Eight Betfred Championship league one teams kicked off the opening round of the inaugral 1896 Cup, which will culminate in a Wembley final on Challenge Cup Final day, the 24th August. They will be joined by the twelve English Championship sides for round two to be played over the first weekend in June.
The South Leeds Stadium was the venue as Hunslet faced a Workington Town side under the new custodianship of Chris Thorman, who was only appointed towards the end of last week following the sacking of Leon Pryce.
Workington reportedly travelled to Hunslet with a squad of just fourteen players and the home side were clear favourites, currently sitting in second place in the league ladder.
Workington opened the scoring on eight minutes when Ollie Wilkes took a Sean Penkywiecz short pass to crash over under the sticks. Paul Forber added the conversion from directly in front of the sticks.
It was 12-0 after sixteen when Wilkes went in again, this time thanks to a Carl Forber pass. With the ball grounded close to the posts again, Forber added the extras, despite a strong wind.
Hunslet struck back on twenty-five through Jack Lee who picked to the ball at acting half-back, dummied to the left and then dived over the line. Reece Dean kicked the extra two points to get the home side back within six.
Hunslet’s second try came from Tom Ashton on thirty-six when he pushed on through a high tackle to ground by the left cornerflag. Dean hit the top of the upright and bounced the ball between the sticks to level the scores at the interval.
Hunslet took the lead for the first time on forty-eight, as the visitiors tired. Vila Halafihi broke the line to five metres out before passing to Nyle Flynn to walk over under the sticks and score. Dean again added the extras for 18-12.
Workington didn’t throw in the towel and on fifty-four Dec O’Donnell crashed over the top of a pile of players to get the ball on the ground. Forber kicked the conversion to again level the scores at 18-18.
Within two minutes a superb kick to the corner from Jamie Doran was collected by Scott Rooke to pick up and doive over in the corner. Forber converted brilliantly from the touchline to put Workington back into a six point lead.
Ollie Wilkes completed his hat-trick on sixty-five when a Penkywiecz grubber kick took ricochets before Wilkes got his hand on the ball to ground. Forber added the extras to put Workington twelve points clear at 30-18.
In a see-saw game it was Hunslet who hit back as Jimmy Watson skipped through the Workington defence to skirt round behind the uprights and give Dean a simple conversion for 24-30.
O’Donnell was held up over the line but on seventy-five Jamie Doran slotted over a drop goal to extend the lead to seven points and seal progress for Workington.
Inside the last couple of minutes Ashton got his second for Hunslet after a sixty metre sprint down the wing, but it was too little and too late. Dean failed to add the conversion from the touchline and as the final hooter sounded it was the away side who took the 31-28 win.
This was a top drawer performance from a Workington Town side who were depleted in terms of numbers and who had only taken part in one training session with their new coach. Hunslet will have been disappointed that they didn’t make progress and have an opportunity to test themselves against a Championship side in the next round. Workington in the hat for the next round.
Hunslet: Watson (T), Brierley, Heaton, Ashton (2T), Bloomfield, Sanderson, Dean (4G), Hawksworth, Lee (T), Luke-Kirby, Halafihi, Martin, Emmett. Subs: Braham, Flynn (T), Hema. Wright.
Workington: Farrell, Rooke (T), Barnes, Maudling, Singleton, Doran (DG), Forber (5G), Wilkes (3T), Penkywiecz, Corwen, Scholey, Tickle, Moi-Moi. Subs: O’Donnell (T), Lancaster, Walsh, Dawson.
Referee: C. Smith.