Over the last few weeks the Hunslet Hawks have had the chance to pit their wits against some of the biggest sides in the Kingstone Press Championship, and in the main have held their own in narrow defeats to the likes of Halifax, London Broncos and Featherstone Rovers. However if they are to entertain hopes of playing with the big boys again next season, then they quickly need to banish the memories of the pounding handed to them by perhaps the biggest of the lot on Sunday afternoon.
All photos by Steve Gaunt / Touchlinepics.com
It’s just nine years since the Bulls were World Club Champions, but they visited the South Leeds Stadium to play Hunslet for the first time in the Summer Rugby era as equals. In reality the two teams are far from that and Bradford proved to be far too strong for a Hawks side which was missing several regulars, easing to a 68-6 win which did not flatter the visitors.
Hunslet were always going to be up against it against a Bradford side smarting from a shock midweek loss to Featherstone, only their second of the league season, especially with Jimmy Watson already ruled out of the side with back injury. The task was made even harder when Andy Kain withdrew on the morning of the match with a sickness bug forcing Barry Eaton to reshuffle his pack. Jordan Lilley was switched to full back, Mo Agoro was given a league debut on the wing and Simon Brown and Danny Grimshaw returned to form the half back pairing, Grimshaw returning to the fold after an early season fallout with the coach.
It took just five minutes for the floodgates to open and it was a sign of things to come when Jake Mullaney sliced through a gaping hole in the Hunslet defence before offloading to allow Adam O’Brien to score the afternoon’s first try. It was the first of a number of breaks by the Bradford stand off which saw him personally dominate the first half and build the platform the Bulls victory.
Three minutes later Mullaney once again raced through a gap to score his first try of the afternoon and when he completed his hat trick on 31 minutes, the Bulls were 32-0 up and the game was as good as over. Matty Blythe and James Mendeika had crossed before Mullaney scored two tries in five minutes, with full back Ryan Shaw kicking four conversions.
Hunslet had barely had a look in, but gave the fans faint hope five minutes before the interval when Jack Lee burrowed in from close range after a superb effort by Josh Walters had taken the Hawks down to the Bradford line. The try though merely stung the Bulls back into action and Shaw went over on the hooter, converting his own try to give the visitors a 38-6 half time lead.
The second half started brightly for Hunslet, and they in fact had Bradford pinned back on their own line for much of the opening 10 minutes, forcing the Bulls to defend four consecutive sets of tackles. But has they did so often throughout the game, the Hawks shot themselves in the foot on 53 minutes when a hopeful lofted pass to the wing went to ground and Danny Williams picked up to return the ball 80 yards for his first try of the afternoon.
By now Hunslet were desperate to try anything to get back into the game and Jordan Lilley in his efforts to prevent a 40-20 handed the Bulls their ninth try of the afternoon, tapping the ball back into play where Etu Uaisele accepted the gift, kicking the ball on before diving over the line, Shaw converting to bring up the Bulls half century with 20 minutes still remaining.
Bradford added four more tries before the end, with Dale Ferguson crossing before Williams went over in the corner twice in five minutes to complete his hat-trick. The last word was left to the outstanding Mullaney, who once again found a gap to power through and racing 30 metres to complete the rout with his fourth try of the afternoon.
Final score: Hunslet Hawks 6 – 68 Bradford Bulls.
Hunslet face table topping Leigh Centurions on Wednesday, before entering the most important phase of the season. Three games against the sides in and around them, Doncaster, Batley and Workington end the regular season before the leagues split and the real fight for survival begins. It is these games that the Hawks must focus on if they are to dream of playing the big boys again next year. This defeat has to be forgotten because the season starts for real at the Keepmoat Stadium next Sunday.
HUNSLET: Lilley, Barnett, Maun, Mvududu, Agoro, Grimshaw, Brown, Haley, Lee, Houston, Walters, Gee, Mulhern Interchange: Flanagan, Lyons, Trout, Backhouse
BRADFORD: Shaw, Williams, Blythe, Mendeika, Uaisele, Mullaney, Addy, Clough, O’Brien, Sidlow, Olbison, Walker, Pitts Interchange: Halafihi, Fleming, Ferguson, Crossley