28 unanswered points in the second half ensured that the Lazenby Cup would head north of the river as Leeds Rhinos showed their Super League class to come from behind and beat the Hunslet Hawks 28-14 this afternoon (Sunday 18 January 2015).
A heroic effort by the Hunslet groundstaff and a hardy band of volunteers, who were at the ground from the early morning to assist in removing the covers protecting the pitch from frost, saw the game given the go ahead and the opportunity for the Hawks to profit from a bumper crowd of 1,418 for the pre-season friendly against their illustrious neighbours.
Hunslet looked up for the challenge from the kick off and started the match on the front foot. Helped by some early handling errors and indiscipline from the Rhinos, the Hawks took the lead as early as the 4th minute. Hunslet were awarded a penalty 20 metres out, bang in front of the posts, but Danny Ansell opted to put the ball into touch rather than take the two points on offer. His decision was rewarded when a couple of plays later, Brad Brennan crashed over under the posts for the opening try, Ansell kicking the much easier conversion to put the Hawks 6-0 ahead.
The Rhinos thought they had levelled matters on 23 minutes when some good hands created an opportunity for Ash Handley in the corner, but despite his efforts to dive over, Richie Barnett did just enough to nudge him into the corner flag and the try was chalked off.
The match became a mud wrestle as the first half wore on, with both sides finding it difficult to play any flowing rugby in the icy conditions and on such a heavy pitch. However it was the home side who deservedly increased the lead just before the break through a Liam Mckay try. Then, right on the half time hooter, Ansell slotted over a penalty from 20 metres to give the Hawks a commanding 14-0 lead.
The second half saw conditions worsen as sleet was added to the already bitingly cold temepratures, making the ball as difficult to handle as an icicle. Both sides were guilty of coughing up the ball on a regular basis, but Leeds did manage to hold on long enough for George Milton to go over under the posts on 54 minutes, the try eventually being awarded after a long deliberation by the referee.
Four minutes later the Rhino’s were right back in the match as Handley went over in the corner and when Brad Singleton regathered his own kick to score a try on 64 minutes, which Jordan Lilley converted, the Rhinos were in front for the first time.
In the closing stages the Hawks pressed the self destruct button, failing to make any impression on the Leeds line and gifting their visitors a couple of tries to hand the Rhinos the win. Handley grabbed his second try by pouncing on a spilled pass inside the Hawks own in goal area and then Jimmy Keinhorst pounced on a mistake by Brandon Conway to seal victory and ensure the Leeds Brewery Lazenby Cup returned to Headingley.
Congratulations to the Hawks’ Jack Lee who was named man of the match.