Featherstone Rovers coach Daryl Powell was “pretty pleased” with his side’s first pre-season hit out which saw Co-op Championship rivals Hunslet Hawks out-gunned 42-6 at Big Fellas Stadium.
“The first half was excellent,” Powell said of the eight tries to one success. “The second half got a bit disjointed and Hunslet played pretty well after half-time.
“I was pretty pleased. It was a good chance to have a look at where we are fitness-wise and defensively we were pretty solid, though we need to work on our fluency with the ball.”
Hunslet trailed 32-0 at the break, so as bad as it was, it could have been much worse.
The most alarming score from Hawks’ point of view came when – after a reasonably solid set – the tacklers fell off Ian Hardman from Jonny Hepworth’s pass and the full-back coasted over for a simple try.
The conversion – the third of Kyle Briggs’ four goals – made it 26-0 after as many minutes, but Hawks conceded just once more before the interval, Liam Mackay finishing off a sweeping handling move.
Earlier, the impressive Ben Hellewell had opened the scoring from Hepworth’s pass, Steve Crossley displayed good footwork on his way to the line, a third recruit, Tom Hodson, went over from Hellewell’s superb long ball and Andy Ellis and Briggs linked to put Greg Worthington in.
When Rovers had their starting 13 on the field they looked good, with plenty of pace and some slick handling, but, with nine substitutes, they lost a lot of their cohesion when Powell began making changes.
David March made an appearance off the bench for Hunslet – despite not being on the teamsheet – and he toughened Hawks up, the visitors making much more of a fight of it in the second period.
Hunslet’s improved defence commitment was illustrated when Andy Yates, Stuart Kain, Lee Mapals and Lee Brickwood combined to shove Matty Brook into touch by the flag.
The visitors’ try came on 62 minutes, when Luke Helliwell landed a 40-20 and Danny Grimshaw darted over in the resulting set, after Liam Welham had gone close.
Rovers didn’t add to their tally until 12 minutes from time when highly-rated youngster Kyran Johnson squeezed over at the corner, adding the goal off the touchline.
Brook crossed with five minutes left after great handling by Lamont Bryan, Crossley, Mackay and Briggs, but Johnson’s conversion attempt hit a post.
Hawks coach Barry Eaton revealed afterwards that he had considered calling the game off due to a virus sweeping through his squad.
“In the first 20 minutes we didn’t get out of our half and Featherstone had attack after attack,” he said.
“A team of that quality were going to post some points on us, but after that we competed reasonably well and in the second half we created some good chances.
“We’ve taken some positives out of the fact that we were under the cosh massively after 25 minutes and managed to be competitive from then on, rather than completely folding.”
Featherstone Rovers: Hardman, Hodson, Hellewell, Worthington, Johnson, Hepworth, Briggs, Crossley, Ellis, England, Ormondroyd, Bryan, Dale. Subs: Lockwood, Brook, Mackay, A Finn, Jackson, Scott, Day, Bostock, Pickerill.
Hunslet Hawks: Kain, Pryce, Brickwood, Welham, Mapals, Helliwell, Ansell, Bowring, Windley, Payne, Clayton, Watson, Haughey. Subs: Grimshaw, Yates, Menzies, Oakes, Lewis, March.
Referee: Dave Merrick (Pontefract).