THE LEAGUE leaders were Hood-winked as Hunslet Hawks pinched a place in the Kingstone Press Championship One Grand Final.
Hawks came from 12-0 down to win 32-24 at York City Knights in yesterday’s final eliminator, with former Leeds Rhinos hooker Liam Hood scoring a crucial brace of tries.
York finished five points above second-placed Hunslet on the league table and beat them three times in the regular season.
But Hawks came good when it really mattered.
They were two scores down until the end of the third quarter and eight points adrift with 15 minutes left, but once they had finally found a way through York’s resolute defence, superior firepower and experience saw them home.
Hunslet will take on Oldham, who were third on the league table, in Sunday’s Grand Final at Headingley Carnegie and coach Barry Eaton said: “I was delighted with the players’ mentality.
“Credit to York, their scrambling defence in the first half was outstanding and the try they got right on half-time could potentially have been a killer, but we had a bit more composure in the second half, they started missing some tackles and we got over the line.”
Hood, who will join Salford Red Devils next year, was the main difference between the teams.
But another ex-Leeds pair – full-back Jimmy Watson and 80-minute prop Richard Moore – also had big games, along with veteran schemer David March, who landed four goals from five attempts.
His first shot hit the croosbar and bounced away and he did not bother with the kick after James Duckworth had gone over from Watson’s offload to clinch victory on the final play of the game.
Hunslet pounded away at York’s line in the first half, but went in at the break two scores down after Ben Dent scored an interception try from Aaron Lyons’ pass and then Josh Tonks put Pat Smith over on the stroke of half-time, Ben Reynolds converting both.
Hunslet continued to do most of the pressing after the interval and finally broke through when Watson touched down and almost immediately Hood went over from close range.
Jack Lee, who will join Hunslet next year, pulled a try back for York, but a sensational charge down by Danny Maun revived Hawks’ chances and then Hood and Gavin Duffy both went over from close range.
Duffy made a brilliant try-saving tackle on Greg Minikin, but held on too long and was sin-binned for a professional foul. Ryan Backhouse went over in the set from the penalty and Reynoulds drop-kicked his fourth conversion, but York couldn’t hang on to possession from the re-start and Duckworth’s try sparked massive celebrations among the travelling fans and players.
Hawks have reached the final despite being without key men James Coyle, Danny Grinshaw and Luke Stenchion, who are all on the long-term injury list.
Loose-forward Liam Mackay is likely to miss the promotion decider after suffering a dislocated elbow yesterday and Hood is also in doubt. He sustained a dead-leg in the act of scoring his second try.
York City Knights: Haynes, Saltonstall, Craig, Minikin, Dent, P Smith, Reynolds, Roche, Lee, Aldous, Tonks, E Smith, Paterson. Subs (all used) Brining, Bell, Backhouse, Brennan.
Hunslet Hawks: Watson, Duckworth, Brickwood, Maun, Duffy, T Coyle, Ansell, Houston, March, Moore, Lyons, Oakes, Mackay. Subs (all used) Hood, Briscoe, Haley, Reed.
Referee: George Stokes (Wigan).