HUNSLET BEGAN their Kingstone Press League One campaign with a hard-fought 10-6 win over University of Gloucestershire All Golds in appalling conditions at South Leeds Stadium.
Both teams put in a huge effort, but neither had the opportunity to display any real skill or pace on a muddy pitch and in driving rain.
There was no score in the second half when just completing a set of six was a significant achievement.
The big positive for Hunslet was their defence as they backed up last week’s 34-0 Ladbrokes Challenge Cup win over Coventry Bears by conceding just one try.
They scored first through Cameron Leeming, who forced his way over from Jimmy Watson’s pass after good handling in the conditions by Danny Ansell and Joel Gibson.
Ansell landed a superb goal off the touchline and his pass put winger Ryan Ince over at the end of the first quarter.
There was no conversion, but a 10-0 lead looked comfortable. But then Hunslet began to give penalties away, seven of them – including being marched 10 metres for dissent – in succession before half-time.
The Cheltenham-based team are well-organised and boast some influential players, led by hooker Steven Parry and ex-Wakefield Trinity and Dewsbury Rams stand-off Kieran Hyde, along with former Leeds Rhinos academy and Hunslet winger Mo Agoro.
They eventually took advantage of all the free possession, pulling a try back three minutes before the break when Jordan Andrade crashed over and Ben Stead added the extras.
The third quarter was played close to Hunslet’s line, with the hosts knocking-on whenever they tried to move upfield and Gloucestershire turning the ball straight back.
Once Hunslet did manage to get to the end of a set and gain some territory with a kick, the situation was reversed.
Leeming seemed to have sealed it when he slid over 10 minutes from time, but referee Tom Crashley said he was held up and that was as close as either team got to scoring in the second half.
Coach James Coyle was pleased with the winning start, but admitted he couldn’t read too much into Hunslet’s performance.
“It turned into five drives not to drop the ball,” he said. “We weren’t talking about completion, we were talking about not losing the ball.
“When you’ve got that mentality it tightens up the way you play, you can’t play to any planned structure, you are concentrating on cradling the ball and not letting it get squeezed out.
“It takes that edge away from your attack, but we had pride in our goalline defence.
“The conditions made it difficult for us; we wanted to play more rugby.
“But we found a way to win – we ground it out and I am happy about that.”
Hunslet: Watson, Webb, Leeming, Wilson, Ince, Gibson, Ansell, O’Sullivan, Lee, Carbutt Normington, Broughton, Mackay. Subs Tebb, Whitehead Kenga, Walton.
University of Gloucestershire All Golds: Houghton, Agoro, Brickhill, Williams, Kislingbury, Hyde, Stead, Purslow, Parry, Kidd, Jones, McClean, Elliott. Subs Mitchell, Andrade, Lloyd-Jones, Walter.
Referee: Tom Crashley (Wakefield).