Hunslet have reacted angrily to the news, but the RFL insist it is standard procedure for Ladbrokes Challenge Cup ties to take priority over league matches. The south Leeds club say the postponement is “at the direct instruction of the RFL who have advised that under operational rules last weekend’s postponed Challenge Cup tie between Whitehaven and Oxford now has to take precedence”. A club statement added: “Having spoken to Whitehaven they have made clear they would have been more than happy to replay the Cup tie in midweek, leaving our league fixture unaffected. Sadly they could not secure agreement to that offer with their opponents. “
Hunslet chairman Neil Hampshire said: “This is a real blow to us. In fact the RFL did not even have the courtesy to tell us directly, leaving Whitehaven to contact [us] and explain the situation, which to me is unacceptable.
“They no doubt knew the reception they would get. We have worked hard to promote this game and have over 80 people booked in for a Mother’s Day lunch and entertainment.
“They will be massively disappointed that the event has now had to be cancelled albeit through no fault of the club. I have left the RFL in absolutely no doubt as to my anger at this decision, but unfortunately they are just not prepared to listen.
“As a supporter-owned club it is incredibly difficult to drive income streams and decisions like this do nothing to help. The decision also means we now have a month-long gap between home games which hardly helps build momentum. It’s a shame we find ourselves in this situation when there’s an obvious solution that the RFL aren’t prepared to take.”
But an RFL spokesman said: “In operational rules Cup ties always take precedence over league matches and the latter must be postponed if the board so directs. We instructed the club [Whitehaven] to notify the opposition and to begin the process of finding a new date and if there were any issues to come back to us.”
Oxford are understood to have been unwilling to make a 600-mile return trip to Cumbria in midweek.
Meanwhile, Hunslet forward Trae O’Sullivan has been banned for one game after admitting foul and abusive language to a match official in this month’s win at Hemel Stags.