Stirring fightback ends 45-year wait

Hunslet Hawks 24 Leeds Rhinos 22 Lazenby cup by PETER SMITH A THRILLING fightback earned Hunslet Hawks a dramatic 24-22 win over Leeds Rhinos to give them their first Lazenby Cup success in 45 years.

Hawks had conceded more than half a century of points in each of their three previous pre-season games and they looked set for another drubbing as Rhinos cruised into a 22-0 lead after 30 minutes.

But many of Rhinos' young side were playing their third game in nine days and as they ran out of steam, Hawks came storming back.

Liam Botham and Scott Murrell were outstanding for Rhinos in the first-half, but when they went off, the game began to change.

Another huge factor was the introduction of Hunslet's veteran prop Steve Pryce and Danny Thomas' switch from centre to half-back, as the former Leeds Academy player took a grip of the game.

Ex-Leeds youngster Danny Cook touched down from Mark Tepper's pass to narrow the gap to 22-4 at the break and the experienced Mark Cass sent Justin Hunter over seven minutes into the second-half.

Disallowed

On 55 minutes Rhinos' Chris Buttery had a touchdown mysteriously disallowed and was sin-binned in the aftermath and by the time he returned, the gap was down to two points.

Former Milford and Bramley centre Paul Cummins darted down the blindside for a fine solo try from acting-half and then Thomas worked a one-two with Jamaine Wray – who was outstanding throughout – to cross between the posts.

Wray's second conversion made it 22-20 on the hour, but Hunslet had an escape with 10 minutes left when Rhinos' Jordan Tansey had a touchdown ruled out for a forward pass.

Four minutes later Cass and Thomas worked the ball to Andy Bastow and his long pass found Cummins, who crashed over at the corner to win it for the hosts.

Earlier, Murrell had sent Botham over for the opening try before Jason Golden went blind from acting-half for a clever touchdown from close range.

Michael Brown scored after George Rayner spilled Jason Golden's towering kick and then Botham grabbed a well-taken second from the base of a scrum, Ashley Gibson adding his third conversion.

Leeds boss Tony Smith paid full credit to the victors.

"I'm delighted for Hunslet, it's terrific for them," he said. "It was a great experience for our young people too, they will learn lots from it.

"It was a classic game of two halves. Our boys were very, very good in the first-half and not so good in the second.

"Had there been a bit more precision in the way we played it may have been a different result, but to be held to no points in the second-half speaks tremendously of Hunslet's defence."

Delighted Hunslet coach Roy Sampson said: "We needed a good result and we needed the win.

"When we were trailing by two points spirits were high, but we needed to win because I don't want the players to think that a good performance is acceptable – we are here to win.

"If we had played the same way in the first-half as we did in the second we would have won convincingly.

"Leeds have a lot of good players, so it is a good effort to come back from 22-0 down. We are going in the right direction and this is a massive boost for the club.

"There's still a lot of rivalry with Leeds, so to put one over on the old enemy is massive for the supporters."

Hunslet Hawks: Rayner, Carey, Thomas, Cummins, Hunter, Bastow, Cass, Stavelely, Hawley, M Gibbons, W Freeman, G Freeman, Wray. Subs (all used) Carbutt, Pryce, Cook, Tepper, Morton, McClelland, Hamed.

Leeds Rhinos: Gordon, Williams, Buttery, Gibson, Brown, Murrell, Gallagher, Feather, J I'Anson, Scruton, Golden, Botham, Ablett. Subs (all used) Tansey, C I'Anson, Burgess, Walsh, Tootill, Ratu, Hart.

Referee: Gareth Hewer (Whitehaven).

peter.smith@ypn.co.uk