Hunslet’s helter-skelter of a Betfred League 1 season ended in disappointing fashion with a 31-10 defeat at Doncaster in the elimination promotion semi-final.
The Parksiders, who had been in danger of not making the play-offs when head coach Alan Kilshaw was appointed in July, had been seen in many quarters as favourites going into the match, having scuttled the Dons at the same venue at the beginning of August – and having comfortably beaten second-placed Workington Town in Cumbria seven days earlier.
The south Leeds outfit started brightly, Wayne Reittie pouncing on Dom Brambani’s smart kick. But Hunslet were 25 points down before registering their next try, Matty Chrimes grabbing the last score of the game.
Between-times, Doncaster had much the better of exchanges and Kilshaw said: “We just didn’t translate our planning into performance and consequently we got what we deserved.
“It’s been a full-on eight weeks since I arrived, and I don’t know whether it may have caught up with us. But for whatever reason Doncaster did the fundamentals better than us – they had better set completion, they missed fewer tackles, they kicked to the corners better, they were just better all-round than we were. By contrast we played as individuals.”
He reflected: “Maybe scoring first actually didn’t help us, as can sometimes be the case in Rugby League.
“We seemed to drift off the game plan from that point but, having said that, if we’d gone 12-0 up (and we did have scoring opportunities that we didn’t take) I really do believe that we could have blown them away, but it wasn’t to be.
“We’re a confidence team, and if things are going well we really can hit top gear. But if they’re not, we can start to struggle, and we moved away from the game plan on Sunday. Gaps were being created but all too often the final pass wasn’t executed, it seemed that wrong decisions were being made under pressure. But at 13-6 behind I felt we could have run them down until they scored an interception try.”
He concluded: “Ultimately, we didn’t put a performance in, in our biggest game of the year, and it’s no secret that there could now be a lot of changes in the squad, with a number of players who are targets of Championship clubs possibly moving on. I thank those players for their contribution; despite the fact that we’re out of the promotion play-offs we’ve made a lot of progress. And I’d also like to thank the Rugby Football League for working so hard in difficult circumstances to ensure that this has been a meaningful season for everyone. The RFL tends to take a lot of flak, but credit where credit’s due.”