The dream of a trip to Wembley Stadium was never a realistic one for the Hunslet Hawks to have, but Sunday’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup 5th Round tie against the Dewsbury Rams offered the winners the potential to land a plum tie against one of the Super League elite.
That opportunity was passed up by Barry Eaton’s men in a punchless display which allowed the men from the Heavy Woolen district a relatively comfortable ride into the last 16 of the competition.
Hunslet had beaten the Rams just seven weeks ago to record their first win of the Championship season so should have entered the contest in confident mood, but an early spilled ball by Andy Kain after a good run by Richie Barnett set the tone for an off colour performance.
Hunslet had a lucky escape on three minutes when the exceptional pace of Rams winger Dalton Grant almost took him clear of the Hawks’ defence, but he was hauled down just short of the line, coughing up possession in the tackle. Hunslet though were punished on six minutes when a lovely break by the impressive Anthony Thackery saw him set up an opportunity for Matthew Haggerty to open the scoring with a converted try.
The next twenty minutes or so saw Hunslet have their best spell of the game. Jimmy Watson made some dazzling runs from full back and Barnett and Danny Maun made some good yards, but there was little cutting edge to the Hawks play once they got within the “red zone” 20 metres from the Dewsbury line. However on 17 minutes they did level matters as Kain burst away before passing to Maun who in turn fed Liam Mackay to go over under the posts. Simon Brown converted to make it 6-6.
A missed penalty by Brown on the half hour, when he sliced wide from in front of the sticks seemed to be a turning point in the match as just minutes later Thackeray once again breached Hunslet’s defensive line to create a try for James Delaney which Hyde converted. The Rams full back also kicked a penalty on the stroke of half time to put the visitors 14-6 up at the break.
Despite a bright start to the second half by Hunslet, where they spent the opening five minutes camped inside the Dewsbury 2o metre line, the Hawks again showed a lack of gumption in vital areas. It would be Dewsbury who would look most likely to score in the third quarter of the game, and they found themselves over the try line twice in a three minute spell but Byron Smith was held up and Makali Aizue knocked on as he tried to ground the ball.
Dewsbury were quicker in thought and action than the Hawks and this was demonstrated with their third try of the afternoon. Awarded a penalty just inside the Hunslet half, Thackeray took a quick tap and then placed a clever chip into the corner which was collected by Jason Crookes who managed to touch the ball down to give the Rams daylight.
The match was taken away from Hunslet on 58 minutes when Aizue made up for his earlier error, the PNG prop bursting over from short range to touch down under the posts, allowing Hyde the simplest of conversions and leave Dewsbury 24-6 ahead going into the last 20 minutes.
Hunslet did show some grit and determination from that point on and were determined to go down fighting, quite literally at some points as the game saw a number of fracas as the home side’s frustration grew. Luke Briscoe gave the Hawks some hope when he went over from an Andy Kain pass on 65 minutes and then after Hyde had dropped a goal for the Rams to add an extra point, Charlie Martin scored a late consolation, his first for the Hawks.
The last word though went to Dewsbury as Aaron Brown latched on to a clever kick by Crookes to score in the corner on the final hooter. Hyde’s conversion sealing a 31-16 win for the Rams and putting them in the hat for Monday night’s draw.
HUNSLET HAWKS: Watson; Duckworth, Briscoe, Maun, Barnett; Brown, Kain; Mulhern, Lee, Brennan; Casey, Martin; Mackay. Interchange: Flanagan, Mvududu, Haley, Lyons
DEWSBURY RAMS: Hyde; Morton, Crookes, Beckett, Grant; Brown, Thackeray; Jackson, Wildie, Haggerty; Spicer, Hale; Adamson. Interchange: Aizue, Smith, Farrell, Delaney