Rochdale Hornets 22-35 Hunslet RLFC
Hunslet avoided a potential banana skin at the Crown Oil Arena beating Rochdale Hornets to cement their second place in the Betfred League 1.
With Dewsbury beating Workington Town it means the Rams gain promotion as Champions, but unless Hunslet lose both of their remaining games they will finish runner up and therefore have home advantage in the Promotion Play-offs.
A second half fightback from the Hornets tested the Parksiders, but cool heads steadied the ship and a brace of tries from Joe Burton and Johnny Campbell saw the Myrtle, white and flames home.
It was a dream start for Hunslet after a Myles Lawford kick and great defence ended in the Hornets dropping out. Moments later on only 3 minutes Harvey Hallas proved too strong for the Hornets’ defence after Michael Knowles had slipped him the ball on the last tackle. 0-6
Before Rochdale could recover Knowles broke the line, feeding Aaron York who sent Adam Ryder on a rampage to the line. 0-12 and only 6 minutes played.
Rochdale now got a bit of possession and looked threatening, but a loose pass was intercepted by Joe Burton who ran 70 yards to score, 0-16 and possibly game over?
Hunslet’s defence has been exceptional this season and the home side now tested it realising they needed a change of fortune to get back in the game. That fortune came on 21 minutes when Michael Knowles was sin-binned for a late tackle.
Jack Render was unlucky with two interception attempts and Josh Jordan-Roberts held the line with some fine tackling, but on 28 minutes after a Hornets break Aiden Roden took advantage of Hunslet’s diminished defence to score from close in. 4-16
With 12v13 the game went into an even battle with no team gaining an advantage, but as Knowles re-entered the fray Matty Beharrell stole the ball and quick hands including Beharrell and Joe Burton to the left sent Johnny Campbell in at the corner. 4-20 Beharrell for the second time hitting the uprights with the conversion.
Joe Burton again looked threatening, but Johnny Campbell was penalised during the move and the half ended with Hunslet well on top leading 4-20.
Hunslet have normally been good in the second half this season, but today were still in the sheds when on 41 minutes after a penalty for a high tackle Ben Forster scythed through the Hunslet defence to score under the posts. 20-10
Uncharacteristic mistakes took hold, and after Myles Lawford was tackled over the line former Hunslet captain Duane Straugheir forced his way in under the posts, David Hewitt converting. 16-20
Myles Lawford looks a class apart at times and the tricky half back set Jack Render off up the wing. Although Hunslet forced a drop out and put on some pressure the final pass went to ground and on the hour it was anyone’s game.
Nerves set in on 61 minutes as Rochdale broke down the left. Although Myles Lawford made the tackle, quick hands sent Aaron Smith under the posts and with Hewitt’s conversion Hornets had an unlikely 22-20 lead.
The Parksiders now needed inspiration, and it came in the form of a Matty Beharrell spiralling kick. The Hornet’s full-back couldn’t hold on and Hunslet had good field position. Marcus Green sucked in defenders before Beharrell sent Joe Burton over in the left corner. 22-24
Confidence came back to the visitors and on 72 minutes Crossley released the ball and Lawford was quick to put a smart kick up for Jack Render who is always favourite to score in these situations, but managed to wrestle the ball away and over the line for a fine try. 22-28
Although Hunslet bombed another try from a Beharrell break, both Joe Burton and Marcus Green made good yards to set up the half back perfectly to drop a goal and stretch the lead to seven points. 22-29
In added time Hunslet put the game to bed when another Beharrell kick was well taken by Johnny Campbell who scored his second of the afternoon, Beharrell converting 22-35.
From a 0-16 lead Hunslet should never have been in trouble, but a lively Hornets side tested their mettle and when backs were to the wall the Parksiders came out fighting, showing a spirit they will certainly need to gain promotion.
Beharrell and Lawford were excellent at half-back. Whilst Joe Burton and Jack Render are always a threat. On-loan forward Marcus Green was also excellent in the last quarter when Hunslet needed some real go forward.
Next week is a rest week for the Challenge Cup Final before Hunslet entertain London Skolars on 20 August in their penultimate League game of the season.
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, Ollie Burton. Interchange: Lewis Wray, Marcus Green, Jordan Syme, Alfie Goddard.
Rochdale Hornets: Ben O’Keefe, Dan Harrison, Dan Brewin, Jacob Gannon, Cian Tyrer, Lewis Else, David Hewitt, Jacob Jones, Aiden Roden, Lewis Peachey, Connor Ratcliffe, Ben Forster, Duane Straugheir. Interchange: Aaron Smith, AJ Boardman, Toby Brannan, Ben Killan. 18th Player: Cam Berry.
All pictures Craig Irvine