Blackburn Hawks produced their best performance of the season to claim a stunning 4-2 victory over Championship-winning Whitley Warriors in the first leg of their play-off semi-final.

Whitley, unbeaten all season, were no match for Jared Owen’s side, who will take a crucial two-goal lead into the second leg this weekend.

And Owen believes his players are capable of finishing the job off.

Hawks’ end-of-season form had seen them limp to a top-four finish courtesy of a disappointing draw against bottom-of-the-table Telford Titans in their final game.

But as Owen described that display as Hawks’ worst of the season, the win over Whitley was by far their best.

Aaron Davies broke the deadlock to give the hosts a well-deserved lead in the first period.

Whitley battled back, scoring just minutes into the second period, but further Hawks goals from Rick Ravey and Gary Dixon gave the home side the advantage going into the final period.

Whitley once again started well, clawing a goal back to take the score to 3-2, before MVP Davies restored Hawks’ two-goal advantage to send the crowd into raptures.

Head coach Owen said: “It was important to take a lead into the return leg because the pressure will be on them in the next game. Hopefully, we can exploit the spaces they leave when they try to attack us.”

Owen also paid special praise to the vociferous home support, who roared their side to victory.

“The supporters were fantastic and very vocal throughout the game,” added Owen.