HUNSLET boosted their Betfred League 1 promotion prospects – and raised the prospect of even finishing on top of the table – with a memorable 16-14 home victory on Sunday over a Dewsbury Rams outfit that had needed just one point to clinch the title.
A couple of key incidents were crucial to the triumph. The first, late in the opening period when the visitors were 6-4 ahead, stemmed from a superb try-saving tackle by scrum-half Myles Lawford on flying Rams winger Perry Whiteley. And, within a minute, Lawford fired a telling pass to stand-off Matty Beharrell who, from 30 metres, sidestepped and battered his way through a posse of defenders for a sensational touchdown.
Beharrell added the extras and, instead of being potentially 12-4 behind, the Parksiders were 10-6 ahead at the break.
The second vital moment, in the closing stages, followed the sin-binning of Lawford for holding down. The Rams, who were 16-14 behind at that stage, ignored what looked like a kickable penalty which, if landed, could have secured a draw (and the title). The visitors, who afterwards cited the strong wind as being behind their reasoning, instead opted to run the ball, but Hunslet’s magnificent twelve held out, Dewsbury’s Connor Davies dotting down an astute kick on the dead-ball line rather than in the field of play.
The Rams’ Owen Restall was immediately yellow-carded for delaying the restart and Hunslet finished on top amidst wild scenes of celebration, the other central factor in the triumph being terrific defence throughout.
Johnny Campbell, in his 250th professional game, had given the Parksiders an early lead, the home side securing possession at the kick-off and Joe Burton offering the winger a chance in the corner.
But Hunslet were unable to deal with the restart and Dewsbury subsequently dominated most of the first half territorially.
Superb defence, however, limited the Rams to a Brad Graham try, plus Paul Sykes’ only goal, Dewsbury being held up over the home line on several occasions by the wholly committed Parksiders.
Beharrell’s score turned the contest and although the visitors restored parity early in the second period, hooker Reiss Butterworth sending Bailey O’Connor in at the flag, Hunslet regained the lead when that willing workhorse Josh Jordan-Roberts swept in off Beharrell’s ball, the latter again adding the extras. And the Parksiders stayed in front despite Graham grabbing a second try for the Rams as the game entered the final quarter.
Hunslet’s head coach Alan Kilshaw said: “It was another performance which showed our culture and connection as a group. The desire to keep Dewsbury out at different times of the game, absorb pressure and then go to the other end and post points is becoming a very good team trait.
“But we can perform much better, especially with the ball in our own end, and we are making some poor decisions or unforced errors which is adding to the pressure on us. Tidy that up and get some equal possession and we can be even better.”
`Killer’ reflected: “I thought we were on the end of a number of harsh calls which I will seek clarity on from the match officials department. However, we didn’t let that affect us; we competed on what we can control which, again, is a really good trademark of the group.
“However, we won’t be getting ahead of ourselves. It was two points, and two points only (not a play-off game or semi-final). We have work to do, and the group is focussed on that.”
He concluded: “It’s hard to single people out on an afternoon like Sunday. Matty Beharrell and Harvey Hallas deserve special praise because of the disruption to their normal routines during the week, their respective partners both giving birth, while Lewis Wray had a rough week personally as well. I thought Josh Jordan-Roberts and Sam Hallas were awesome, while Steve Crossley is such a great leader on and off the field.”