Hunslet ARLFC were given their first real test in the Impact Performance National Conference League Premier Division and held out to claim a satisfying 17-16 win at Thatto Heath Crusaders.
Thatto Heath showed their sportsmanship, lending Hunslet spare socks and shorts after a mix-up with the kit and the St Helens club also welcomed a couple of regulars back into their squad but were missing a couple of others. Nonetheless, this heavyweight struggle saw both teams go toe-to-toe.
For a long spell, it remained 0-0 with Jack McShane held on the Thatto line twice in the first twenty minutes and Kieran Murphy was held up in goal.
Both packs were outstanding with middle forwards Elliott Morgan, Kieran Webster, George Clarke and Morris Kamano giving a solid platform for Hunslet and Adam Hesketh, Greg Wilde, Adam Carr and Louis Pauls impressing for Thatto.
Home centre Dave Pike caused problems each time he carried and Harry Reardon was busy. Hunslet halfbacks Jordan Gale and Danny Rowse kicked well and it was Gale who opened the scoring when he raced in from a scrum and evaded a couple of tackles. He converted to open a 0-6 advantage and Hunslet lost Josh McLelland to injury and had to move Craig McShane across the backline to take him out of the limelight as he struggled.
Thatto spied their chance and took it in clinical fashion when Pike broke, Connor Dwyer carried on the move and released the pass at the right time for Dan McGahan to go over in the corner. It proved too far out for Lewis Fairhurst to convert and it was 4-6 at half-time.
The new half began with Jamie Morris held up over the line for Thatto and a weaving run from Craig McShane seemed to open the defence at the other end, with the offload, fortunately, going into touch.
Hunslet were looking lively but a telling intercept by Tom Yates saw Crusaders move away from danger and two quick plays later Fairhurst had picked his way through from thirty metres and tagged on the goal to nudge the hosts in front 10-8.
The lead barely lasted three minutes as Jack McShane, Gale, Jake Dearden and Kieran Murphy combined for Tyler Dargan to continue his prolific start to the season with a try in the right corner. Gale converted superbly and Hunslet led 10-12.
On the hour Thatto Heath looked set to add to their tally but brave defence held them at bay and crucially the next try went Hunslet's way five minutes later when Dearden stepped over on the left from a Rowse pass to open a six-point advantage.
The game was still on a knife edge when Gale popped over a drop goal with four minutes remaining, but Thatto Heath ensured a nervy finish when Adam Hesketh went over from close range and Fairhurst kicked his second goal. The hosts tried a chip over in their own half from the restart and Hunslet recovered possession to see out the game and claim a win that keeps them on top of the embryonic Premier Division table.
Elsewhere in the Premier Division there were solid wins for West Hull, York Acorn and Wath Brow Hornets. Kells won through 12-4 in a low-scoring encounter against Lock Lane and Siddal eeked out a close 20-16 win over Leigh Miners Rangers.
Division One saw West Bowling come out on top 34-18 at Skirlaugh while Egremont Rangers defeated Stanningley 26-12. There were away wins for Pilkington Recs, Oulton Raiders and Heworth while Clock Face Miners won at home.
Waterhead Warriors continued their powerful start with a 28-0 home success over Normanton Knights. Woolston Rovers won away at Dewsbury Celtic and East Leeds enjoyed their first win of the season - 46-26 against Barrow Island. Saddleworth and Dewsbury Moor Maroons claimed home wins while Shaw Cross Sharks and Myton Warriors fought out a 20-20 draw.
In Division Three Millom accounted for Ellenborough Rangers 26-18 while Drighlington won a narrow victory against Bentley. Beverley shut out Leigh East and Oldham St Annes enjoyed a 40-14 success at Eastmoor Dragons. Hensingham and Seaton saw their game postponed due to an unfit pitch and the game will be played later in the year.
- York Acorn 42 Wigan St Patricks 18
- West Hull 28 Rochdale Mayfield 10
- Wath Brow Hornets 40 Hull Dockers 0
- Kells 12 Lock Lane 4
- Siddal 20 Leigh Miners Rangers 16
- Thatto Heath Crusaders 16 Hunslet ARLFC 17
- Egremont Rangers 26 Stanningley 12
- Featherstone Lions 18 Pilkington Recs 24
- Ince Rose Bridge 14 Oulton Raiders 34
- Skirlaugh 18 West Bowling 34
- Thornhill Trojans 4 Heworth 28
- Clock Face Miners 24 Crosfields 12
- Waterhead Warriors 28 Normanton Knights 0
- Dewsbury Celtic 6 Woolston Rovers 18
- Dewsbury Moor Maroons 36 Wigan St Judes 6
- East Leeds 46 Barrow Island 26
- Saddleworth Rangers 12 Milford 4
- Shaw Cross Sharks 20 Myton Warriors 20
- Beverley 16 Leigh East 0
- Drighlington 18 Bentley 16
- Eastmoor Dragons 14 Oldham St Annes 40
- Hensingham P Seaton Rangers P
- Millom 26 Ellenborough 18
Report by Dave Parkinson
Image - Alex Shenton