It’s coming up to that time of year when Super League squads get tested, coaches sprout a few more grey hairs, supporters cheer themselves that bit more hoarse, the whole two games in three days debate rears its head again and a feast of rugby league keeps us all riveted while the men and the boys get separated.
It all starts on Maundy Thursday as the Tigers and the Rhinos lock horns in The Jungle, then after that starter we have a main course, a desert, coffee and liqueurs, after dinner treats and the Easter eggs (for want of a better way of putting it) if you please.
The Saints take on the Warriors in their little spat and while the Wildcats will try to cut the Giants down to size, the Wolves will be hungry to deal with the Viking invasion in Cheshire and the Red Devils and the Dragons will try to put out each others fire.
But on the banks of the Humber something quite different will take place as red and white and black and white will charge at full pelt into each other quite unlike any two other teams in this great feast of uncompromising sport.
In the heat of the battle between two quaintly nicknamed teams, known as the Robins and the Airlie Birds, performance will mean nothing, the result will mean everything as families, friends, work colleagues and acquaintances will be split down the middle of a divided city.
Win and you walk into work the next day, or week, with a glow and aura surrounding you like no other, lose and you want the ground to open up and swallow you and it had better be bloody quick about it.
Blood and thunder has nothing on the Hull Derby, there could be an apocalypse and it wouldn’t matter as long as you hold the bragging rights and the great, and scary, thing about it is that it comes around again and again and again.
Easter Monday is like the warm after-glow, or a chance for part redemption, with six more games as the Dragons tackle the Tigers, the Giants greet the Red Devils, the Champions at home to the Wildcats and the Vikings against the Saints.
But elsewhere the red and white half of Hull will travel to face the Warriors and the black and white half will return home to tackle two of their former employees with the men that replaced them as the Wolves come to the next City of Culture, one will be looking for redemption while the other will basque in the glow of a derby victory.
Easter is looming large on the horizon, are you excited yet about what could hatch?
Hull FC can attack! Yes the team known for their defending and low risk strategy are flinging the ball around with absolute abandon, and it’s working spectacularly well at the moment, as evidenced by their two games so far this year.
As we all know, their near neighbours were gobbled up and spat back out with absolutely genuine contempt, and now in their opening game of Super League Salford Red Devils have been treated with similar disdain.
It’s no joke, when the Airlie Birds make a break with one of their punishingly big forwards, there are 4,5,6 or even more players to be seen charging forward in support, both backs and forwards turning opposition players, particularly full-backs, into mere traffic wardens pointing players in different directions to the try line.
Power and drive are a big part of Hull’s game now and the pack will get lots of headlines and rightly so, but like the old saying tells us, forwards win you matches, but your backs decide by how many points and, with blistering pace and guile and enthusiasm, Hull’s backs are definitely taking full advantage of the gaps being presented to them.
As evidence of this, Hull scored 8 tries against the Red Devils, all from different try scorers, and 6 of those came from backs, with Marc Sneyd, the only back not to score, pulling his former clubs defence apart due to the time and space he was afforded behind a pack that was utterly dominant.
Carlos Tuimavave is proving to be a big success thus far, the half back is relishing playing at centre and producing breaks, passes and tries with monotonously stunning regularity.
In the process he’s leaving defenders floundering in his wake and producing gaping holes in opposition defensive lines as wide as the Humber to put his winger, full-back or himself through.
On the other side young Jack Logan is sniping and getting on the shoulder of his big forwards to get on the end of a move and, when he can’t finish it himself, he’s producing a peach of a pass to his winger or whoever’s closest to him in a black and white shirt.
With Jamie Shaul expertly positioning himself to make a break or profit from one with his searing pace and excellent vision let’s not forget that this back division has got enough to challenge, and hurt, certainly most sides in the competition.
We also need to remember the supporting cast for this back division includes the likes of Callum Lancaster and Curtis Naughton both of which Super League are certainly aware of with both having scored tries, indeed hat-trick’s to boot, against notable opposition such as St. Helens, Castleford, Widnes and Warrington between them.
So yes everybody keep lauding the pack put together by former forward Lee Radford, just don’t forget that’s not all that Hull have in their locker, either on the pitch or waiting in the wings.
So Joe Westerman is the latest player to leave the KC Stadium and head west for the big cash on offer from Simon Moran and Warrington Wolves at the Halliwell Jones Stadium (how are they even under the salary cap must be the first question?)
What to say about the 25 year old who has 1 England cap to his name! The boy from Pontefract was schooled by Hull FC in the academy set-up before he signed his first professional contract for his local side Castleford Tigers for the 2007 season, in 2010 the Airlie Birds came calling and signed him in a blaze of publicity.
When he first arrived at Hull he was billed as the future Steve ‘Knocker’ Norton who also left Castleford for East Yorkshire 30+ years earlier. It was maybe a tad unfair to put the 20 year old under that sort of pressure but life at Hull FC is never straightforward due to the aspirations of the Old Faithful.
Five years later, after one Challenge Cup Final and one England cap, he’s headed for pastures new joining what would appear to be a worrying trend of young British players who have left such as Tom Lineham, Ben Crooks and Tom Briscoe.
In five years at the club Westy has had three different coaches, Richard Agar, Peter Gentle and Lee Radford and it has to be said it was only in 2014, Radford’s first season in charge which ended in dreadful failure, that Hull FC really saw the best of him and that’s why he gained international recognition.
