Hunslet RLFC 14-26 Doncaster RLFC
In form Doncaster proved too strong in the last quarter of the match for Hunslet (10 September 2023) at the South Leeds Stadium as they booked a play-off final place and home advantage in the quest for promotion to the Championship.
The Parksiders are not yet out of it and play North Wales Crusaders next Sunday (17 September, 3pm) at the South Leeds Stadium in an eliminator to get another crack at Doncaster in the final.
Truth was there is not much between the teams, but Doncaster coming off the back of some good victories and Hunslet having a few top/start weeks meant the Dons finished the game stronger with three late tries.
It all started so well when the Dons fumbled the kick off and Hunslet took advantage by shipping the ball to the right for big centre Adam Ryder to power over. 6-0
The former Dewsbury man was a handful from the off and had Hunslet scored again it could have been a different game, but after some Dons’ pressure the ball was released late in the tackle and on the last play Mahe Fonua rolled the tackle to score. 6-4
Only 10 minutes gone and Hunslet took two points as Beharrell converted a penalty after Doncaster had taken a man out during a Hunslet attack. 8-4
Both teams were making mistakes, either down to nerves or the humidity on a sweaty day in South Leeds, but full-back Jimmy Watson pulled off a superb try saving tackle when it looked all on a Doncaster try after the visitors opened up the home defence.
Myles Lawford was asking questions of the Dons defence with some clever grubber kicks, but it was a high kick to Jack Render that proved a controversial moment. The winger got up well and took the ball and seemed to wrestle his way over, the referee pointed try, but the touch judge had said double movement and the try was chalked off.
Moments later on 26 minutes, Connor Robinson put a kick of his own up for Doncaster, the ball was palmed back and Mahe Fonua got his second try of the afternoon 8-8.
On the half hour Matty Beharrell again edged Hunslet into the lead when Doncaster were penalised for holding down. 10-8 and it was now Hunslet finishing the half the stronger.
From broken play Wray and Beharrell set up a chance for Campbell, Lewis Wray went close again and Myles Lawford tried a kick at the uprights hoping for a lucky bounce, but Hunslet just couldn’t get over that Dons line.
Doncaster ended the half on the attack but at the break Hunslet led 10-8.
Both teams started the second half nervously making mistakes, but Doncaster started to build pressure and Hunslet’s defence had to be alert to keep them out.
After a kick had run dead Beharrell took a quick tap and soon Hunslet were in position to attack. On 47 minutes Beharrell put a kick up which Johnny Campbell plucked brilliantly out of the sky to score. 14-8
Campbell featured again moments later but this time in defence, leaping well to diffuse a Doncaster bomb, but now Doncaster found themselves up the park in an attacking position.
Jimmy Watson looked to have nabbed the ball when Doncaster looked dangerous, but the full-back had the ball stolen and eventually the pressure told when Ben Johnston went over from close in. 14-14.
Although from the kick off Hunslet forced a drop-out and Myles Lawford was held up, the visitors were now making less mistakes and were looking dangerous. On 63 minutes after a kick and chase Watson Boas was the unlikely winner in a race to score and with Robinson’s conversion Doncaster led 14-20.
Hunslet were penalised for being offside and Robinson’s penalty stretched the lead to 14-22, an 8 point gap and psychologically a massive step with only 10 minutes remaining.
The Parksiders tried to claw themselves back into the game, but it wasn’t to be. Doncaster wrapped it up in the dying minutes when Albert Vete went close and Sam Smeaton spun his way over. 14-26
So disappointment for Hunslet, but no one gets promoted on this match. The last two successful Hunslet play-off attempts have happened after losing this first match. But next week’s eliminator against North Wales will be no walk in the park after their impressive win at Oldham.
Assistant Coach Danny Burton thought Hunslet didn’t deal well with Doncaster’s attacking forwards despite knowing the Dons tactics, but was sure in another attempt his side could come out on top.
Johnny Campbell picked up Supporters and Adam Ryder the sponsors man of the match, whilst Spencer Darley and Sam Hallas also had strong games.
Hunslet play North Wales Crusaders next Sunday (17 September, 3pm) in the Play-off eliminator.
Hunslet RLFC: Jimmy Watson, Jack Render, Adam Ryder, Joe Burton, Johnny Campbell, Matty Beharrell, Myles Lawford, Harvey Hallas, Sam Hallas, Steve Crossley, Josh Jordan-Roberts, Aaron York, Michael Knowles. Interchange: Ollie Burton, Spencer Darley, Lewis Wray, Jordan Syme. 18th Player: Alfie Goddard.
Doncaster RLFC: Josh Guzdek, Tom Halliday, Brad Hey, Mahe Fonua, Misi Taulapapa, Ben Johnston, Connor Robinson, Brad Knowles, Greg Burns, Albert Vete, Sam Smeaton, Brett Ferres, Loui McConnell. Interchange: Watson Boas, Keelan Foster, Alex Holdstock, Matthew James. 18th Player: Luke Cooper.
Pictures courtesy of Craig Irvine