FEATHERSTONE ROVERS got off to a winning start under new boss John Bastian, overcoming visitors Hunslet Hawks 26-0 in yesterday’s Gareth Swift Memorial Trophy game.
Games a month and a half – two months in Hawks’ case – before the league season starts are more about effort than flair.
Driving rain and a muddy pitch made this one even more of a slog and constant changes prevented either side from finding any real rhythm, but they could both take something from it.
Rovers, who gave a run-out to a host of new signings, looked well organised and defended strongly.
Hunslet made too many handling errors, but a strong defensive effort will give them something to build on.
Playing uphill Hawks did nothing but tackle in the first period and only got out of their own half once, thanks to a terrific 40-20 kick from Danny Grimshaw.
He was their best player with ball in hand, though Danny Ansell had his moments and Thomas Coyle pepped things up in the second half, when Hawks had more possession thanks to some penalties and Rovers errors.
Rovers’ rustiness played a part in keeping the score down, but Hawks tackled spiritedly and the ball was carried over the line for only two of the hosts’ five tries.
Scrum-half Gareth Moore has big shoes to fill having replaced Liam Finn, who joined Castleford Tigers last month following his release by Rovers.
The former Leeds Rhinos academy, Wakefield Trinity Wildcats and Batley Bulldogs play-maker could be a key signing for Rovers.
He scored the opening try from his own kick and then his boot set up a second for new captain Tim Spears. Moore was Rovers’ official man of the match, though stand-off Jack Bussey would have been a better choice.
He showed some nice touches and he created the other two first-half scores.
His pass put Greg Worthington – who later limped off hurt – in, before a grubber kick was touched down by Will Sharp on the stroke of half-time.
Andy Ellis – another player to pick up a knock – scored the only second-half try when he jinked over on one of the few occasions Hawks’ defence clocked off.
The best example of Hawks’ defensive commitment came on the hour when Tommy Saxton got over the line, but Lee Mapals and James Davies forced a knock-on.
Moments later Jamel Chisholm dropped the ball over the line, under no pressure, from Spears’ pass.
The game was played under experimental rules which were trialed on Boxing Day 2012: kicks which go dead from inside the attacking team’s half result in a re-start on the opposition’s 40, charge-downs do not re-start the tackle count and the attacking team has the option of dropping their loose-forward from scrums. The first and second of those weren’t tested, though Rovers tried the five men in the scrum tactic several times without noticeable effect. There was a nice moment mid-way through the second period when Rovers introduced their penultimate substitute Jack Ormondroyd.
His clean shirt shone like a beacon and Hawks half-back Ansell took advantage, by giving his hands a thorough clean on his opponent’s pristine jersey.
Hawks had James Watson sin -binned for dissent in the second half.
Featherstone Rovers: Hardman, Sharp, Worthington, Cording, Chisholm, Bussey, Moore, Crossley, Flanagan, Hirst, Lockwood, Spears, James. Subs (all used): Ellis, Nicholson, Dale, Walmsley, Roche, Saxton, Bennion, Sunley, Ormondroyd.
Hunslet Hawks: Kain, Mapals, Watson, Maun, Akaidere, Grimshaw, Ansell, Reed, Canterbury, Stenchion, Broughton, Lyons, Mackay. Subs (all used): Brickwood, Houston, Hood, Davies, Tebb, Haley. T Coyle, Clough.
Referee: Adam Gill.