Hull FC slipped down to 8th in Super League with a heartbreaking defeat in Perpignan as Catalan Dragons continued their impressive home form which has seen them only lose once on their home ground.
Coach Lee Radford brought back Jordan Rankin at full-back in place of Jamie Shaul and derby hat-trick hero Fetuli Talanoa returned in place of Warrington-bound winger Tom Lineham and Setaimata Sa also returned from injury to face his former team at the Stade Gilbert Brutus after missing the win at Widnes Vikings.
The first chance came the way of the black and white’s with a scrum 10 meters from the Catalan line after Morgan Escare knocked on a high kick which then led to the young full-back being caught behind the line after a full set on the home sides line.
The goal line drop out led to another attack but the Airlie Birds were unable to make it count as a grubber kick from Marc Sneyd was eventually cleared up.
However the respite for the Dragons was only temporary as finally Joe Westerman made a break in the middle of the pitch and Rankin came up in support to go over under the posts in the 11th minute, the conversion from Sneyd gave the visitors a 6 point lead.
It took until the 16th minute for Catalan to draw level when captain Remi Casty made a break in midfield and then put the supporting Thomas Bosc over under the posts, the conversion from Scott Dureau brought the home side level.
Another mistake by Catalan led to another Hull scrum 10 meters from the Dragons line but a structured set from the visitors was ineffective as the home side comfortably held them out.
As the game settled down the home side became slightly more frustrated than Hull and a petulant ball steal by Dureau in the 28th minute gave them a penalty which Sneyd added to take the score to 6-8 in the 29th minute.
In the 35th minute a telegraphed pass from Sneyd to Mark Minichiello gifted an intercept and simple dash to the line to score for Dragons centre Tony Gigot to put the home side in the lead for the first time, the conversion from Dureau stretched it to a 4 point advantage.
Back-to-back penalties then led to another attack and try for the home side by Greg Mounis under the posts in the 39th minute, the inevitable conversion from Dureau gave the Dragons a 10 point lead going into the half time break.
Hull only had themselves to blame for trailing at half time after they had plenty of territory but made mistakes which had led to scores for the home side after a solid opening 30 minutes.
A penalty given away by the Dragons early in the second half gave Hull some pressure on the Catalan line again but again the attack was well quelled by an organised defence until a grubber kick by Sneyd went over the dead ball line.
The Dragons then got a penalty for a stolen ball and attacked with purpose but a stray pass cost them another try and gave the visitors a relieving scrum.
Another purposeful attack from the Dragons saw Dureau put a grubber kick over the Hull try line with Elliott Whitehead hunting the try but Steve Michaels managed to knock the ball dead for a goal line drop out then a mistake by Catalan in the ensuing attack gave Hull some relief.
However another mistake by the visitors led to another attack until another mistake from the home side gave Hull possession back.
The play then moved back to the Catalan end as Hull appeared to start to get into their stride and then Gigot knocked on 30 meters from his own line to give Hull another attacking scrum and Mark Minichiello brought his side back into the contest in the 52nd minute as he bashed his way over despite the attentions of three Dragons defenders, the simple conversion for Sneyd brought the score to 18-14.
Another fluid attack from the Dragons led to a break by Escare who chipped over the head of Talanoa but Sa was on hand to take the kick behind the try line for a goal line drop out again which led to another attack until a forward pass gave Hull another relieving scrum.
Hull then moved quickly down-field and the two former Dragons players combined as Leon Pryce chipped over the defensive line but Sa lost the ball over the line under pressure.
A silly penalty given away by Hull then led to more pressure on their line but another poor pass led to a knock on by Man of Steel contender Zeb Taia to give them another scrum to clear their lines.
Another fast move down-field by Hull then saw Pryce kick towards the Dragons line so Escare knocked the ball into touch to give Hull another scrum close to the home sides try line which then led to another knock on by Gigot to give Hull another scrum with little over 10 minutes remaining.
A fast cross-field move by Hull then led to a try by Fetuli Talanoa but the video referee denied him controversially for obstruction which appeared to be caused by the Catalan player Ben Pomeroy.
Shortly after that a break through the middle of the field by Minichiello then saw another mistake by the black and white’s deep in Catalan territory to let the home side off again.
A penalty for a ball steal on Ian Henderson then gave the home side a penalty which Dureau duly converted to give them a six point advantage.
A short kick off then led to another attack from Hull after the ball was batted back into their possession but a pass over the top for Talanoa ended up going into touch with five minutes left to play.
Finally Catalan saw the match out as Hull were left to rue too many mistakes at crucial times and some controversial calls by referee Ben Thaler and the video referee.
Hull will wonder what might have been if they hadn’t coughed up so much possession and given the home side so many penalties and territory but there are clearly issues that need to be addressed before a trip to Headingley next week for the fist of a league and cup double-header against Challenge Cup holders Leeds Rhinos.
Questions will also inevitably be asked about referee Ben Thaler’s performance although it would be unfair to blame the defeat entirely on him after he made some bad calls against both sides.
Penalties: Catalan Dragons 10 Hull FC 7
Goal Line Drop Outs: Catalan Dragons 1 Hull FC 2
Man of the Match: Mark Minichiello