Hunslet Hawks paid the penalty for some slack tackling as London Broncos punished the home sides mistakes to run out 32-12 winners at the South Leeds Stadium on Sunday afternoon, ekeing out a four point gap between the two sides in the Kingstone Press Championship table.
Hunslet were up against it from the word go against the full time professionals from the capital and fell behind inside the opening two minutes. A strong run from Jamie Thackray created a gaping hole in the Hunslet defence and a cleverly timed pass sent Elliot Minichella away to score the first try of the game and give the Broncos an early 4-0 lead.
The opening exchanges saw the usual arm wrestle to establish field position with both fullbacks, Jimmy Watson for the Hawks and Ben Helliwell for the Broncos, proving very capable under the high ball. However the crowd were already beginning to be frustrated by the interpretation of the offside law by referee Mr Turley, who seemed to be quite liberal with his definition of the 10 yards that London were required to retreat in defence.
Hunslet scrum half Simon Brown gave the Hawks a good attacking platform with a 40-20 kick but they could not capatalise on the ensuing set of six, with Watson being held up just short of the line.
The Hawks did cross though on 11 minutes when London coughed up possession and Luke Briscoe collected the loose ball, racing 40 metres to score under the posts, Brown’s conversion giving Hunslet a 6-4 lead.
The home side were on the front foot at this stage and were frustrated again when George Flanagan couldn’t get the ball down over the line, with Hunslet then spilling the ball on the next tackle.
The Broncos regained the lead on 22 minutes after Hunslet were penalised for a ball steal, with Tom Gilmore burrowing over from short range a few plays later. Wes Naigama converted to put London 10-6 in front, a lead they would not relinquish.
In fact the game would be all but over by the interval as London ran in two more tries to stretch their advantage to 16 points at the break. Firstly Naigama danced through a couple of half hearted attempts at tackles to score a try he converted before Garside went over from close range just before half time for another try converted by Naigama.
The second half followed the same pattern as the first, with strange refereeing decisions coupled with substandard defending allowing London to ease to victory. Rhys Williams extended the Broncos lead by stepping through some weak tackles to make it 26-6. At this point the Broncos looked capable of scoring from anywhere on the field, as Jarrod Sammut broke from midfield before feeding Illas Macani, only for the winger to be denied a try by a wonderful covert tackle from Watson.
The Hawks reduced the arrears on the hour mark as Simon Brown capped a fine individual display by dancing over to score a try and give the fans hope of a late revival. If Richie Barnett could have grounded the ball from a Brown kick on 69 minutes, then we may have had a grandstand finish but all Hunslet hopes were dashed when Brad Dwyer burst through the Hawks defensive line to feed Williams for the final score of the match.
Coach Barry Eaton was philosophical after the match admitting that “some of our defence was a little bit weak and some of our contact was not as good as it could have been” but conceded it was always going to be tough against a full time professional outfit. He also spoke about the referee’s decisions being “pretty baffling” and said that they were a cause of “so many momentum swings” in the game.
The Hawks now need to dust themselves down and prepare for another clash with Dewsbury Rams next weekend, looking to avenge the Challenge Cup defeat of a couple of weeks ago.