Match Preview: Toronto Wolfpack vs Hunslet RLFC

Match preview by Doug Thomson, League Express
Match Date: Saturday 24th June
Time: 19:00 EDT (00.00 Sunday 25th June BST)
Venue: Lamport Stadium, Toronto

Home run in Rugby League

After two games on the road, the Wolfpack start a sequence of four successive matches at the Lamport Stadium ahead of the League One split.

Paul Rowley’s leaders will be desperate to maintain their 100 per cent record as they start to look to the Super Eights competition, which starts at the end of next month.

The boss will be hoping the build-up to the big match against ninth-placed Hunslet Hawks is smoother than it was for last Sunday’s clash at Workington.

The Wolfpack showed their professionalism by dealing with a delay of more than two hours to the kick-off at Derwent Park because the referee and a number of Workington players were stuck in a traffic jam caused by a motorway accident.
Toronto still came away with a 58-12 victory, and are seeking their 12th league win at the expense of Hunslet.

The visitors, refreshed after a free weekend last time around, are chasing their first points under the leadership of new coach Gary Thornton, who has had two matches to date since succeeding James Coyle.

The Yorkshire side were beaten by Barrow, then York, and another defeat would be a setback to their hopes of making the Super Eights.

Hunslet

An inner-city area of South Leeds, Hunslet has a rich industrial history involving railway locomotives, steam rollers, pottery and beer.

This is partly down to the proximity if the River Aire, which flows from North to East Yorkshire and right through the sprawling city of Leeds.

Hunslet, mentioned in the famous Domesday Book of 1086, grew rapidly in the first half of the 19th century. Several large mills were built for spinning of flax and there were chemical and glass works as well as extensive potteries.

By the 20th century, there was a large gas works, while engineering companies manufacturing locomotives, traction engines and steam rollers had sprung up.

Hunslet was the main site for Leeds Creamware, a type of pottery (still produced) so called because of its cream glazing, and between 1822 and 2011, the home of brewers Joshua Tetley and Son, now part of the Carlsberg Tetley group.

What was once Leeds’ main railway goods yard in Hunslet has been redeveloped into the Crown Point Retail Park.

With a population of more than 33,000, the area now has office as well as industrial sites.

Hunslet RLFC

One of the founder members of the game in 1895, Hunslet was once one of the biggest names in Rugby League.

The club was established in 1883, before the big split between Rugby League and Union, to provide a winter sporting pursuit for local cricketers.

Hunslet enjoyed a glorious 1907-08 campaign, winning all four trophies available – the Championship, Challenge Cup, Yorkshire League title and Yorkshire Cup.

The team was powered by a pack of forwards known as the Terrible Six which included Albert Goldthorpe, who is commemorated by the medal League Express presents annually to the leading player in Super League, selected via points awarded by its match reporters.
In 1934, Hunslet won the Challenge Cup for the second time and four years later, became Rugby League champions for the second time, defeating neighbours Leeds in the play-off final.

Such was the interest in the high-stakes derby match, it was switched to Leeds United’s Elland Road soccer ground and watched by more than 54,000, at that time a record for a Rugby League match in England.
As Hunslet’s population declined through the clearance of cramped inner-city housing and the closure of a number of factories, so the club’s support declined.

An appearance in the 1965 Challenge Cup final brought some respite, but in general the club was struggling, both in terms of playing fortunes and finances, and, having been forced to sell Parkside, their home ground since 1888, the club was wound up in 1973.
Salvation came through the formation of a new club, suitably called New Hunslet, and a switch to the Leeds Greyhound Stadium.

The team also played at Batley, Elland Road and Bramley, another Leeds club who were disbanded in 1999, before returning in 1995 to their own turf at the South Leeds Stadium, which is also used for athletics.

In 1999, Hunslet won the Northern Ford Premiership (now Championship) Grand Final, only to be controversially denied entry to Super League. The Rugby Football League cited their ‘Framing The Future’ document, setting out standards of facilities required for Super League, to justify the club’s exclusion.

Having yo-yoed between Rugby League’s second and third tiers for the last 30 years, Hunslet dropped out of the Championship and into League One in 2015.

Key Battles

There will be a sense of déjà vu for both Hunslet coach Gary Thornton and versatile back Tommy Brierley.

Thornton faced the Wolfpack as coach of Doncaster in April, when his charges were beaten 82-6 in South Yorkshire.

That remains Toronto’s highest points tally in a single match, so the Hunslet chief, who has also coached Batley, York and Castleford’s Under-19 team, will want to avoid being on the receiving end of another big score.

Brierley, on loan to Hunslet from York, played at the Lamport Stadium earlier this month while on a temporary deal at Coventry Bears, who were beaten 54-12.

Hunslet, who have five wins from 11 League One matches, have also brought in former Salford prop Luke Bowden on loan from Rochdale.

Pivots George Flanagan, who has scored 13 tries this time around, Jack Lee and Danny Ansell will have key roles to play for the visitors, who have other experienced operators in fullback Jimmy Watson and former Featherstone props Matt Nicholson and Michael Haley.
Craig Hall took his total points haul for the Wolfpack to 236 with two tries and nine goals at Workington.