Hunslet’s reward for the impressive 36-4 victory over Coventry Bears on Sunday in the Coral Challenge Cup is a trip to fellow Betfred League 1 outfit North Wales Crusaders in the fourth round on the weekend of 22/23 February.
Head coach Gary Thornton admitted: “I was hoping for a home draw but it could have been a lot worse. It’s not too far to travel, compared to Cumbria or London, and it’s certainly a tie we’re capable of winning, although we’re very aware that we’ll have to be at our best.
“It’s not an easy place to go, we’ve had a few wins there although our victory a couple of years ago in the league perhaps had an element of good fortune about it, when we edged it through a controversial late drop goal.”
He reflected: “North Wales are a good side, well-coached by Anthony Murray, and they had a big win at Rochdale Mayfield last Sunday, when they racked up the points in the second half.
“But we’ve started the year in decent form ourselves, with three satisfactory wins in pre-season followed up by the victory over Coventry. As we’ve no game on Sunday because of Keighley’s involvement in the Challenge Cup I may pop down to their match against Doncaster to take a look at them.”
Winger Matty Chrimes (rolled ankle) and second row Josh Tonks (calf) came off against Coventry and Thornton will check on their fitness this week. Meanwhile he is delighted by how the players responded to his half-time team-talk against the Bears. “We tried to play the kind of expansive rugby which has served us well in our pre-season wins in the first half,” he said, “but the conditions, with a swirling wind and a heavy pitch, were against it; the ball went to ground a lot and we squandered quite a few chances.
“Maybe it can be put down to me that we’d adopted that approach; I changed our strategy at half-time and what delighted me as much as anything about our win was that the players put into practice, in the second half, exactly what I wanted them to do.
“We ended up winning fairly comfortably after having been only 8-4 ahead, Coventry having scored their try while we were down to twelve men following Zach Braham’s sin-binning.
“That’s very pleasing, while it was good to see so many of the players’ wives, girlfriends and families with them after the game. That, to me, is a massively important factor in any team being successful. And I have to pay tribute to the volunteers who made sure that the game went ahead by forking the pitch and sweeping water off it on a day when many matches elsewhere were postponed.”