutes, although that’s not to be taken as meaning the side we name will automatically be our line-up when Betfred League One programme opens.”