Season Review: Hawks fail to keep Championship status

Hunslet Hawks’ big adventure in the second tier of Rugby League has ended with relegation after one season. The Hawks finished second to bottom at the end of Championship Sheild section of the Super 8s, but can take many positives from the year.

Finishing the regular season with ten straight losses including poor losses to Doncaster and Workington left fans disgruntled. But three wins on the spin in the Super 8s seemed to open up the chance of a ‘Great Escape’. They had left it too late and defeat at the hands of Featherstone Rovers sealed Hunslet’s fate.

Club Captain Andy Kane battles against Dewsbury Rams. Photo: Steve Gaunt /
Club Captain Andy Kain battles against Dewsbury Rams. Photo: Steve Gaunt /

There are many ‘what ifs’ to be debated in the pubs of Hunslet through the autumn and winter. What if they’d kicked that penalty in the last five minutes against Halifax in June? What if Andy Kane hadn’t been injured? What if they’d beaten Doncaster or Workington at the end of the regular season?

As it was Hunslet finished the season with 8 wins and 16 points. To be fair, that was 8 more wins that many pundits predicted at the start of the season.

Hunslet Hawks is a small community-owned club. They were up against some big money clubs in the shape of Bradford Bulls, Leigh Centurions and London Broncos. Whilst they struggled against the biggest (richest) clubs, the Hawks more than proved they could hold their own at this level.

Hunslet’s pre season saw them lose the Lazenby Cup to Leeds Rivals14-28 and to a full strength Salford Reds 0-46; then beating Doncaster 12-42.

The Hawks lost their first two games of the season proper to Featherstone and Batley, before gaining their first league points with a win against Dewsbury Rams.

March and April ran to the form book. A heavy loss at Bradford Bulls was followed by another win against Doncaster and a win at Gloucester in the Challenge Cup, then a loss to Sheffield Eagles. The Loss at Leigh was not unexpected, but Hunslet was perhaps unliucky to lose at Halifax after a spirited performance. Wins against Cumbrians Whitehaven and Workington were punctuated with being knocked out of the cup by Dewsbury.

May saw more losses and a scare against Doncaster who ran the Hawks close at the Blackpool Summer Bash.

Then came the long run of ten straight defeats through to the end of the regular season. Heavy defeats to Leigh and Bradfoird were to be expected, but the loss at Doncaster gave the South Yorkshire club their only win of the season. The loss at home to Halifax was a heartbreaker and could easily have gone the other way, but the loss to Workington was lacklustre.

Then came the fightback in the Super 8s. A superb win away to the London Broncos was followed by a win at Whitehaven. The Great Escape seemed on.

The fans, who had been marvellous all season, singing and cheering on the team and making friends across the country, believed Hunslet could stay up.

With three games to go they saw off Doncaster 25-16 at South Leeds Stadium. Hunslet led from the 17th minute, but Doncaster put on a solid display and fought to the end. Despite the win, the Hawks were still two points below Whitehaven and Batley with two games to go.

Featherstone Rovers came to South Leeds looking to salvage something of their disappointing season by winning the Championship Sheild. Hunslet held them until just before half time, but Featherstone kept ahead and in control for the rest of the game.

The loss sealed the Hawks fate and was followed by a flat performance in the last game of the season at Batley. The game also saw the retirement of Danny Maun, a great servant to both clubs.

Rebuilding for next year has started already with the bulk of the squad expected to stay. Fans favourite Jimmy Watson (Full Back) has signed a 12 month extension to his contract as have goal kicking half back Simon Brown, back row forward Mufaro Mvududu & prop forward Lewis Reed.

Bouncing back from Championship 1 isn’t going to be easy. Speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post, Caoch Barry Eaton said:

“It is going to be tough next season, that’s for sure, in terms of the teams we are competing against. Eight or nine teams in League One are really, really competitive. There’s some good sides in there and it will be a tougher proposition than last year, when there were three or four in the mix.”

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Hunslet Hawks Kingstone Press Championship 2015
16-Feb Featherstone Rovers A L 28-14
22-Feb Batley Bulldogs H L 14-26
01-Mar Dewsbury Rams H W 18-6
08-Mar Bradford Bulls A L 56-6
15-Mar Doncaster H W 32-12
29-Mar Sheffield Eagles A L 29-3
03-Apr Leigh Centurions H L 6-42
06-Apr Halifax A L 32-24
12-Apr Whitehaven H W 26-18
26-Apr Workington Town A W 16-19
03-May London Broncos H L 12-32
10-May Dewsbury Rams A L 40-4
24-May Doncaster A W 12-25
29-May Sheffield Eagles H L 10-54
07-Jun Whitehaven A L 28-12
12-Jun Halifax H L 8-14
21-Jun London Broncos A L 34-12
28-Jun Featherstone Rovers H L 34-42
05-Jul Bradford Bulls H L 6-68
08-Jul Leigh Centurions A L 72-6
12-Jul Doncaster A L 34-26
19-Jul Batley Bulldogs A L 45-28
26-Jul Workington Town H L 6-30
Super 8s Championship Shield
09-Aug Dewsbury Rams A L 32-20
16-Aug Workington Town H L 18-22
23-Aug London Broncos A W 24-41
31-Aug Whitehaven A W 16-30
06-Sep Doncaster H W 25-16
13-Sep Featherstone Rovers H L 10-18
20-Sep Batley Bulldogs A L 60-12