Earlier this season, Oxford beat Hunslet in a memorable match at Tilsley Park, but this time the visitors were able to head home with the win, and with two League 1 Shield points that keep them on top of the table.
It was a fairly scrappy game, with the usual strong Abingdon breeze causing kicks to over-reach, coupled with frequent handling errors from both sides. Hunslet also spurned several clear opportunities to score more points, notably with a knock-on inside the in-goal area on a free play.
The visitors started the better of the two sides and took an early lead when Matt Nicholson went in under the posts. Joe Sanderson began his perfect kicking day with the conversion.
Oxford’s best spell of the game followed this setback. In a concerted spell of pressure Hunslet were forced into three goal-line drop-outs, and also conceded successive penalties near the goal-line. If these were professional fouls, then the referee decided not to show a yellow card, and the tactic failed anyway because Jordan Siddons darted through a small gap for a try which Harvey Burnett converted.
But disaster struck immediately as Hunslet’s kick-off cannoned into an Oxford player and bounced awkwardly. Hunslet were able to re-gather and in the confusion George Flanagan scored through the middle. A few minutes later Cameron Leeming extended the lead with a try in the left corner, and then Oxford’s James Cryer was sent to the sinbin for what appeared to be dissent.
Hunslet failed to make the most of the one-man advantage. Instead Jordan Gill leapt high to gather a Kieran Hyde cross-field kick and was able to avoid any defence to score in the corner.
Then some spectacular passing by Adam Dent and Scott Fleming in their own in-goal area led to a strong break by the returning Luke Gardiner. He reached the half-way line before being stopped by desperate defence. But for the second game in succession, Oxford had a promising attack stopped by the half-time hooter.
The second half was, for some while, end-to-end stuff but with few clear chances. Neither team were able to hold onto possession, but with about 20 minutes left Hunslet got the killer score as Matt Nicholson tumbled over the line after running on the sixth tackle. Further tries followed from Liam Mackay and Jake Normington.
It was referee James Jones’ first ever game at this level, and he showed his first red card after Lee Land was judged to have committed a high tackle, Land clearly failing to agree with the decision.
This time Oxford weren’t able to score with 12 men and the game petered out to another defeat.
Oxford – 1 Adam Dent, 2 Jordan Gill, 22 Harvey Burnett, 4 James Cryer, 5 Luke Gardiner, 6 Casey Canterbury, 7 Dan Fleming, 8 Lee Land, 9 Brad Moules, 10 Jonny Payne, 11 Jordan Siddons, 13 Kieran Hyde, 24 Stuart Biscomb
Interchanges: 17 Dwaine McRae, 14 Sam Druce, 25 Fran Welsh, 15 Marcus Brooker
Tries: Jordan Siddons (22), Jordan Gill (33)
Goals: Harvey Burnett (1 from 2)
Hunslet – 1 Jimmy Watson, 39 James Duckworth, 4 Mufaro Mvududu, 24 Cameron Leeming, 28 Marcus Webb, 6 Joe Sanderson, 7 Danny Ansell, 35 Matt Nicholson, 38 Luke Teasdale, 10 Lewis Reed, 11 Jake Normington, 13 Liam Mackay, 17 Nyle Flynn
Interchanges: 8 Michael Haley, 14 George Flanagan, 15 Jack Coventry, 16 Danny Williams
Tries: Matt Nicholson (8), George Flanagan (23), Cameron Leeming (26), Matt Nicholson (59), Liam Mackay (61), Jake Normington (67)Goals: Joe Sanderson (6 from 6)
Half-time – Oxford 10 Hunslet 18
Full-time – Oxford 10 Hunslet 36
Scoring sequence – 0-6, 6-6, 6-12, 6-18, 10-18, 10-24, 10-30, 10-36
Referee – James Jones
Sin-bin – James Cryer (Oxford) – 28 minutes
Sent off – Lee Land (Oxford) – 72 minutes
Penalties – Oxford 6 Hunslet 9