Hunslet 14-16 Keighley Cougars
Hunslet’s dreams of Wembley were ended yesterday (12 March 2023) by Championship side Keighley Cougars in a game that was much closer than some had predicted.
In truth with the Cougars having a man sent off on the 50th minute, Hunslet would have hoped to have had enough to beat their rivals, but time was against them and the Cougars held on for victory.
Both teams had a few players missing, but Keighley started off the better side. Last season’s controversial late try scorer (and former Parksider) Mo Agoro made an early break down the right, and a few plays later Hunslet fumbled a kick meaning Keighley got the scrum.
Alix Stephenson sliced through the home defence straight from the scrum to open the scoring and Lewis Young added the extras with only 6 minutes on the clock. 0-6
Keighley came again, but Hunslet defended well, before winger Dan McGrath had to leave the field with concussion after confusedly playing the ball to the opposition.
Coming into the game Hunslet were unlucky when Punchard and Hallas combined to find a hole in the defence, but were brought back for a forward pass.
Now Hunslet were finding a bit of form, Michael Knowles’ kick was fumbled before Adam Ryder was only stopped from scoring by a last ditch grab of his shirt.
Both teams were making mistakes as the game stop/started rather than flowed. But after two Hunslet players collided trying to field a catch Keighley put on pressure, and it was only a swipe from Joe Burton that stopped the Cougars scoring from a chip kick.
Things got worse for the Parksiders when Sam Hallas was sin-binned for kicking out and on 36 minutes Keighley used their number advantage to ship it quickly to Robbie Storey who scored, Lewis Young converting 0-12.
The game could have been over had Keighley scored again, but the 12 men of Hunslet had the half’s final say. Punchard’s deft kick was volleyed by Adam Ryder and then regained for the big centre to score a skilful try. Although there was no conversion at 4-12 at the break there was nothing in it.
The second half started with both teams making unforced errors, but on 50 minutes the dynamic changed as former Hunslet man Lewis Young was sent off for punching, leaving the Cougars half an hour with only 12 men and a slim 8 point lead.
Hunslet went close with Jack Render being tackled inches from the corner and this good defence seemed to spur the visitors on. On 53 minutes Robbie Storey made a break on the right and only a Jimmy Watson tackle stopped him from scoring, but from the play the ball Aaron Levy was too strong for Hunslet and Keighley stretched their lead to 4-16.
Hunslet didn’t give up and unluckily Morgan Punchard was millimetres away from a brilliant 40/20. But Keighley were tiring and the man advantage got the home side on the front foot.
Hunslet pressure eventually told when a superb Michael Knowles ball sent 18 year old Brad Wheeler over for a try. 8-16 with 20 minutes to go.
The veteran Knowles (playing at half back) was starting to control the game, and another superb ball to Joe Burton gave the ex-Bradford Bull a chance to show his strength close to the line. Wrestling his way over for a try. Knowles conversion made it 14-16 with 7 minutes to go.
With Hunslet putting Keighley under pressure Michael Knowles again took charge with an inside ball to Jimmy Watson who was held just short.
But time was running out for the Parksiders and with a possible last set to try and get the winning try fate dealt them a bad hand when a Keighley kick rebounded and a Hunslet man in an offside position through reflex more than anything dived on the ball.
Keighley took the penalty and slowly killed the game, happy to hear the final hooter.
So it’s not to be a long cup run for the Parksiders this year, but if they can push a good Keighley side this close they should be soon be picking up the wins in League 1.
Michael Knowles won the Supporters Man of the Match with Adam Ryder getting the Sponsors vote, whilst Jimmy Watson, Joe Burton and Morgan Punchard also had fine games.
Hunslet return to Betfred League 1 action next week away to London Skolars.
Congratulations to Hunslet ARLFC who beat Westgate Common on Saturday and are through to the next round of the Challenge Cup.
Hunslet RLFC: Jimmy Watson, Jack Render, Adam Ryder, Joe Burton, Dan McGrath, Mike Knowles, Morgan Punchard, Harvey Hallas, Sam Hallas, Jordan Bull, Josh Jordan-Roberts, Aaron York, Jordan Syme. Interchanges: Harvey Whiteley, Nathan Newbound, Lewis Wray, Brad Wheeler. 18th man: Danny Barcoe
Keighley Cougars: Lewis Young, Mobolaji Agoro, Robbie Storey, Charlie Graham, Keenan Dyer-Dixon, Alix Stephenson, Billy Gaylor, Brendan Santi, Thomas Doyle, Mark Ioane, Keenan Tomlinson, Daniel Parker, Kyle Kesik. Interchanges: Harvey Spencer, Toby Everett, Aaron Levy, Nathan Roebuck. 18th man: Sadiq Abediyi
Match Pictures Paul Whitehurst