Since then he hasn’t been the same player and, with 12 months left on his contract and no negotiations over a new one, it’s very understandable that the Black and White’s have taken the decision to take the big money on offer and re-invest it where it’s probably needed more in the team.
No matter how many people may argue with me I do genuinely believe, and maybe some others might surprise me and agree, Hull FC do have the best set of back-rowers, maybe even the best pack, in Super League for 2016, something tells me that a pack with the likes of Gareth Ellis, Mark Minichiello, Frank Pritchard, Sika Manu, Jordan Thompson, Richard Whiting, Dean Hadley and young guns Jordan Abdull, Jansin Turgut, Brad Fash and Jack Downs to call on in their back row will be able to easily absorb the loss of one misfiring loose forward.
The Airlie Birds have let it be known that the money received for Westerman will be put to use for a high profile back who is currently on the radar, I won’t mention names because that’s not my thing, I’ll just wait and see which I wish so many other people would do as well sometimes.
We’ll wish Joe good luck as we send him on his way to Cheshire, to another mid-table team much like ourselves, and indeed some of the lady fans will miss him with his boyish good looks, but the overwhelming feeling here on the Black and White side of Hull, East Yorkshire, is that it’s pretty good business getting £150,000 for a player who would have left for nothing in 12 months time anyway.
As for Joe the player, it seems to have been a frustrating chapter for both club and player which is probably best put down to experience and time to move on.
It was billed as the 150th anniversary year of Hull FC, despite the feeble attempt at billing it as the 15th anniversary by a small amount of fans from the other side of Hull, but while the Airlie Birds can point to clear progress on their dismal 2014 Super League campaign and the fact that they currently hold the bragging rights over their close neighbour’s Hull KR having won the derby series 2-1 and finished above them in the table the end of term report once again looks back at a very frustrating campaign when the sleeping giant failed to awaken from its slumbers.
It all started rather well as a black and white army converged on the birthplace of the game Huddersfield as a new look FC side started their campaign in emphatic fashion by inflicting an embarrassing defeat on the Giants who most experts expected to be genuine Grand Final contenders, nil-ling them in the process.
The next game saw a single point defeat to Warrington Wolves in Hull’s first home game of the season, despite that setback everything still looked very positive as Lee Radford’s men looked very competitive and able to handle the inevitable extra pressure that came with such a landmark season doubled with the start of a new experiment for the First Utility Super League with the tag line of “Every minute matters”.
The first alarm bells started to ring with a shock defeat at big spending Salford when the Red Devils found it far too easy to score points against a side who had only conceded one try in their opening two games, which was scored by the reigning Steve Prescott Man of Steel Daryl Clark.
Hull’s next game, at home against eventual treble winners Leeds Rhinos, almost encapsulated the Black and White’s season in 80 minutes, holding a deserved 12-0 lead at half time Hull were applauded off the pitch and seemingly back in the groove as they produced some of the best rugby they had played up to that point in the still fledgling season, what followed was frankly quite embarrassing as the Rhinos cut loose and scored 43 unanswered points too easily in the second 40 minutes.
Playing away to eventual Grand Finalists Wigan Warriors in their next game the Airlie Birds showed some genuine dogged determination, guts and pride but fell just short by a single point for the second time in the campaign, although a better more controlled pass in the last minute would surely have seen them gain the reward their efforts deserved as 2014 player of the year Fetuli Talanoa would surely have scored a match-winning try if the ball hadn’t flown into touch.
After that near miss at the DW Stadium Hull finally gave their fans something to shout about as Catalans Dragons were brushed aside far easier than the 11 point winning margin would seemingly suggest. Hull were then unlucky in defeat away to Castleford Tigers and then came the lowest point of the season without doubt as Hull KR breezed into the KC Stadium and left with the two points and bragging rights on offer far too easily as the Airlie Birds produced probably their worst performance of the season and almost gift-wrapped the game for Chris Chester’s side.
After that contemptuous low the Old Faithful still traveled in large numbers to the home of reigning champions St. Helens in the first game of the now annual Steve Prescott Memorial Trophy and a stunning comeback that few would have thought possible at the start of the Easter Weekend was capped by one of the tries of the season from full-back Jamie Shaul as Hull banished the memories of the previous Thursday night with a stirring 20-28 victory at Langtree Park.
Next up for the Airlie Birds was a home game against Widnes Vikings, on that evening Tom Lineham proved once again what a potent finisher he is with a hat-trick including two 95 meter interception tries, after that the Airlie Birds hit the road to Wembley dispensing of Sheffield Eagles at Bramall Lane in comfortable, if not entirely convincing, fashion before returning to Super League matters with a truly dismal performance against Huddersfield Giants in which Hull only just avoided the ignominy that they inflicted on the Giants on the opening weekend with a very late try by Steve Michaels.
The following week was quite a comedy with next opponents Salford Red Devils asking the Airlie Birds to postpone the game due to the injury and suspension crisis they were going through which Hull, understandably, flatly refused so the game went ahead as scheduled, despite their pleas and protestations the team built expensively by Dr Marwan Koukash arrived much healthier than first envisaged, sporting seven internationals, a spirited performance almost saw them through, but once again a gutsy comeback which was crowned by an individual barnstorming try by Setaimata Sa saw Hull eek out a victory that would have been predicted.
Lee Radford then told his side to take off the shackles and start to attack with more purpose, this appeared to be going slightly wrong for Hull in the next game away to Warrington Wolves but, yet again, Hull showed a spirit that proved they never knew when they were beaten as they came from 10 points behind in the last 10 minutes to grab a priceless victory with a drop goal from Marc Sneyd with just three seconds remaining on the clock to send the Old Faithful into very noisy raptures and gain sweet revenge for their single point defeat earlier in the year.
