Leeds Rhinos Nostalgia: Hunslet miss ideal opportunity to get one over on fiercest rivals

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LEEDS RHINOS’ opening fixture of 2016 is Friday’s Lazenby Cup tie at Hunslet Hawks.

Leeds also began 1988 against Hunslet, which was the last time the clubs met in a league game.

On that occasion the New Year’s Day derby was staged at Headingley and relegation-haunted Hunslet went in at the break matching their title-chasing city rivals before Leeds pulled away to win 28-12.

The Loiners were on an eight-match unbeaten run, including seven straight wins and sitting second in the Stones Bitter Championship table, while Hunslet were second from bottom, with two wins and two draws from 15 games.

But Leeds had an eye on on the following week’s John Player Trophy final against St Helens and the visitors sensed an upset, despite trailing 12-0 early on.

John Basnett got Leeds off to a flying start with an 80-metre sprint after intercepting a pass from Alan Platt.

Peter Jackson added a second touchdown for the hosts, but Platt atoned for his earlier blunder by taking Terry Webb’s high kick to score Hunslet’s first try and he then put Phil Tate over for their second.

Platt converted both to make it 12-12 at the break and Hunslet were only two points adrift going into the final quarter, after David Creasser had edged jittery Leeds back in front with a penalty, the third of his four goals.

At that stage a huge shock was on the cards, but Leeds finally clicked into gear.

Creasser finished off fine play by Ray Ashton and Dave Heron to gallop over from 55 metres and then crossed again – from a pass by Paul Medley – before Steve Morris added a fifth touchdown for the home team.

Roy Powell was Leeds’ top performer and it was his break which set up Creasser’s crucial second try.

Marty Gurr, Mark Brooke-Cowden and John Fairbank also played well for Leeds and ex-Loiners Webb, Ricky Lulham and Andrew Sykes had big games for Hunslet.

Their coach David Ward received a standing ovation on his return to his former ground.

Yorkshire Evening Post reporter Trevor Watson wrote: “Not all the home supporters were happy, as Leeds made a series of mistakes and dropped into too many bad habits of poor support and relatively aimless one-man drives and giving the visitors far too much scope to run.

“But that is taking credit away from Hunslet, who showed great spirit and plenty of ability to come back from 12-0 down.”

Stones Bitter Championship

January 1, 1988

Leeds 28 (Tries Creasser 2, Basnett, Jackson, Morris. Goals Creasser 4), Hunslet 12 (Tries Platt, Tate. Goals Platt 2).

Leeds: Gurr, Morris, Schofield, Jackson, Basnett, Creasser, Ashton, Tunks, Maskill. Fairbank, Powell, Medley, Heron. Subs Gibson, Brooke-Cowden.

Hunslet: Lay, Penola, Tate, Senior, Coates, Platt, Lulham, Sykes, Webb, Wood, Gillespie, Nickle, Mitchell. Subs Irvine, Bowden.

Referee: Brian Simpson. Attendance: 10,047.