Hunslet Hawks’ hopes of remaining in the Kingstone Press Championship were dealt a hammer blow on Sunday as they threw away a twenty point lead to crash to defeat against Doncaster, handing the home side their first win of the campaign.
Recent weeks had seen the side show great spirit in defeat against the sides at the top of the table, but Hunslet were outfought at the Keepmoat Stadium by a Doncaster side who seemed to want the win that little bit more. The defeat in itself was disappointing, but it was the manner of it which was the more worrying.
All photos by Steve Gaunt Touchlinepics.com
Barry Eaton was able to name Andy Kain and Jimmy Watson in his starting line up for the trip to South Yorkshire after they had recovered from the ailments which had kept them out of the side for the two heavy defeats to Bradford and Leigh. All in all there were 7 changes in the line up from the team who were hammered at league leaders Leigh the previous Wednesday.
The match was a tense affair in the opening stages with both sides well aware of the significance of the fixture. Doncaster had the upper hand in the first 15 minutes or so as they kept the Hawks pinned back in their own territory. Mitch Clark went close to opening the scoring for the home side on 12 minutes but he was held up over the line. Hunslet started to get a foothold in the game though as Andy Yates made some big yards up the middle and Josh Walters carried strongly to tilt the field position in Hunslet’s favour.
However just as the Hawks looked to be building an attacking platform, one stray pass saw the momentum swing as Kain failed to gather the ball and Doncaster turned defence into attack, returning the ball 60 yards back upfield, The Hawks defence never really got back into position and Joe Mclocklan was able to dart over in the corner for the opening score of the day, Dave Scott converting to put the hosts 6-0 ahead.
Hunslet were back on terms quickly as Danny Maun collected a short pass to crash through the Doncaster line on 30 minutes for the Hawks first try of the afternoon, starting a purple patch which would see the visitors cross the line five times in 20 minutes either side of half time.
The Hawks went in front six minutes later as a slick handling move created space for Matthew Gee to step inside a covering tackle and stretch to touchdown for his first of two tries on the afternoon. Simon Brown missed with both kicks but the Hawks went in with an 8-6 half time lead.
The Hawks made a dream start to the second half when Richie Barnett sprinted 80 metres for a try just three minutes in and then on 47 minutes Gee scored his second of the afternoon, bouncing off a couple of tackles and touching down in the corner, Brown converting from the touchline to put Hunslet 20-6 in front.
When Callum Casey went over for the 5th Hawks try on 50 minutes it looked as if it was all over as Hunslet extended the lead to 20 points, but as has happened on too many occasions this season, the team imploded.
It all started with a simple mistake on halfway as the Hawks put the ball on the floor, gifting Doncaster possession and Peter Fox capatalised by touching down in the corner moments later. The try rejuvenated the home side and the momentum in the match swung irrevocably in Doncaster’s favour as they scored three more tries in the next ten minutes.
Mitch Clark strolled through a static Hawks defence to touchdown under the posts, before another line break by Fox set up a try for Steve Snitch to bring Doncaster back into touching distance.
The sides were level on 64 minutes when Kain was unable to collect a dabbed kick through, spilling the ball over the line allowing Paul Mennell to pick up and touch down. Incredibly Scott missed the simple conversion which would have put Doncaster in front, but it was only a brief respite for the hapless Hawks.
With eight minutes left Doncaster delivered the hammer blow, Matt Groat going over next to the posts to put the home side in front and Scott’s conversion extended the gap to six points.
The Hawks were shell shocked and were unable to recover, with Doncaster creating some breathing space with a late penalty goal for Scott making the final score 34-26.
The result saw the Hawks drop into the relegation zone with just two games of the regular season to come and makes next week’s game against Batley a fixture of the highest importance. It is difficult to see how Barry Eaton can pick his troops up after this defeat, but somehow he has to if the Hawks are to maintain their Championship status for next season.
Hunslet Hawks: Watson, Agoro, Maun, Gee, Barnett, Brown, Kain, Mulhern, Lee, Haley, Casey, Walters, Mackay Interchange: Lyons, Flanagan, Yates, Trout
Doncaster: Carr, Scott, Doherty, Welham, Fox, McLocklan, Mennell, Groat, Kesik, Clark, Snitch, Musolino, Emmett Interchange: Spiers, Waller, Waterman, Wright