The dressing room effect

Thursday 10 March saw Hull FC unceremoniously thumped by Widnes Vikings at the Select Security Stadium, but something else happened there that night that was maybe of even greater significance.

After their unquestionably worst performance of the season so far, the wounded players from the KC Stadium locked the door of the changing room they occupied and, with no coaching staff present, had a meeting about what had just happened.

The players knew they had let themselves, the coaches, the directors, the club and the supporters down badly in a match everybody expected them to at least be competitive in, many, including myself, expected them to win.

What was said in that changing room that evening can only be speculated about which isn’t my style so I’ll leave it up to you to decide what you think might have been said, the one thing I will say is, whatever was said in there, it definitely worked.

At the time Widnes coach Denis Betts said he would never be locked out of his team’s changing room under any circumstances and he proceeded to express his disdain at the Hull FC players who took matters into their own hands.

Since that night the Airlie Birds have gone on a winning run, 4 games, 4 wins seems a pretty powerful argument in favour of what the Hull players did, especially considering this has taken in the notoriously busy Easter weekend.

First up after that night for the then much maligned black and whites was a home game against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats with Chris Chester newly installed as coach a few days before, they were dispatched 22-4 without ever really looking like a risk.

Good Friday duly arrived and Lee Radford’s men traveled to their nearest and dearest Hull KR, with nearly an hour gone in the derby it looked like maybe the win against the Wildcats was just a false dawn as the Robins took a seemingly unassailable 20-0 lead.

What happened in the last 22 minutes of that derby will go down in Hull FC folklore as they turned the match on its head with four tries and three goals to win having scored at a rate of a point a minute to leave Rovers feeling like they’d been ambushed and robbed of two league points and those all important bragging rights.

Next up saw then unbeaten Super League leaders Warrington Wolves roll into town, with former favourites Tom Lineham and Joe Westerman in their ranks, playing against a Hull side with more than half their expected match day squad sat in the stands.

Surely against such a depleted side the Wolves, conquerors of Widnes on Good Friday, would have little trouble beating a side missing the likes of Frank Pritchard, Sika Manu, Jordan Thompson, Carlos Tuimavave, Leon Pryce, Fetuli Talanoa, Mahe Fonua, Jack Logan and Mark Minichiello!

Another lead was taken by the opposition as the Wolves circled and went into half time with a 20-10 scoreline thanks to tries for the likes of Lineham, Sandow, Penny and Atkins, surely the leaders would press home their advantage in the second half, wouldn’t they?

The answer to that was an emphatic NO WAY! With tries in the first half from Marc Sneyd and Jamie Shaul the black and whites were just warming up, signalling their intent if you wish! The second half brought tries for Kirk Yeaman sandwiched between two for Curtis Naughton and with that the Wolves unbeaten start was brought to its end.

Another game, the 3rd in eight days, another comeback, St. Helens at Langtree Park were seemingly on their way to victory, 16-6 ahead, but the comeback kings were in no mood to finish their post-dressing room-gate recovery.

The same double act on the left hand side produced tries again, before a 45 metre drop goal with four minutes left put paid to the Saints in similarly dramatic fashion as the late tries against the Robins and the Wolves.

Question for Denis Betts, is a players only meeting in a changing room such a bad idea after all?

Hull FC Season review 2015

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.

Derby Match Jamie Shaul Jack Logan

NEWS/SPORT...with James Smailes, 06/11/14  :  Hull Daily Mail Sporting Champion Awards, held at the Wilberforce Suite, KC Stadium, Hull.  Pictured, Sporting Champion Award Winner, Jordan Abdull.  Picture: Jerome Ellerby

Sika_Manu-1200 Danny Washbrook Mahe+Fonua+NRL+Rd+23+Storm+v+Titans+lzIeGJEH0zXl Carlostuimavave 1200-Frank-Pritchard Scott Taylor

Hull KR Homecoming Event

Their team may have been soundly beaten in record fashion by cup kings Leeds Rhinos at Wembley on Saturday, and the rain may have been tipping down but that didn’t stop hundreds of Hull KR fans from turning out to welcome their heroes home at Hull City Hall this afternoon.

Even rival fans from Hull FC and Leeds Rhinos braved the elements in Queen Victoria Square to join the party that signaled the Robins player’s return from the clubs first Challenge Cup Final in 29 years.

With banter aplenty supporters of the rival clubs stood side by side to generate an atmosphere that not even weather that would have sent the bravest of ducks running for cover could dampen.

This was all about fun, not dwelling on what might have been, it was the game of rugby league showing the world that even the greatest of rivalries can bring people together and friendship and comradeship can blossom even in the strangest circumstances.

