Hunslet consolidated second spot in the Betfred League 1 table – and may have leaders Dewsbury, who visit the South Leeds Stadium on the last day of July, getting nervy – with a hugely impressive 21-8 win over third-placed Oldham on Sunday.
The victory was reward for a remarkable defensive effort for much of the first half, when the Parksiders struggled to retain possession, and for an ability to turn opportunities into points.
Oldham went in front with a penalty in the 32nd minute by Martyn Ridyard – the visitors’ option of going for goal rather than running the ball boosting the home side’s confidence immensely, insists Hunslet coach Alan Kilshaw – but the home side went in at the break 12-2 up, Myles Lawford sidestepping his way over from short range and then giving the prolific try-scorer Jack Render a chance he took in fine style.
Matty Beharrell improved both scores (the second from the touchline) and the Parksiders stretched their lead to 16 points when Joe Burton swept over four minutes into the second period off a smart ball by Beharrell, who added the extras.
That was extended to 18 points when Beharrell booted a penalty when, after he had forced a goal-line drop-out, Oldham kicked out on the full. And although the Roughyeds scored from the restart, Connor Carr collecting the kick-off in memorable fashion and Ridyard improving, a drop-goal by Michael Knowles saw Hunslet home against an Oldham outfit that didn’t help its own cause by having Deane Meadows and Luke Nelmes sin-binned in the closing quarter for, respectively, delaying a restart and a late challenge on that man Beharrell.
“It was a terrific defensive effort for 35 minutes,” said Kilshaw, “and although for much of the first half few 50/50 decisions went our way we took too many chances with the ball and were loose with our offloads and passes, which are things we can control.
“Oldham are a good attacking team and the fact that we kept them to just one try is testament to our resilience and our defence. And it was so very telling that they chose to go for goal when we were penalised close to our line. That gave us a lot of confidence, and we bounced back from that score with two quick tries before the interval and another early in the second half. That’s what good teams do, and it’s something we’ve now done in consecutive games, including at Midlands Hurricanes the previous week.”
`Killer’ is also buoyed by the fact that Hunslet, who have recruited significantly in recent months, still have improvement in them. “That’s a good position to be in, and I cite it as a positive,” he said in reflecting on another impressive display. “Much of it stems from our defeat at Oldham in early June, following which we’ve signed Oli Burton and Myles Lawford and moved Sam Hallas to hooker, plus we’ve got Jimmy Watson at fullback again after recovering from his finger injury.
“Alfie Goddard made a big contribution against Oldham, playing on despite injuring his ankle in the first half, while I was very pleased how Lewis Wray, Oli Burton and Marcus Green did everything I asked of them coming off the bench and helped swing the game our way.”