Head coach Alan Kilshaw was as delighted as any of the Parksiders’ loyal supporters by the way his side dominated the closing stages of Sunday’s Betfred League 1 fixture at Doncaster to prevail 46-24.
Fans could have been forgiven for fearing the worst when the Dons, who had trailed 22-6 at one stage, clawed their way back to only 26-24 adrift.
But Hunslet, who had lost at Coventry after having been 22 points clear with time running out a month or so ago (and who had been held to a draw by Keighley in the last fixture of July after having led 20-10 with only a couple of minutes remaining) were in no mood to concede on this occasion. And victory was the more impressive considering that the Parksiders lacked such as scrum-half Dom Brambani and captain Duane Straugheir (both self-isolating), stand-off Simon Brown, who had not quite recovered from a rib injury, and new signing Reece Chapman-Smith, who was unavailable because of a pre-booked holiday.
Hunslet had stand-out performers in hooker Vila Halafihi and halfback Dave Gibbons, while another hooker – Nathan Conroy – shone at scrum-half.
Killshaw, reflecting on his unbeaten start as Hunslet coach, said: “Nerves set in when Doncaster came back to within a couple of points, that’s for sure, but it might help us. The way we regrouped with three unanswered tries, despite the opposition having established some momentum, proves that we can kick on in situations like that.
“I was nervous at 26-24, admittedly, but I knew that we had more points in us, and I was confident in our defence. We defended four consecutive sets on our own line in the first half before young Gibbons forced a goal-line drop out with a superb kick, which led to us scoring.
“There was a similar period in the second half when we repelled a lot of pressure and then scored, so I have to be pleased. We need to cut out some silly mistakes and improve on our discipline, but we were inevitably a bit clunky at times on Sunday given that we had three hookers on the pitch, including debutant Harvey Whiteley, who went well.”
`Killer’ is addressing, with his players, Hunslet’s season-long habit of allowing opponents back into games. “Players such as Doncaster’s Matty Beharrell and Jason Tali will always take advantage if opponents relax at all,” he said: “But we emerged victorious, and we deserved to. We would have taken any kind of win in the circumstances, but to get one on the back of such a decent performance is all the sweeter.”
The only negative for Hunslet was a leg injury sustained by Will Cooke in the act of scoring – the diagnosis as to whether it’s hamstring trouble or ligament damage is due shortly. “We opted not to risk Simon Brown at Doncaster, but he should have fully recovered from his rib injury in time for the weekend’s fixture at Barrow,” said Killer. “The fact that we turned in such a good performance without so many experienced and key players speaks volumes for our squad strength, and of the spirit in the camp. Both are important in Rugby League.”