No Geoff Gunney but defiant Hunslet keen to put on a show

Hunslet coach Barry Eaton.
Hunslet coach Barry Eaton.
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The last time Hunslet faced Wigan in the Challenge Cup they played out one of the all-time great finals.

Admittedly, it was in 1965 and the South Leeds side still had their legendary Great Britain second-row Geoff Gunney firing around before losing 20-16 at Wembley.

Such greats as Billy Boston and Eric Ashton, no less, featured for their victorious opponents in front of almost 90,000 fans.

It will be a little different tomorrow when they meet in the competition’s fifth round at DW Stadium.

Granted, both sides are on impressive winning runs with Wigan aiming for an eighth successive triumph compared to Hunslet’s seventh.

The only difference being, though, that Wigan – who flew 12,000 miles to tackle NRL premiers Sydney Roosters a couple of months ago – have defeated the likes of St Helens and Warrington during that sequence while Hunslet swept past Oxford, London Skolars and University of Gloucestershire in Championship One.

In the intervening almost half century since their last Challenge Cup meeting, the once great myrtle and flame have certainly not enjoyed the same sort of trajectory as their illustrious hosts.

Nevertheless, Hunslet’s astute coach Barry Eaton, though accepting the magnitude of the task in hand against the reigning Super League champions and Challenge Cup holders, remains confident his side can compete.

“The players are aware of what a mighty challenge lies ahead for them but they are embracing it,” he said.

“They have been relaxed and excited about what we’ve put in place this week to attack Wigan with.

“Hopefully we won’t be over-awed – we’ll get there early so they can have a good look around – and they’ll give a good account of themselves.

“The squad’s been playing really well of late with the ball and defensively have been pretty good too.

“Obviously that will really be tested to the hilt by Wigan, whichever side they put out, but if we get some ball we’re sure we can cause them some problems too.”

Of course, Wigan destroyed Super League rivals Bradford Bulls 84-6 in their last outing on Easter Monday, an ominous sign of the power, pace and panache of Shaun Wane’s side.

Championship One leaders Hunslet – who have brothers Thomas and James Coyle plus Danny Maun who all came through the Wigan Academy – could perhaps give themselves a target of avoiding such a hefty scoreline?

But Eaton said: “Bradford have gone through their (financial) difficulties.

“We went through something similar at Crusaders and when there’s off-field problems it’s really difficult to concentrate on on-field stuff.

“I’ve looked at Wigan’s recent games but not looked at that Bradford game; we’ve discounted that.”

Hunslet will not have any access to their partnership with Leeds Rhinos for tomorrow’s game, instead using their own squad which includes plenty who will be looking to impress.

“We’ve got a real nucleus of players that have never played Super League level and have just been in the Championship,” said Eaton.

“But we’ve also got a good nucleus that have been in Academy systems, including Leeds, that have just not quite made it but still have ambitions to do so.

“There’s no better stage than Sunday to show that.”