Castleford Tigers were the visitors to the KC Stadium in the 6th round of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup and a hat-trick from new young signing Curtis Naughton saw the previous years beaten finalists put to the sword in sizzling fashion as more evidence of Hull taking off the shackles was put on full display.
However the positive mood that was sweeping the team and supporters was soon dampened down as Saints came to town and won an arm wrestle game although not by enough to rob Hull of the Steve Prescott Memorial Trophy.
Magic Weekend, however, delivered another high note as close neighbours Hull KR, holding smug bragging rights since the Easter derby, were taught a very harsh lesson as they were thoroughly whipped by an arrogant Hull in record fashion as they ran up a record 46 points in a competitive derby topping the 44 points they had hit Rovers with in 2008, at this point I suppose for the benefit of certain friends that Rovers do still hold the record for the biggest winning margin by 36 points in 2007.
The following week saw Hull travel to Widnes for what was seen as a defining match as both sides were competing for the coveted Super 8s spot with just 1 league point separating them, with the Vikings storming into a 12 point lead it was fast starting to look like a forlorn journey for Hull, however another Tom Lineham hat-trick allied with a try from Leon Pryce and a delicious kick and gather try by Marc Sneyd swept Hull home to a convincing victory.
Unfortunately after that success Hull’s season began to almost implode with defeats away to Catalans Dragons and Leeds before being unceremoniously dumped out of the cup by the Rhinos at the KC Stadium and then an embarrassing defeat at basement side Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, in this topsy turvy season however the Black and White’s rallied once again and, in their second double header, they gained revenge over the Wildcats, by now being coached by former Hull coach Brian Smith, with a victory which maybe wasn’t really deserved but, after a three game losing streak, it was a priceless victory which breathed much needed new life into a faltering season.
The top 8 cause was then further aided with another gutsy comeback victory at the KC Stadium against Castleford Tigers as the Tigers were given little choice by the intensity of Hull’s performance but to surrender an eight point half time advantage.
The game that mattered most though was taking place in front of the Sky cameras the following Friday at the KC Lightstream Stadium as the biggest rivalry in Super League was pushed to the forefront with the promise of victory holding the key to the door of the much vaunted Super 8s and defeat promised the ignominy of a place in the dreaded Middle 8s and the knowledge that it was your closest rivals who would have put you there.
Everything seemed to be going wrong in the derby match, losing their two most influential players Leon Pryce and captain Gareth Ellis to injury in the heat of the battle in the first half, trailing 12-4 when they lost Ellis to a snapped Achilles Hull looked in desperate trouble on a ground where only Leeds and Castleford had previously triumphed this season, but that fast growing resolve was soon on show again as Hull out-fought and out-thought their nearest and dearest enemies to take charge with another stirring comeback which saw them take the lead by half time and then produce a masterclass in how to control an opponent and a game at arms length to wrap up the points, the bragging rights and the place in the Super 8s in one evenings work which led to jubilant celebrations among the Old Faithful.
With so much attention and emphasis having been placed on the derby match it was probably not a surprise that the first phase of the season for Hull ended with a whimper as Wigan Warriors arrived at the KC Stadium and inflicted a heavy defeat on the home side.
The Super 8s was something of an anti-climax for the Airlie Birds due to the fact that they were playing teams who were in some cases superior sides who were always expected to be pushing for the semi-finals and a trip to Old Trafford and the Grand Final, having started brightly away to Castleford with two early tries the old frailties once again took over and Hull slipped to an unfortunate defeat but nobody could really say the Tigers didn’t deserve their victory.
The following week Hull again traveled to the home of the defending champions and, as on Easter Monday, Saints were ambushed by yet another comeback, including another hat-trick by Curtis Naughton, and soundly beaten 22-32.
The epitaph on this season will show that Hull lost all of their last 5 games, however it must be said that is far from the end story under the circumstances. With a growing injury list which included Gareth Ellis, Leon Pryce, Josh Bowden, Chris Green, Steve Michaels, Jordan Thompson, Setaimata Sa, Joe Westerman, Kirk Yeaman, Fetuli Talanoa and Dean Hadley for at least some, if not all, their Super 8s games Hull could possibly have been excused for asking to delay some games due to their unprecedented injury crisis, however no such Salford-like request was forthcoming, or even entertained, by the Black and White’s as they put their trust in youth.
A week before their Wembley date against Hull KR, Leeds rolled into town and rested some stars although not many as they still had Challenge Cup Final places up for grabs, Hull had some senior stars playing, such as new joint-players of the year Mark Minichiello and Liam Watts, but there was also more than just a smattering of under 19s players present in the match-day squad and, indeed, the 17 man match team, the Rhinos inevitably won but, according to Rhinos coach Brian McDermott afterwards, only because they got a few opportunities that only men like Ryan Hall and Rob Burrow could finish despite their inability in certain quarters to breakdown an enthusiastic Hull side.
Unfortunately the down side to using lots of youth is sometimes it breeds inconsistency and so it proved as Warrington Wolves were handed the points on a plate at the Halliwell Jones Stadium two weeks later, more injuries ensued in that game and Hull were only able to name 18 men instead of the regulation 19 in advance of the trip to Wigan for their one and only appearance in front of the Sky cameras in the Super 8s the following Friday.
