THERE was little to play for at South Leeds Stadium last night, so any moans and groans about the lack of entertainment must be somewhat tempered.

York City Knights and hosts Hunslet Hawks played out an uninspiring 18-12 home win in the final game of their Northern Rail Cup group programme, in a match that rarely had the fans on the edge of their seats.

With neither side able to progress and their positions in the group table already decided, there was nothing but pride, and the opportunity to get one over their LHF National League Two rivals, at stake ahead of the league campaign which begins on Monday.

Hunslet, fielding a much-changed team to the one defeated at York last month, took the spoils and thus broke their duck in the competition, but they were no great shakes either.

The effort was there from both teams, as you would expect from professionals, but the only time the game had any edge to it was when Hunslet sub Shaun Ibbetson came close to effecting a spear tackle on York sub Mark Cain midway through the second half, which prompted an angry riposte and a brief get-together of players.

The good thing is this match is unlikely to have any bearing on the Knights' league opener against Swinton, when coach Mick Cook will bring back a posse of first-teamers.

On that note, it is easy to understand Cook's liking for squad rotation.

However, last night's team, with a host of changes, seemed to lack cohesion, especially in attack where the completion rate could have been counted on Captain Hook's false hand.

They were let down perhaps more so by some awful handling, for which Cook could not be blamed. Basically, too many players had an off day.

At least it gave the side some defensive practice, and that looked okay all things considered, being breached only three times, not counting the Hawks' three penalty goals which on another day would not have been given.

Hunslet winger Jeremy Dyson broke the deadlock with his first penalty goal for lying on, but the lead did not last long as Matt Blaymire - starting at full-back after trialist Lee Lingard was withdrawn due to a knee injury - burst through on to a Scott Rhodes pass and side-stepped his opposite number.

Chris Ross converted against his former club, though later limped off with a hamstring strain which may rule him out for some time.

Hunslet suffered an injury blow too as prop Nick Staveley was stretchered off, but they nevertheless hit back as hooker Jermaine Wray - by far the most dangerous man on the field - darted over from acting half, the attack having been aided by another harsh penalty for lying on.

York's defence was breached again on half-time when Wray burst through and, from the play-the-ball, winger Chris North evaded poor tackles to score, though Dyson missed a simple conversion.

That man Wray inflicted more damage after the break as he bought yet another penalty for lying on and Dyson this time hit the mark for a 12-6 lead.

Under-fire referee Jamie Leahy 'punished' Ibbetson for the near-spear tackle by put-ting it on report and Hunslet soon went further ahead when Wray darted over again, the lead increasing to 18-6 with a further penalty goal this time for accidental offside.

York's meagre reply came when Chris Levy - harshly singled out for stick from some York fans - sent up a bomb that caused havoc in the defence and allowed Mick Ramsden to pounce for a late consolation try goaled by Cain.

Levy's next act, however, was to drop the ball near his own sticks, which did his cause no good and just about summed up the match. Good job none of it really mattered.

Match facts

Northern Rail Cup

group match

Friday, March 25, 2005

at South Leeds Stadium

Hunslet: McLelland, Dyson, A Gibbons, Cummins, North, Bastow, Moxon, Staveley, Wray, Carbutt, W Freeman, Cawthray, Naylor. Subs (all used): G Freeman, M Shickell, A Shickell, Ibbetson.

Tries: Wray 27, 65; North 40. Conversions: None. Penalties: Dyson 10, 46, 74. Drop goals: None.

Sin-binned: None. Sent off: None.

Knights: Blaymire 6, Fox 5, Watson 5, Law 6, Ross 6, Rhodes 6, Levy 6, Buckenham 7, N Thorman 6, Sozi 5, Ramsden 5, Callaghan 6, Paterson 6. Subs (all used): Cain 6, Ward 6, McDowell 6, Forsyth 5.

Tries: Blaymire 15; Ramsden 78. Conversions: Ross 15; Cain 78. Penalties: None. Drop goals: None.

Sin-binned: None. Sent off: None.

Updated: 09:22 Saturday, March 26, 2005