Another second half capitulation saw Hunslet Hawks crash to a devastating 28-12 defeat at Whitehaven which sees them dragged into the relegation battle at the foot of the Kingstone Press Championship.
On a beautiful sunny afternoon on the Cumbrian coast, the Hawks threw away a hard fought 12-0 half time lead to hand victory to the home side through a combination of slack defence and poor handling.
In fact the margin of defeat could have been much greater had Whitehaven been able to hold onto the ball themselves as they bombed at least three glorious try scoring opportunities through mishandled passes.
It would have been difficult to believe that the afternoon would turn out so diappointingly when the two sides left the field at half-time. Hunslet had earned themselves a hard fought 12-0 lead with tries from Liam Mackay and Richie Barnett and had dug in defensively to get through a tricky period around the half hour mark.
However the second half woes which have plagued the side in recent weeks came back to haunt them again, and by the hour mark they found themselves behind on the scoresheet and facing wave after wave of Whitehaven attacks.
The Hawks made three changes, two of them enforced by the recall of Jimmy Keinhorst and Andy Yates by the Leeds Rhinos. Barnett and Mackay replaced those two with James Houston coming in for Michael Haley. For Whitehaven, the appearance of two french loanees, Jordan Sigsmeau and Louis Jouffret added an exotic look to their line up.
Hunslet looked up for the battle in the early stages, pinning Whitehaven back in their own 20 metre line on several occasions in the first 5 minutes, although there were signs of the home sides attacking threat from long range on six minutes when a break by Scott McAvoy and Craig Calvert ended when the latter’s kick through was too deep and went out of the in goal area.
The Hawks though remained on the front foot and only some desperate Whitehaven defending prevented their line being breached with both Jimmy Watson and Vinny Finigan being held up just short of the line.
Hunslet did open the scoring though on 23 minutes. A penalty, awarded by the intervention of the touch judge, for a barge on Luke Briscoe handed the Hawks an attacking opportunity, one which was taken by Liam Mackay as he strode over untouched under the posts, Ansell popping over the easy conversion to put the visitors 6-0 up.
Whitehaven did their best to hit back immediately but bombed a glorious opportunity as James Newton failed to hold on to a pass from Jessie Joe Parker with the line begging.
The next ten minutes would see Hunslet dig in defensively too, mindful of how two quick tries before the hooter last time out against Sheffield had seen that game slip from their grasp. It was a task they completed manfully and they had the bonus of adding to their lead when Barnett snuck over in the corner after some excellent passing had created the opportunity. Ansell knocked over a superb kick from the touchline to give the Hawks a 12-0 half time lead.
Whatever was put into the half time brews in the Whitehaven dressing room had the desired effect as the home side came storming out of the blocks. Within a minute they had crossed the whitewash, capatalising on an early penalty to allow Dave Allen to stroll over under the posts, Jouffret converting to half the deficit.
Hunslet were finding it difficult to get out of their own half, but were fortunate that Whitehaven were continuing to spill the ball with great regularity. It was a disease which would be catching with fatal consequences for the Hawks.
On 52 minutes the Hawks mounted a rare second half raid, but as Watson tried to fashion something out of the ordinary, his over ambitious pass went to ground and was picked up by Greg Wilde who raced 80 metres to touchdown under the posts and with Jouffret adding the extras the scores were level.
Six minutes later and Hunslet again handed Whitehaven possession on a plate as Barnett, in his efforts to make some extra metres out of defence, somehow lost the ball between his legs. It was a gift that the home side were quick to accept as Dion Aiye went over for the go ahead score, which when converted by Jouffret gave Whitehaven a lead they never looked like relinquishing.
Things went from bad to worse very quickly as from the ensuing kick-off the Hawks kicked the ball straight into touch giving Whitehaven a penalty from which they set up a position for Richard Beaumont to cross and put Whitehaven 24-12 ahead.
Hunslet huffed and puffed in the final quarter of the game but rarely threatened the Whitehaven line. When they did get within range they looked disorganised and were susceptible to the counter attack, perfectly illustrated when another length of the field break in the final minute saw Sigismeau cross for the final try of the afternoon to make the final score 28-12.
The result saw Whitehaven make up precious ground on the Hawks and with Workington picking up a point at Dewsbury there are just two points between the four teams immediately above rock bottom Doncaster. With two sides going down, and all these teams having to play each other again in the Championship Shield competition, things are hotting up at the foot of the table. With the next four fixtures all against sides with Super League ambitions, things are not going to get any easier for Hunslet.