In a match that was seen as a chance for the battle-hardened Warriors, who were just coming into top form, to put a severe dent in Leeds Rhinos points difference advantage at the summit of the table, Hull had to name seven youth players and were given no chance and were indeed tipped to succumb to a worse beating than 60-0 thrashing the Warriors had inflicted on a similarly severely under-strength Hull KR earlier in the season but somebody forgot to give the script to the kindergarten Hull side.
Although the Warriors squeezed out a thoroughly and totally undeserved 30-24 win a Hull team containing Curtis Naughton, Jordan Abdull, Jack Logan, Masimbaashe Matongo, Jansin Turgut, Brad Fash and Jack Downs left a more than lasting impression on the crowd in the DW Stadium and, no doubt, had fans of other teams sat at home glued to their television sets and cheering them on as they gave Shaun Wane’s side the fright of their lives.
Hull then returned home for their heritage week games against Huddersfield Giants and Catalans Dragons, with youthful enthusiasm on their side, but also a great deal of in-experience, the Airlie Birds fall to two more narrow defeats that could surely have been avoided with a bit more know-how.
The 14 point margin of victory for the Giants looks much more comfortable than it was, a point made very succinctly by coach Paul Anderson, the four point victory for the Dragons didn’t flatter them but could again have been avoided by Hull if only tries had been scored further infield rather than right in the corner every time.
Reaching the Super 8s was set as a minimum requirement by owner Adam Pearson at the start of the season and that was duly achieved. There was also some major highlights in the season for instance the two victories over Hull KR, the manner of them and what both meant to the supporters cannot be overestimated and the emergence of some genuinely exciting youth is a major plus.
The down-side, it was yet another false dawn in a lot of ways, certain players have clearly just been taking money from the club and not giving much in return and, in my humble opinion, Tom Lineham should never have been sold but that’s now water under the bridge and we’ll have to get used to the sight of him in primrose and blue.
The up-side, Hull FC do have a lot of very exciting youth that they need to keep hold of in future, the likes of Jack Logan, Callum Lancaster, Jordan Abdull, Jansin Turgut, Brad Fash, Jack Downs, Masimbaashe Matongo and Curtis Naughton are all seemingly very exciting players and that’s before we think about the likes of Reece Dean and Harry Tyson-Wilson.
Future. It’s no secret Hull do have some financial problems mainly due to having to pay off dead wood with some big money plus the big payout to Willie Manu but with great support, season pass membership sales, merchandising etc I’m sure they can get over the worst of it.
New Signings. Frank Pritchard, Sika Manu, Scott Taylor, Danny Washbrook, Carlos Tuimavave and Mahe Fonua are genuinely very impressive additions especially the forwards who will be added to an already mean pack that is bristling with quality.
Controversy. There is clearly absolutely no need for a ‘Super Academy’ merger with Hull KR.
Positive. The creation of an under 23s side with Richard Horne as its boss will give certain players more chance to develop and will hopefullt dispense with the ridiculous dual-registration idea.
Hull FC ended their regular season campaign in extremely disappointing fashion before the start of the Super 8s.
After the euphoria of the derby win over Hull KR the previous week which confirmed their place in the First Utility Super League’s coveted top 8 the Airlie Birds went into their game with 3rd place Wigan Warriors in good heart and, allied with wins against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats and Castleford Tigers, in good form.
Coach Lee Radford installed teenage sensation Jordan Abdull and club stalwart Richard Whiting in the starting line-up in place of seriously injured Leon Pryce and captain Gareth Ellis.
The first chance of the game went the way of the visitor’s as Joe Burgess made a burst for the line but Hull’s scrambling defence held them at bay until a forward pass gave the Airlie Birds a relieving scrum.
Burgess then made a break from deep and wrong footed Jordan Rankin and the leading try scorer in Super League went over behind the posts in the 6th minute to give the Warriors the lead, the goal from England international Matty Smith made it a six point lead.
Hull were given an opportunity soon after when a forward pass by Wigan was spotted by referee Ben Thaler just inside their own half but the resulting attack was quelled by organised defence from the Warriors.
Wigan were then gifted another similar opportunity as Marc Sneyd knocked on in his own half but a rather unstructured attack from them was easily repelled by Hull until a kick went into touch in front of the try line to give Hull the scrum.
Another scrambled Wigan attack then led to a kick out to the right wing by Smith which was batted back inside by Josh Charnley for John Bateman to touchdown with the try being confirmed by video referee Richard Silverwood, the conversion from Smith made it a 12 point advantage in the 16th minute.
Back-to-back penalties then gave Hull a sustained period of pressure on the Wigan line and Abdull eventually put Whiting through a huge gap with a delicious pass after 20 minutes to register Hull’s first points, the conversion from Sneyd brought the hosts back to within six points.
The visitor’s were then awarded a controversial try in the 24th minute as Sam Powell followed up a kick and scampered over to touchdown behind the posts, Smith’s conversion made it 6-18 in the 25th minute, the try was awarded by the video referee despite Powell appearing to be offside when the ball was kicked through but they deemed that he was back onside when centre Anthony Gelling made a second kick, to a chorus of booing from the home supporter’s.
A frantic attack from the black and white’s seemed to unsettle the Warriors and a grubber kick had to be kicked dead causing a goal line drop out which was soon backed up by a penalty giving Hull more territory and possession and a fast move from right to left saw Jack Logan cross the whitewash only to be pulled back for a forward pass.
A terrible mistake in the middle of the park as a pass went to ground gifted Wigan half-back George Williams a clean break and he needed no 2nd invitation to race clear and score under the posts with three minutes of the half remaining, the conversion from Smith took them an ominous 18 points clear going into half time.
