Hull FC were left ruing some basic mistakes as they pushed the table-topping Leeds Rhinos all the way but were ultimately undone by their more clinical opponents leaving them feeling what might have been as their slim top 4 hopes were dealt a decisive blow in the Super 8s.
Lee Radford brought back Jack Logan, Steve Michaels and Feka Palea’aesina after they missed the win against Super League champions St. Helens at Langtree Park last week.
Tom Lineham dropped out of the side that stunned the champions for the visit of the Rhinos to the KC Stadium while Jamie Shaul kept hold of his place along with hat-trick hero Curtis Naughton and teenagers Brad Fash and Jack Downs also deservedly kept their places.
The first chance came to the Airlie Birds in the first minute as Logan made an impressive break down the left before passing to Michaels who was just brought down short and forced into touch.
Despite the bright start by the home side it was the Rhinos who drew first blood after a devestating break by Zak Hardaker saw them go from one end to the other before the ball was finally handed to Ash Handley to dive over in the sixth minute, the conversion from captain Kevin Sinfield gave them a six point advantage completely against the run of play.
However it didn’t take the home side long to draw level as another foray into the Rhinos danger zone saw Mark Minichiello completely wrong-foot the defence to stroll through under the posts, the inevitable conversion from Marc Sneyd restored parity after 10 minutes.
Hull were clearly willing to chance their arm against the Wembley-bound Rhinos and Logan made another significant break in broken field but his final pass was ruled a touch forward by referee Joe Cobb to give the Rhinos a relieving scrum inside their own 20 meter area.
Leeds were afforded another chance against the run of play after being awarded a harsh penalty but an organised and resilient defence from the black and white’s kept them at bay.
The second quarter of the game descended into a multitude of mistakes as both sides continually coughed up possession and territory with embarrassing regularity.
Finally Hull seemed to get hold of the ball and use it with some purpose after a kick from Leeds went out on the full leading to them being handed possession just inside the Rhinos half but the chance came to nothing as Sneyd’s grubber went dead in goal.
Soon after that Naughton made a dash from inside his own 20 meter area before finally being caught 30 meters from the Leeds line, another Sneyd grubber went through and had to be kicked dead by Handley to force a goal line drop out.
Another dab through from the boot of Sneyd then unfortunately hit the outside of the post padding to deny the on-rushing Joe Westerman and give the Rhinos desperate defence a chance to run the ball back into the field of play with five minutes to go to the break.
The Rhinos gained another chance as they were given a scrum in Hull territory when referee Cobb deemed that a pass had gone forward before hitting the ground, the resulting attack then saw Jamie Peacock held up over the line by a committed and tenacious defence leaving the score at 6-6 at the break.
The Rhinos were the first side to force a chance in the early part of the 2nd half with a break in midfield but eventually Jimmy Keinhorst was held up just short of the Hull line as they started the half with more purpose.
Hull suddenly sparked into life as Jordan Rankin made a break in the middle of the park, Jamie Shaul took over and then gave a deft pass to Michaels for the Australian to cut inside and give the home side the lead in the 48th minute, Sneyd was unable to add the kick from wide out to leave the hosts leading 10-6.
The league leaders were soon on attack however after being awarded a very harsh penalty and eventually the pressure told as Carl Ablett crossed the whitewash on the left side to bring the sides level in the 52nd minute, the conversion from Sinfield edged the Rhinos back in front by two.
The Rhinos were seemingly taking the game by the scruff of the neck and were finding yards alarmingly easy to come by and another break from Hardaker saw Rob Burrow race in under the posts to stretch their advantage after 55 minutes, the conversion from Sinfield took them two scores in front and in the blink of an eye Hull looked to be facing mission impossible to save their ailing play-off hopes.
On Hull’s next attack another grubber from Sneyd found its way through and the Old Faithful thought Rankin had touched it down but referee Cobb rightly ruled he had knocked it on rather than grounding it.
That setback didn’t seem to worry Hull though as a minute later Jamie Shaul raced onto an offload 10 meters from the home sides line to race 90 meters to touchdown under the posts, the conversion from Sneyd brought Hull back within two points with 20 minutes left to play.
Hull though made a mess of the short kick-off from Leeds and Ryan Hall gleefully took full advantage to race 40 meters to take Leeds out of range again and the conversion by Sinfield again made it a two score lead for the Rhinos.
However Hull weren’t done yet and a chip over the top of the Leeds defensive line from Jordan Abdull was snapped up by Shaul moving at the speed of a race car and then a delightful pass put Rankin in at the right corner, the majestic touchline conversion from Sneyd again brought Hull back within two points with 15 minutes left to play.
Two minutes later Hull forced a big mistake as a high kick was spilled by Hardaker under pressure from three players 10 meters from his own line but the pressure was relieved with a knock-on by Hull two tackles later.
Another high kick from Hull was then dropped by Ash Golding 10 meters from the Rhinos line and Hull again pressed from the scrum but a wayward pass was snapped up by former Hull favourite Tom Briscoe who then raced 90 meters to go under the posts after 72 minutes, the conversion from Sinfield again took Leeds eight points clear and time seemed to be running out for the black and white’s.
A short kick-off from Hull gave them possession but another mistake led to another penalty for the Rhinos to march to the other end again but this time Hull were able to keep them out.
The Rhinos then wrapped up the points with three minutes left as Sinfield made a dart down the left and his pass inside put Burrow over for his 2nd of the game, the conversion from the Leeds skipper stretched the lead to a harsh 14 points which rubbed salt into already gaping wounds for Hull.
Radford bemoaned a lack of a cutting edge when they needed it, he said: “If you likened that to a boxing event we jabbed their head off but when they got their opportunities they landed a great big haymaker straight on our chin.
“That performance showed why Leeds are where they are.
“They’ve got blokes that take their opportunities. We made plenty of line-breaks but we got mopped-up.”
Echoing his counterparts words Leeds coach Brian McDermott thought a 14 point winning margin for his side was a harsh reflection on Hull, he said: “We got three breakaway tries, we call them opportunist, but I don’t feel we broke Hull down, I don’t feel we were better than them.”
Penalties: Hull FC 3 Leeds Rhinos 3
Goal Line Drop Outs: Hull FC 1 Leeds Rhinos 1
Man of the Match: Jamie Shaul