Leigh Centurions have been dominant in the Kingstone Press Championship, but faced a stern test as they seemingly looked past the Hawks.
The Hawks kicked off the game and immediately the big names of the Centurions got set to make their presence known, but the Hawks were ready for the game, following the tough game last week and met the task well.
The Hawks briefly received the ball following the Leigh kick but it was soon back in the hands of the visitors who throughout the first ten minutes had nearly 90% of the sets, the early game riddled with penalties, the referee wanting to assert his dominance early on.
The ‘big money’ visiting team preceded to try and dictate the game to the Hawks by piling the pressure onto them, but the home side committed to the task, defended solidly and rebuffed the attacks of the Centurions and counterpunched with their own attacks.
Leigh seemingly entered the game expecting an easy encounter , but were shocked by the Hawks and began to make mistakes when they had possession, giving the Hawks their way into the game. Luke Briscoe threatened the Leigh line, breaking through and tackled just meters from the line.
Brad Brennan’s introduction to the game seemed to spur the Hawks on as the prop sped into the Leigh defenders powering through. Brenann’s impact nearly resulted in a try 29 minutes in as the distinctive prop dived across the line taking a defender with him. The referee calling the player back though, saying he had been held up in the tackle.
The decision didn’t sit well with the Hawks faithful who showed their displeasure, with the referee on the receiving end.
The Hawks looked to use the momentum to score kicking across the field to an onrushing Barnett, the ball was knocked on by a Leigh player but again to the crowd’s disapproval the referee missed the call setting the Centurions free.
The fortuitous decisions for Leigh gave them another chance to attack the Hawks from a better position. A series of scrums setting them within 40 meters of the Hunslet line, Oliver Wilkes exploiting the situation to score on the 35th minute. The conversion from Martin Ridyard making the score 0-6 to the visitors.
The half finished as it had been throughout both teams stuck in an arm wrestle for possession neither looking more dominant despite the early predictions and expectations, the Hawks unlucky to be behind at the hooter.
The second half didn’t begin as the Hawks would have wanted, the kick off fumbled to gift Leigh an early possession from a drop out. The mistake didn’t faze the Hawks though who defended defiantly forcing a kick from Leigh. The kick went through the end this time, a “deflection” from a Hawk foot gifting possession back to Leigh again. The cries of disappointment from the home crowd turned quickly into joy as Leigh fumbled the drop out handing the ball to the Hawks in great position.
Hunslet capitalised on the great position, a penalty and fresh set of 6 leaving them meters from the line. Brad Brennan desperate to prove a point from earlier charged towards the line this time he was held short by a wall of Leigh players.
The Hawks now in touching distance kept attacking the line of defenders, spreading the ball to Andy Kain who placed a grubber into the corner. Luke Briscoe diving on the ball to score the Hawks first try, the kick from Simon Brown levelling the scores at six a piece.
Both teams now on an equal pegging were giving each other everything, the Centurions who’d come into the game favourites more than being matched by the Hawks who hadn’t missed a stride since drawing level.
The tussling for possession between the teams began again in earnest, both trading attacking blows but neither being able to find the clinical last pass and take the lead. The visitors came closest to scoring a second around 51 minutes into the game, the last pass again lacking the clinical edge to take it over the line this time knocked on just 10 meters shy with open field ahead.
The Hawks had the next chance. A fumbled kick turning fortuitous as it rolled gently forwards and was scooped up behind the Leigh line, the visitors chasing back as the ball flicked between Hawks players attempting to gain complete control of the ball, eventually loosing control as the Centurions defenders caught the break.
Leigh seemingly awoken by the attempt by Hunslet quickly went on the counter attack, a penalty from the scrum taking them to the Hunslet 45. Leigh now fully on the attack, Martin Aspinwall breaking through the Hunslet line to score for the visitors, Ridyards conversion good, the score 6-12 with 58 minutes played.
The latest score was a real blow to the Hawks who had looked on the verge of getting points from the game throughout the previous hour. Like any full time squad should, the Centurions put the hammer down, scoring again just 4 minutes later, this time Liam Kay exploiting a move across the field diving across to score his first of the game, Ridyard’s kick from wide, missing to make the score 6-16.
The visiting Centurions fans now at full voice urged their team on and that they did, scoring their third in the space of 10 minutes. This time Sam Barlow ploughed his way across the line under the posts, Martin Ridyards conversion good, the score 6-22.
The full time stature of Leigh was becoming a real issue for the Hawks, the superior fitness of the Centurions coming to fruition as they scored 4 in the last 10 minutes.
The first a try from Johnny Pownall gathering a kick from a counter attack down the left wing, another wide kick for Ridyard swinging past the posts, the score 6-26, with only 8 minutes left to play.
Leigh scored again just 2 minuets later, this time Sean Penkywicz found a gap from dummy half to speed past the defence and touch down, an easy kick for Ridyard who converted the try, now only 4 minutes remaining, the Centurions lead 6-32.
Again just 2 minutes later Leigh scored, Penkywicz exploiting another gap in the tiring Hunslet defence before unleashing a killer kick over the chasing defenders for Andrew Dixon to collect and cash in on, Ridyards kick again good. The score after 78 minutes far more one sided than the game at 6-38.
Leigh completed their fantastic 10 minutes with Liam Kay scoring just seconds before the hooter, again a kick over the exhausted Hunslet players chased down by Kay, another wide kick and another miss for Ridyard meant the final score was 6-42.
A score line that flatters the visitors, but a game that in honesty doesn’t – the full time professionals arrived at South Leeds expecting an easy ride but in fact got more than they bargained for in a game Hunslet could have easily taken the lead in twice.
For 60 minutes the 1132 fans in ‘Hawkshire’ were treated to some fantastic Rugby League and as always stayed in good voice throughout.
The record books will show just the score line but they wont show the Hawks players gave everything in the toughest test of the season so far.
To many it’s no surprise the Centurions walked out winners, but to the Hawks fans its no surprise the spirit show by the squad throughout.
The Hawks now face a trip to the Shay on Monday (6 April 2015) to face Halifax to conclude a difficult but enjoyable Easter period.
Hunslet: Watson, Duckworth, Briscoe, Mvududu, Barnett, Kain, Brown, Lyons, Lee, Mulhern, Backhouse, Cosgrove, Mackay. Subs: Brennan, Haley, Ansell, Castle
Tries: Briscoe Goals: Brown (1/1)
Leigh: McNally, Pownall, Worthington, Armstrong, Kay, Ridyard, Brierley, Moi Moi, Beswick, Spencer, Haggerty, Dixon, Barlow. Subs: Penkywicz, Wilkes, Aspinwall, Walker.
Tries: Wilkes, Aspinwall, Barlow, Pownall Goals: Ridyard (5/8), Penkywicz, Dixon, Kay (2)
Ref: C. Kendall TJ: N. Walker, B. Robinson