Hull needed a fast start to the second half and they almost made a dream start as a fast move released Tom Lineham but the winger was held down just short then as the ball was moved in-field an attempted interception provided a knock-on to give Hull a scrum 20 meters out, and a grubber kick over the Wigan line was touched down by a defender to force a second goal line drop out.
The resulting attack was wasted however as Hull then were adjudged to have knocked on to give the Lancashire outfit a pressure relieving scrum, Wigan then marched to the other end and a penalty to the visitor’s allowed for more concerted pressure on the Hull line and eventually Matty Bowen crossed in the 47th minute, the conversion by Smith wrapped up the points for the Warriors with a 6-30 lead.
Despite their obvious dominance the Warriors seemed to be also in something of a profligate mood and gave Hull another chance as a pass went into touch giving Hull head and feed at a scrum in their half but another chance was wasted as Logan was denied again by a forward pass from Sneyd.
Another attack was also controversially stopped for the home side for a knock on which appeared to come from Bowen knocking the ball onto Danny Houghton’s arm before Lineham went under the posts.
Wigan captain Sean O’ Loughlin then compounded Hull’s misery further with their sixth try of the evening in the 58th minute, the conversion by Smith made it 6-36.
As much as they were being beaten in every department there was still plenty of effort from the home side but a lack of precision and completion were just hurting them every bit as much as the Warriors attack, a point which was shown glaringly as Steve Michaels was denied a try after putting a foot in touch before diving over in the corner.
Hull eventually got their try courtesy of the video referee as Joe Westerman bashed his way over the line in the 67th minute, the conversion from Sneyd made it 12-30.
Refree Thaler then enraged the home fans after controversially stopping Jordan Rankin from a certain break-away try after a deft chip in midfield and pulling him back for offside for which the Warriors were handed an equally controversial penalty.
After a goal line drop out from that penalty another Wigan attack ensued and Bowen scrambled over for his second try with nine minutes left on the clock and the conversion from Smith made it 12-42.
Wigan made it eight tries too easily as a deft pass then put Dominic Crosby over with two minutes left, the conversion from Smith stretched the lead to the final score of 12-48.
We set off in very good spirits on Sunday morning, excitement about getting home later in the day obviously mixed with the familiar excitement that we all get on match day anyway.
After a while walking on the Trans Penine Trail we could see the Humber Bridge in the distance, seeing our first glimpse of home seemed to increase our pace despite our inevitable tiredness.
This time we were accompanied by sheep on the trail and, although there wasn’t as much as the previous day with the cows, there was still a significant amount of the smelly stuff for us to dodge round while keeping up our tremendous pace.
Finally we reached Brough and were only too happy to leave the trail behind for a while and walk on a harder surface which made the walking so much easier.
Thankfully during the early morning the weather was a little bit cooler than it had been the day before but it didn’t last terribly long and we were soon taking fluids on board to cool down.
You remember I said early in part 1 that carrying your supplies in a rucksack on your back could make you ache, well it also causes you to sweat down your back a lot too but I decided to keep my tee shirt on because I know I’m still a bit too fat to show my torso in public although I am getting into better shape at the gym now so maybe next year 😉
We kept walking at a very good pace and we were soon through Melton and then most of the team decided they needed to check the plumbing at a garage so we were delayed for about half an hour because said garage only had 1 toilet so they all had to take it in turns.
We went through North Ferriby, which needs saving, at a good rate of knots and Alison’s sister met us and brought supplies of Haribo Starmix and bottles of water which were soon, very gratefully, snapped up.
We reached Home Farm at Hessle much earlier than had been anticipated so this gave us time to have a very nice and very welcome long break to go to the toilet and have food and drink.
Whilst we were there Darren and Jodee turned up in the minibus and said we needed to not walk so fast because they were falling behind because of a problem with packing away one of the tents.
Being only 5 miles from where we needed to be we were in the mood to take it a little bit easier but we also wanted to finish quite soon and have plenty of time to recover before the match.
Having stopped at The Fiveways pub we then started again and next stopped at The Three Tuns on Boothferry Road and received some donations in the buckets that were being carried.
As our bucket collection carried on to Silver Cod, The Three Crowns and the Albert Hotel we were chased down Anlaby Road by two Castleford fans so they could put money in the bucket for us, showing the true colours of all genuine rugby league fans as they did so.
Eventually I had to leave my fellow walkers in the Albert Hotel and head to the media suite at the KC Stadium to get logged on the WiFi ready to write my match report.
As I had promised I met the rest of them for a photo opportunity outside the main reception at the stadium as we finally basked in the glow of the summer sunshine and our achievement.
The fun and games didn’t finish there for us though, I made my way painfully to the press box at the very top of the West Stand and started reporting on the Super League game Hull FC v Castleford Tigers but had to be down at the North West corner of the stadium just before half time.
In that corner I saw Tom Lineham denied what looked like a legitimate try and the lads trudged off trailing 6-14 at half time, then came our moment as we were introduced to the crowd and the picture of us outside Castleford Tigers home ground the day before was flashed up on the scoreboard as we started our lap of honour.
As we walked around the stadium we had Hull FC and Castleford Tigers fans applauding us, shaking our hands and hugging us and even giving us a standing ovation showing us how much this remarkable band of people had achieved since the day before, making the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.
To complete a perfect day my beloved Hull FC came back and secured a stunning 21-18 victory in quite dramatic style.
