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Match report: Hunslet Hawks 20, York City Knights 6
YORK City Knights left south Leeds with nothing but battered egos after a try and goal on the final hooter by Huntington Stadium reject Luke Helliwell gave arch-rivals Hunslet a 20-6 victory.
Still, even a bonus point would have been more than Chris Thorman’s men deserved from a performance which was as tentative as it was tedious.
The game as a whole had all the hallmarks of a bottom-of-the-table encounter and, perhaps fittingly, given this display was the new nadir of 2012, the result saw the Knights crash to the foot of the Championship, now the only team without a win.
Hosts Hunslet had yet to pick up even a bonus point, not helped by a plethora of injuries, but they were the team that displayed whatever enthusiasm, offloads and sparkle was on show.
By contrast, and worryingly given the season is now nine games old, York appeared more incohesive and uncertain than ever, the encouragement proferred by the display at home to Halifax a few weeks ago all but wiped away.
There was new hope before the kick off as York finally welcomed back prop idol Paul King for only his second competitive game since joining from Hull. He wasn’t match fit but he brings something to the party.
Rhys Clarke was also back from injury, also starting on the bench, with Alex Benson and Dave Sutton the two to make way from last week’s defeat at Leigh.
Another notable change saw Brett Turner, who has impressed off the bench, start at scrum-half, with player-boss Chris Thorman, at stand-off, reverting to a conventional half-back partnership. Turner seems more effective when used as a replacement hooker.
Shirt numbers were a little misleading, as skipper James Ford wore number three but played at loose-forward while Tommy Haughey was at centre, wearing 20.
James Houston and Nathan Freer wore ten and 11 but were at second-row and prop respectively, with Brooke Broughton, who had no number, also in the back row. If anyone was confused by formations, though, it was the Knights.
Former Hawk Houston made the first insertion into home territory. Quick ball left could have created an overlap but Jordan Tansey’s pass was held up in a tricky wind and the chance was gone.
As it was, three penalties took the hosts downfield and left-winger Dennis Tuffour scored from half-back Helliwell’s long pass. Both players had points to prove against their former club.
There were actually nine ex-Knights in the Hawks’ 17 – David Clayton, John Oakes, David March, Joe McLocklan, Richard Blakeway, David Tootill and Ryan Benjafield the others – and there would have been more but for the injury woes engulfing the Hunslet camp.
Steve Lewis was the latest casualty, joining on the treatment table fellow former Knights Danny Grimshaw and Danny Ratcliffe – whose absences had forced coach Barry Eaton to take scrum-half Ryan Smith on loan from former club Keighley on the eve of the game.
Surely Hunslet should have been the more disjointed, but it was the visitors who looked second best. March’s darts and off-loads were particularly prominent – how York could do with a specialist loose- forward in his mould.
A brief high point of the first half for York came as a break by Jordan Tansey saw Thorman send Turner away, only to be caught a yard short by Benjafield.
They kept the pressure on but Haughey had the ball stolen one-on-one by Gareth Davies as he went for the line. Haughey was again disappointing, particularly as it was against his former club.
York perhaps got on top as the half became nip-and-tuck, but the old problem of breaking down decent defence remained.
It got worse just before half-time. Blakeway wasted a fine break by passing to Tom Bush, who was chasing back, rather than a team-mate.
But Tuffour was not so wasteful when gathering a smart kick by March to get his second try, an apparent forward pass in the build-up being missed. Helliwell goaled.
It was slow going in the second half – and frustrations grew.
The Knights briefly flickered as Tansey superbly caught and touched down a Turner kick but the light was snuffed out as the try was disallowed for failing to ground the ball.
The full-back, clearly disagreeing with the decision, duly said too much to referee Warren Turley and was sin-binned. And while he was off the pitch, Hawks centre Davies offloaded for winger Lee Brickwood to score. Due punishment.
York finally got on the scoreboard with 14 minutes left as quick hands from Matt Garside gave Ben Hellewell the chance to dive into the corner, Thorman goaling from out wide.
Winger Hellewell almost scored again from a Thorman kick but Clayton contested superbly to hold him short, while the last chance went as Bush was shoved into touch in-goal with a couple of minutes left.
Still, a comeback would have merely papered over cracks.
Instead, Helliwell’s stoppage-time six-pointer – gathering his own deflected kick as the defence slept – turned cracks into cavities.
Hunslet: Hodgson, Brickwood, Davies, Clayton, Tuffour, Helliwell, R Smith, Yates, Haigh, Henderson, Watson, Oakes, March.
Subs (all used): McLocklan, Blakeway, Tootill, Benjafield.
Tries: Tuffour 13, 40; Brickwood 55; Helliwell 80.
Conversions: Helliwell 40, 80.
Sent off: None.
Knights: Tansey 6, Bush 6, Haughey 4, Garside 5, Hellewell 6, Thorman 5, Turner 6, Sullivan 6, Lee 6, Freer 6, Houston 6, Broughton 6, Ford 5.
Subs (all used): Elliott 6, Aldous 6, Clarke 6, King 7.
Tries: Hellewell 66.
Conversions: Thorman 66.
Sin-binned: Tansey 52.
Sent off: None.
Man of the match: Paul King – the fit-again former Super League prop offers something extra and the Knights desperately need to see more of him.
Referee: Warren Turley (Leigh) – was the centre of attention too much, while his touch judges seemed oblivious to forward passes.
Weather: nippy and breezy.
Moment of the match: it says a lot when a consolation try (by Ben Hellewell) against a team hitherto without a point this term is the highlight.
Gaffe of the match: referee Turley has shown himself to be a strict disciplinarian in recent years, so Jordan Tansey really was foolish – and unprofessional – to question his decision to disallow his second-half try, even if it was incorrect and crucial.
Match rating: York looked increasingly hesitant and low on confidence.