WEST Bowling head coach Ryan Hunkin has admitted that he is absolutely delighted that his side have achieved their target of promotion from Division Two of the National Conference League.

Barring an unprecedented points swing of 262, they will also pip Ince Rose Bridge to the title, with top spot set to be officially confirmed after their mouthwatering derby clash at home to Bradford Dudley Hill this Saturday.

Hunkin feels his players have attacked brilliantly all season, but that defensive issues were holding them back earlier in the season.

He cited a key game in May as the turning point, saying: “The turning point was Hull Dockers away. We went 20 points down in 20 minutes but then came back to go 24-20 up. The discipline in that game from then on was spot on (West Bowling won 37-30).

“From then on we re-evaluated our defensive issues and set a target to be the best defensive side in the league, which we have been.

“We also wanted to get the most points offensively, which we have done, but we’ve known all season that we can outscore the opposition. We’ve always played with freedom and I’ve always said the team can rack up 30 or 40 points in a half hour spell.”

Hunkin is thrilled with how the season has gone, with only a few hiccups along the way.

He said: “I’m absolutely delighted as our target at the start of the year was to go up, but I always thought we were capable of being in the running for the title.

“It’s a tough division with good teams but we’ve been at the right level all year. Hull at home in June was a hiccup (Bowling lost 34-32) but they’re a tough team.

“They did a number on us at home last year too so I hope they miss out on winning the play-offs as they seem to be our bogey team.”

In a magnificent season, one of Bowling’s only real low points was a crushing away defeat in the reverse fixture at Dudley Hill, 36-12 in March.

Addressing that match, Hunkin said: “We had a lot of highs around then, like a great effort at Hunslet (a 56-10 loss) in the Challenge Cup and big wins at home to Askam and Clock Face Miners.

“But we didn’t really get any weekend off before that Dudley Hill game. We had an off day and we didn’t really get into the game.”

Dudley Hill’s head coach Steve Wright angered Hunkin with his comments after that game, saying that Bowling lacked the necessary hatred of Hill, and seemingly suggesting that they lacked heart.

Speaking now, months later, Hunkin said: “The lads are still young but they’ve played in tough places like Queens before and got results, so I know how much heart we’ve got as a team.

“We were upset by the defeat to Dudley Hill but we said in the dressing room that it didn’t change our focus for the season.

“Steve’s comments made no difference to us and I actually hope they come up with us because it’s such a great game and it’s been great to have the derbies this season.”

Wright concurred, with the Dudley Hill supremo telling the T&A: “It would be great to see, the home game was massive financially for us earlier in the season, and it was long overdue, 10 years in the making.

“We actually got them promoted by winning at Ince Rose Bridge the other week.”

Conversely, Dudley Hill still don’t know which division they’ll be playing in next season, but they did secure a home play-off by beating East Leeds 52-10 last week.

Wright said: “We’ve been working towards having the play-offs in the last few weeks. Once Ince and Bowling pulled out a gap at the top, we just wanted to make sure we were in the promotion mix.

“It would be a massive boost to beat Bowling going into the play-offs too.

He added: “I think for us, it was just a case of not always having a full side. There were about four weeks running earlier in the season where we were struggling just to field 15 players, whereas West Bowling pretty much got to keep the same side each week, with their strength in depth.”

Wright brushed off his controversial comments following Dudley Hill’s win over Bowling earlier in the season.

He said: “To be fair, I don’t think I said they lacked heart, I just felt they didn’t fight as much as we did. Ultimately, they’ve had a great season, and so have we, regardless of what happens.”