I’m never going to forget this challenge and, indeed, look forward to doing it all over again hopefully next year. The friendships that have been built during this weekend will, I’m sure, last for a lifetime.
I am proud to say I did this and even prouder to say that everybody involved in this genuine adventure are all very good friends, the once in a lifetime kind of people.
I wasn’t in a very good mood on Saturday 11 July 2015 because I had to get up at 5.00 in the morning and I hadn’t had much sleep the night before, but get up I did with a feeling of a bit of excitement and a bit of tension about what was coming.
Alison Gardner arrived at my flat at 5.30, I’d had breakfast before she got here, and when it got to 6 o clock we set off to the Holiday Inn on the marina which was where we were being picked up at 6.15, carrying plenty of food including chocolate, fruit, breakfast bars and, most importantly, jam sandwiches.
Being stocked up is always a good idea but it can’t half make your neck and shoulders ache carrying loads of food and drink and other stuff in a rucksack on your back.
The minibus was actually early, Darren Palmer picked us up at 6.10, and we went to several other places to pick up fellow walkers, eventually we turned up opposite Darley’s pub to pick up Lisa Jewitt early, and then Darren realised we had missed picking up two other walkers so we dashed off to get them and then came back to find Lisa waiting.
An hour later we were in Castleford outside the Mend A Hose Jungle, home of Castleford Tigers, ready to start our trek back to Hull and the game between our team Hull FC and Castleford Tigers in the Super League.
We set off just after 8 o clock in the morning in bullish mood wondering what the weekend might bring, rugby league was obviously going to be a major talking point but so were practicalities like toilet breaks and eating and drinking.
It depends which way you look at it but it seemed a blessing at first that the sun was out and we were nice and warm and dry and that seemed to lift the already excited mood although maybe not quite as much as the best pair of walking shoes ever seen in Yorkshire.
We set a really good pace and were soon walking through places slightly earlier than expected then we had a well earned mini-break in Selby and I was thankfully able to eat and take my medication for my type 2 Diabetes, there was also another photo opportunity.
After Selby we kept up a punishing speed as thoughts turned to lunchtime and there was a genuine desire to reach a nice country pub so we could sit down, relax and cool off in the shade out of the scorching heat which was by now starting to affect us quite a bit.
Fortunately we found the Fox and Pheasant which is a lovely, traditional country pub and had plenty of ice to put in the drinks, the landlord was obviously very pleased to see a party of 11 charity walkers come in on a Saturday afternoon when there was only one local in at the time.
A toilet break and a couple of drinks, and nearly toasted jam sandwiches, later and we were ready to carry on walking in the incredible heat and humidity which had dehydrated us in the morning.
Following the Trans Penine Trail is a definite challenge, especially when there’s cows and a bull where you’re walking along the bank of the River Ouse and, of course, they don’t exactly have to aim in anywhere particular when they go to toilet, we were trying to dodge round piles of it for a rather long, uncomfortable distance.
Eventually we got within about 7 miles of the campsite at Newport where we were due to stay that night and left the cows and bulls behind, and the muck, and we had a short break along with Darren and Jodee Sylvester who had come out in the minibus and told us that they had erected our tents and said what a lovely campsite it was.
After a bit more food and drink we set off in confident mood knowing we were coming towards the end of our trek on day 1 and soon came across a sign welcoming us to the historic East Riding of Yorkshire.
After completing 30 miles on foot we found we couldn’t walk any further due to a lack of a pavement to walk on and we weren’t going to take any chances on a fast road where cars were travelling easily in excess of 50 or 60 MPH so Darren and Jodee came back out in the minibus to pick us up and take us the last 3 miles to the campsite.
While waiting for the minibus Lisa rang a pub in Newport called The Jolly Sailor and booked us a table for a meal that evening.
On arriving at the campsite we were given a round of applause and a collection soon appeared which the campers had taken for the charity, Life For A Kid, who we were doing this challenge for.
Some of the walkers cracked open cans of lager and Phil Newsom became our official entertainer as he belted out several tunes as he played them on his iPad.
After a shower and a rest we were all ready to go to the Jolly Sailor for the meal we had booked for 8.30, disappointment didn’t really do our feelings justice.
Getting there at 8.10 they weren’t ready for us so we said we would wait in the bar and have a drink, at about 8.45 they came into the bar and took our orders for what we wanted to eat, I ordered a Cumberland Sausage in a giant Yorkshire Pudding with peas, mash and gravy.
About 9 o clock we were told our table was ready and we could go through to the restaurant so through we went.
We were then waiting what seemed a long time so first Lisa and then Jodee went and spoke to them as we grew hungrier and more impatient and I worried because I was breaking out in a cold sweat and my Diabetes was starting to take effect making me feel quite feint.
The response of one of the staff to Jodee telling him we had walked 30 miles that day and were very hungry as a result beggared belief as he replied “Why would they walk that far in one day?”
To say we were disgusted at hearing this is something of an understatement but finally, after waiting more than half an hour we got served with our meals.
To say I was disappointed with the meal itself is also a rather big understatement, it was a cheap frozen Yorkshire Pudding, the type that you can get three for £1 from Asda, as opposed to the home cooked ones that the pub advertised, there were also 3 small frozen sausages that had obviously just been stuck under a grill for a few minutes, instant Smash rather than the proper homemade mash from proper potatoes that they advertised and a tin of peas with a bit of gravy.
Unfortunately by this point I had no option but to eat it because I was so hungry I was feeling sick and, as I’m sure everybody is aware, hunger and Diabetes isn’t a good combination.
