An up and down season for Hunslet RLFC

The 2021 season finished in disappointment for Hunslet RLFC as they crashed out of the play-offs at Doncaster with a lacklustre performance after hitting form late in the season.

Covid hit everyone hard, but starting the season behind closed doors and trying to keep fit in lockdown is hard when you have part-time players and staff.

With only two pre-season friendlies, May saw a tough start at home to Workington Town, a team fancied for (and that indeed won) promotion.

The game hinged on a disallowed try for Hunslet, and with heads low the Cumbrians took advantage with two quick scores to win the game 16-28, the following week again in an empty stadium the Parksiders overcame a determined North Wales Crusaders to win in rainy Colwyn Bay 18-26. A good win as it turned out as the Crusaders had a fine season.

The following two weeks saw heavy defeats at home to Barrow and away at Keighley. Racked with injuries Hunslet were still in both games on the 50th minute, showing how important match fitness was.

Entering June, Hunslet finally managed to see some light, with an impressive 36-22 win over Rochdale and a 60 point victory at London Skolars. But leading at home to much fancied Doncaster a late try snatched a draw for the visitors spoiling Hunslet’s renewed vigour.

Although an easy victory was attained at West Wales the following week one of the strangest games ever saw Hunslet lose a 20 point lead in the last 10 minutes to lose 46-44 to Coventry Bears.

This was enough for the Hunslet board, games were being lost late on and as ever the coach has to bear the brunt. Gary Thornton left the club and Mark Cass took over for the home game to North Wales Crusaders. An awful first half was nearly turned round late on but the game was lost 24-34.

With Hunslet now looking unlikely to even get a play-off spot former Rochdale Hornets, Warrington Wolves Academy and England Academy coach Alan KIlshaw was appointed.

The side rallied for Kilshaw and they nearly pulled off an impressive win over Keighley Cougars, but again a late try saw the game end in a draw. But the following week the performance of the season saw the Parksiders thump Doncaster away at the Keepmote by 26-46.

A trip to league leading Barrow was daunting, but Hunslet were their own foe as they slumped to a 40-10 defeat to the leagues eventual winners.

A victory over London Skolars followed before a big match at Rochdale in late August. Hunslet were the better side for most of the game, but again late tries looked to have secured the game for Rochdale before a Jy-mel Coleman penalty squared it up for yet another draw.

Hunslet had revenge of sorts over Coventry as they hung on for a 32-30 victory, before running riot against West Wales 82-6 to secure a play-off spot.

With nothing to play for Hunslet produced another great performance beating Workington 14-32, now hoping to bounce into the play-offs in form.

But it was not to be, Doncaster wanted revenge and were too strong for Hunslet knocking them out by 31-10 and eventually losing the Play-off final to Workington Town and being denied promotion.

It would be interesting to see where Hunslet would have finished had games been 75 minutes long, as they seemed to concede late tries in a lot of games, but they aren’t and with players being struck with Covid and no second team to regain fitness, strange scores were happening up and down the league as players returned to squads off the boil.

The second half of the season was certainly better for Hunslet, this must be partly due to match fitness but also to new coach Alan Kilshaw bringing in a different perspective.

Big changes in personnel will bring a different look to the side next season, and it may be a more youthful Hunslet that takes to the field, but with Kilshaw at the helm he will be able to stamp his own personality on the team.

The end of season celebration saw Vila Halafihi win Players Player of the Year, Matty Chrimes win Supporters Player of the year and Wayne Rettie win Coaches Player of the Year. All three were well deserved.

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Photo: Wayne Rettie, Coach’s Player of the Year, scores against London Skolars (Paul Butterfield)