Doncaster RLFC 18-16 Hunslet RLFC
Hunslet came close to getting off to a fantastic start in this year’s Betfred League 1 Championship losing to bookies favourites Doncaster by a narrow 2 point margin yesterday (19 February 2023).
Jack Render’s 73rd minute try gave Hunslet a chance to pull level, but Jake Sweeting’s attempt at a difficult conversion agonisingly hit the woodwork and bounced the wrong side of the crossbar.
In truth the Parksiders, who will be disappointed, have a lot to take from this game and although the result didn’t go their way the performance was positive.
Hunslet were out of the blocks quickly and throwing the ball about with some aplomb set up good field position in which Jake Sweeting’s neat inside ball hit Joe Burton, who was too strong for the Dons defence. 0-6 after only 3 minutes.
Doncaster were pegged back and Hunslet were unlucky not to add to the lead, forcing two drop outs (both from dangerous Hunslet kicks), but the Dons defence held firm and after a penalty Hunslet conceded for a late tackle finally got into an attacking position.
Connor Robinson was always a threat for the Dons and was at the hub of all their good play. But Hunslet’s defence held firm and Jack Render shepherded out a threatening grubber kick.
The Parksiders had another chance to extend their lead when a great Aaron York ball sent Nathan Conroy close, but on 17 minutes Hunslet regretted their missed chances when Robinson broke and fed Elliot Hall who scampered over to score. Robinson converting 6-6.
Doncaster, now back in the game, riled Hunslet who now lost a bit of discipline giving away penalties. An injury to key man Michael Knowles also unsettled the Parksiders, and Jimmy Watson had to be on hand to rescue a prying Doncaster attack.
Minutes later a deeper Doncaster kick went dead and quick thinking from Jack Render set up an attack for Nathan Conroy. The field position meant Aaron York could go close to scoring against his former club.
But it was that man Robinson again who showed his skills, making a break on 37 minutes before good handling sent Loui McConnell over to give Doncaster a 12-6 lead.
That was already harsh on Hunslet but on the halftime hooter Ben Johnston was forced to head wide after his players had over ran him. This fooled Hunslet and Tom Halliday was able to sneak in at the corner. Robinson converting. 18-6 at the break.
A great half of rugby between two evenly matched teams continued in the second period when Sam Hallas for Hunslet found a slight gap but couldn’t find a supporting player to score.
The game went into a bit of an arm wrestle and time was ticking away for The Parksiders, but on 56 minutes Doncaster were penalised after an altercation with Josh Jordan-Roberts and from the resulting set Steve Crossley was able to power over under the posts. Sweeting converting and it was game on 18-12.
Hunslet’s centres were both looking dangerous. Joe Burton and Adam Ryder always looked likely to break a tackle, and it now looked as if Hunslet were likely to score again.
Jake Sweeting put a spiralling bomb in the air and Doncasters defenders didn’t get anywhere near it, Sam Hallas swept it up and sent Daniel Barcoe on a run. Although the ball went to ground a Dons player got a boot to it, but it went to Jack Render who scored to put Hunslet within 2 points.
Even after Jake Sweeting’s post hitting conversion Hunslet had chances, but Doncaster held out to take the two points and get their season off to a good start.
If critical, Hunslet will be annoyed they didn’t capitalise on early pressure and take the game away from Doncaster, and conceding two tries so close to half time is tough, but Coach Alan Kilshaw will be pleased at his team’s efforts.
Losing Michael Knowles early was a big factor, but with stand-out performances from Steve Crossley, Nathan Conroy, Joe Burton and Man of the Match Sam Hallas it won’t be long before Hunslet climb this League 1 table.
Hunslet RLFC: Jimmy Watson, Jack Render, Adam Ryder, Jo Burton, Kieron Lawton, Jake Sweeting, Nathan Conroy, Harvey Hallas, Sam Hallas, Steve Crossley, Josh Jordan-Roberts, Aaron York, Mike Knowles. Interchanges: Danny Barcoe, Nathan Newbound, Lewis Wray, Jordan Bull. 18th Player: Jordan Syme
Doncaster RLFC: Elliot Hall, Tom Halliday, Brad Hey, Jack Sanderson, Travis Corion, Ben Johnston, Connor Robinson, Keelan Foster, Greg Burns, Matt James, Sam Smeaton, Brett Ferres, Loui McConnell. Interchanges: Brad Knowles, Dave Petersen, Aaron Ollett-Hobson, Jose Kenga. 18th Player: Ross Whitmore
Referee: B Milligan