After a thoroughly deflating evening we went back to the campsite and collapsed into bed, although I must say that trying to sleep on the floor in a tent isn’t the most comfortable way of spending a night although I did get more sleep than the previous night as sheer exhaustion took over.
Hull FC 21 Castleford Tigers 18, Airlie Birds Keep Destiny In Their Own Hands With Breathless Victory Over Tigers
A very young Hull FC took a big step towards qualifying for the much coveted Super League top 8 with a stirring comeback win against Castleford Tigers at the KC Stadium.
Teenager Brad Fash was drafted into Hull FC coach Lee Radford’s match day squad in place of captain Gareth Ellis for this Super League clash with the in-form Tigers who arrived on the back of a five match winning run.
Chris Green also returned in place of the suspended Mickey Paea and Richard Whiting came into the starting line-up having come off the bench in the victory over Wakefield Trinity Wildcats the previous week.
The first opportunity was presented to the visitors as a deep kick from Marc Sneyd went into touch on the full giving the Tigers a scrum 30 meters from the home sides line but an organised defence from the black and white’s easily repelled the resulting attack.
A soft penalty then presented the Tigers another opportunity and eventually a fast move from left to right saw Denny Solomona finish spectacularly in the corner in the 6th minute, Liam Finn was unable to add the touchline conversion to leave the score at 0-4.
Another Castleford attack started as Solomona made a break in midfield but he was dragged down just short of the line by a desperate Hull defence and the overlap on the left wing was wasted with a nothing kick that Justin Carney was unable to gather in front of the line.
The Airlie Birds then marched menacingly to the other end with a significant break from Steve Michaels and eventually Leon Pryce sent Richard Whiting over with a deft little pass in the 11th minute, Sneyd then gave Hull the advantage with a successful conversion to make it 6-4.
Suddenly Hull were taking the game to their opponents and throwing the ball around with confidence and thought they were in for another try but the final pass to Joe Westerman was deemed forward by referee Joe Cobb less than 20 meters from the Tigers line.
Castleford were gifted another opportunity when Jordan Rankin spilled a high bomb giving them a 10 meter scrum and they took full advantage as Luke Dorn pounced to score from close range to give the visitor’s the lead in the 18th minute, this Finn obliged with the extra points to give them a four point lead again.
Another opportunity was squandered by the Tigers after a penalty for a ball-steal gave them territory but as they attacked down the left a forward pass put paid to the chance.
Both teams seemed intent on knocking lumps out of each other and a series of bone crunching tackles were clearly having an effect but still no quarter was being asked or given at either end.
Castleford pressed the Hull line again and once again Solomona got in at the corner as Hull’s defence just simply ran out of men after a fast move from the middle to the right, once again Finn was unable to add the extras but the Tigers were looking good value with an eight point lead.
Hull then attacked just before half time and Tom Lineham seemed to have a perfectly legitimate try but referee Cobb controversially disallowed it after consulting with his touch judge to leave the Airlie Birds with a two score deficit going into the half time break.
Hull started much the livelier in the 2nd half and were unlucky in the 42nd minute when a pass intended for Lineham just evaded the winger and went into touch.
However the home side soon put that disappointment behind them three min utes later as Jordan Abdull crashed over despite the attentions of three Tigers defenders to get Hull back in the game, the conversion from Sneyd brought Hull back within two points.
Hull were looking more aggressive and willing to chance their arm and another attack soon after saw Danny Houghton held up over the line by desperate Tigers defence.
Lineham got the try he deserved in the 59th minute as a cross-field move as fast as a Ferrari formula 1 car allowed the flying winger to provide a spectacular finish in the corner to give Hull a two point advantage, Sneyd was unable to add the extras from the touchline to leave the score at 16-14.
A mistake in defence by the Tigers when trying to stop a Pryce offload in front of the line gave the Airlie Birds a 10 meter scrum but a knock on wasted the chance after a push at the scrum.
The table then turned as Finn put a high bomb up and Michaels knocked the ball into touch 10 meters from his own line under intense pressure from Solomona.
However the Tigers were unable to take advantage as Hull’s superb scrambling defence held them at bay until a kick over the top was caught on the full by Lineham behind the Hull line.
Hull then split the Tigers defence again in broken field as Rankin scampered through after shrugging off two defenders and, as he slipped in front of the line, had the presence of mind to look outside and see Lineham waiting to scoop up his pass and crash over in the 69th minute, Sneyd was off-target again with the conversion to leave Hull with a six point lead.
Sneyd then came back to haunt his old team with a drop goal in the 71st minute to leave the Tigers needing two scores.
Castleford suddenly found their vigour again and started pushing the home defence with a desperate looking attack but their captain Michael Shenton wasted another chance with a knock on 10 meters from the line under intense pressure.
Hull’s halves Sneyd and Pryce and captain for the day Houghton were causing the Tigers all sorts of problems especially in broken field and the kicking game of Sneyd and Houghton was constantly turning them round and sending them scuttling back.
However a controversial penalty for Castleford after Solomona had been bundled into touch by the Hull defence led to a chance attack and half back Ben Roberts reached out to score in the 76th minute, the kick was missed by Finn to leave Hull leading by three points.
Try as they might the Tigers couldn’t break down a resilient Hull defence again and after a frantic closing few minutes a soft penalty for Hull finished the game for a much deserved win for the black and white’s and send them into next weekends crunch derby match against Hull KR at the KC Lightstream Stadium with back-to-back wins.
Radford confirmed afterwards that Hull have an appeal hearing on Tuesday about Mickey Paea’s ban which effectively rules him out of the game against his former employers as things stand.
He also said that influential back row Mark Minichiello and captain Gareth Ellis look likely to play against their cross city rivals as they both look to overcome niggling injuries.
Penalties: Hull 5 Tigers 6
Man of the Match: Richard Whiting
Hull FC exited the Challenge Cup with an abysmal performance at home to holders Leeds Rhinos as their attacking frailties came back to haunt them in their biggest game of the season so far.
Coach Lee Radford brought Jordan Rankin back in at full-back in place of Jamie Shaul and Tom Lineham returned to the right wing in place of Curtis Naughton for his first appearance since announcing he will leave the KC Stadium at the end of the season for Warrington Wolves.
Kirk Yeaman also returned after injury and Setaimata Sa was replaced by Steve Michaels at centre at the 11th hour while Jordan Abdull started in place of the suspended Marc Sneyd.
The game started at a frenetic pace as both sides leapt out of the blocks in front of a passionate crowd and some thunderous tackles increased the tempo early on.
The first try arrived fortuitously for the Rhinos as Joel Moon picked Rankin’s pocket to scramble over in the 6th minute, the conversion from Kevin Sinfield gave the cup holders a 6-0 lead.
Hull’s first real period of pressure on the visitors line came courtesy of a dropped ball and a smart move and grubber kick led to full-back Zak Hardaker having to knock the ball dead for a goal line drop out but eventually the Rhinos were able to clear their lines.
At the other end a knock on by Yeaman gave the visitors another attacking chance but a nothing grubber kick wasted the opportunity.
The black and white’s were showing plenty of encouragement but once again chances were being wasted because of poor execution.
A penalty for offside 45 meters from the posts was converted by Sinfield in the 19th minute to stretch the lead to 8 points.
Another dropped ball by Leeds gave the home side another attacking scrum 30 meters from the Rhinos line but the opportunity was spurned when the normally ever reliable Mark Minichiello failed to take a pass in with the line open.
Another penalty gave Hull another chance to put pressure on the Leeds line but a ridiculous pass by Joe Westerman gave Danny Houghton no chance of taking the ball in front of the posts and another chance was gone.
The Rhinos forced a goal line drop out and another attack ensued which ended with a harsh penalty but Sinfield was unable to add the two points from the touchline and Hull swept down-field to create another opportunity which went begging as Lineham was held on the last tackle after a bomb by Leon Pryce.
The Rhinos were gifted another chance as Westerman dropped the ball in his own half two minutes before half time and then another penalty came their way from referee James Child for a ball-steal and this time Sinfield obliged from the touchline to take them into double figures heading into the break.
The rain that had been tipping down through the first half had stopped by the time the teams took to the pitch for the start of the second half which would hopefully allow for a more expansive game.
The first mistake of the half came from Jordan Thompson as the Hull man dropped the ball 20 meters from his own line to give the Rhinos the first attack of the halfand inevitably Kallum Watkins took full advantage to shrug off some weak tackling and stretch out to score in the 43rd minute, the conversion from Sinfield made it a 16 point advantage for the men from Headingley.
Another penalty for a ball-steal was gratefully accepted by Sinfield near the halfway line but this time his kick fell just short and struck the woodwork to give Hull some precious possession.
A rare penalty for the Airlie Birds was kicked into touch to give them another attacking opportunity but another dropped ball by Westerman gave Leeds another chance to breathe with a relieving scrum.
Leeds were not doing anything startling but they were doing the basics well and continually frustrating the hosts who’s attack seemed to have gone back to its disorganised ways that had caused so many failures earlier in the season.
Hull’s one outlet was the kicking game of 19 year old half-back Jordan Abdull which kept turning the opposition round.
Frantic defending near their own line by Leeds afforded Hull another opportunity as a pass from Houghton was knocked down to give them another 10 meter scrum and then another penalty saw another desperate charge for the line but captain Gareth Ellis was guilty this time of wasting another chance as he dropped the ball just short of the line.
Another chance with a clean break by Westerman was bombed as the loose forward dropped the ball after an ankle tap tackle with the line gaping.
Hull were being their own worst enemies as chance after chance was being squandered with poor decision making and an attack that was far too easy for the Rhinos to anticipate and snuff out.
To add insult to injury Leeds showed Hull how to structure an attack as Rob Burrow and Sinfield caused havoc in the defensive line and Zak Hardaker dived over in the 71st minute to put the game firmly out of the Airlie Birds reach, the conversion from Sinfield made it 0-22 to the visitors.
Sinfield accepted another penalty from near the halfway line and this time found his range to stretch the lead by another two points in the 73rd minute.
Finally with four minutes left to play Abdull got the try his performance deserved, the conversion by Rankin was scant consolation but at least Hull had been spared the ignominy of being held to nil at home.
Once again Hull had shown plenty of spirit for a struggle but a lack of cutting edge had cost them dearly as their Challenge Cup hopes faded for another year and they were left with just bitter regret yet again.
With games away and home against Wakefield in Super League Hull must pick themselves up and set about ensuring they will be in the Super 8s come the split but with a derby match away to Hull KR who have only lost twice at home all season and other games against the likes of Wigan Warriors and Castleford Tigers that may be no easy task on this evidence.
Penalties- Hull FC 6 Leeds 6
Goal Line Drop Outs- Hull FC 2 Leeds 2
Man of the Match: Jordan Abdull