The friendly game and the friendly city came together and showed everybody that this game is about more than just results and trophies.

As Chris Chester and his team were brought onto the balcony, despite their 50 point drubbing on Saturday, they were welcomed with raucous chants which showed genuine appreciation for their efforts to get to the Wembley showpiece in the first place.

Supporters who had been left shell-shocked, dejected and embarrassed on Saturday once again found their voice and, after a public apology, saluted chairman Neil Hudgell.

Rovers must now pick themselves up, dust themselves down, and get on with the business of trying to secure their Super League future starting with a home game against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats on Sunday, but at least they know they’ll go into battle with a loyal backing from the same fans who they so badly let down on the biggest stage.

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Hull KR 0 Leeds Rhinos 50, Dejected Rovers Simply Outclassed By Rampant Rhinos At Wembley

Hull KR’s dream return to the Wembley cup final after a 29-year absence turned into an embarrassing nightmare as they were simply ripped apart as cup holders Leeds Rhinos retained their trophy.

Records tumbled as winger Tom Briscoe became the first player to ever score five tries in a Challenge Cup final and the Rhinos made it a record biggest winning margin eclipsing their 36 point victory in 1999 against London Broncos.

The Wembley showpiece was started with a heart-rending performance of the traditional Challenge Cup anthem Abide With Me by Lizzie Jones the wife of Keighley Cougars and Wales player Danny Jones who tragically passed away a few months ago playing for the Cougars in London.

Chris Chester named Albert Kelly in his starting side after the half-back recovered sufficiently in time from a knee injury that had kept him out since the semi-final victory against Warrington Wolves ironically at Leeds Headingley ground four weeks previously.

Rhinos coach Brian McDermott brought back Joel Moon and Kallum Watkins in the centers and Danny McGuire returned after missing the Super 8s victory at Hull FC a week ago and Jamie Peacock was restored to the starting line-up having started from the bench in that 36-22 win at the KC Stadium.

Leeds set their stall out early moving menacingly up-field but an organised defence from the robins held them at bay although in both of the Rhinos first two sets the ball was turned over to the men from the KC Lighstream Stadium within 10 meters of their line.

The first points duly came the way of the cup holders after Kevin Larroyer was adjudged to have reefed the ball out of the grasp of Jamie Peacock in front of the Rovers posts and Brett Delaney snapped up the loose ball to to touchdown under the posts, the conversion from Kevin Sinfield inevitably followed to give them a six point advantage in the 6th minute.

The early exchanges were clearly going the way of the holders but a note of caution for them was that Hull KR were not panicking as maybe a lesser team would have and sticking resolutely to their game plan and getting settled in to the contest.

The first bit of luck to go the way of the men in red and blue came when McGuire put a high bomb up and full-back Kieran Dixon came to take the ball and knocked it onto an on-rushing Leeds player but was then able to re-gather the ball without referee Ben Thaler seeing the knock-on.

The first test of the Rhinos defence came when a pass from Peacock was fumbled and knocked-on in the Leeds half giving Rovers possession and territory but the chance was wasted as Tyrone McCarthy dropped the ball in-front of the Rhinos defensive line.

Leeds then moved to the other end of the field all too easily and finally McGuire got on the end of a fast move down their right hand side to score the second try in the right corner, the touchline conversion was successfully added by Sinfield to make it a 12 point advantage.

Disaster struck again as Rovers went for a short kick-off and Leeds winger Ryan Hall gobbled up the ball to make the break and then a fast move from left to right saw Watkins put former Hull FC winger Briscoe in for their third try inside the opening 20 minutes, Sinfield hit the post with the conversion to leave the score 16-0.

Despite the dominant opening from the Rhinos their opposition kept plugging away valiantly no matter how hopeless the situation seemed for them.

Another chance came their way when a ball was batted back by Maurice Blair and Kris Welham kicked the ball forward but it went dead-in-goal, shortly after that a Leeds mistake gave Rovers more possession and territory but a kick to the right side was easily gobbled up by Hall behind the Rhinos line.

Leeds next visit to the Rovers line caused more pressure but a try was not forthcoming this time when a grubber kick by McGuire was snaffled up by former Rhinos player Shaun Lunt.

After Ken Sio dropped a ball Hall was held up over the line and then Kylie Leuluai was also held up and then a fast move to the right saw a chance squandered as Watkins dropped the ball.

Just when the robins needed a shift in momentum Kelly produced what everybody thought was a 40/20 but then referee Thaler reversed the decision to give them head and feed when replays showed his foot was about half an inch over the Rovers 40 meter line to the relief of the cup holders.

Rovers threatened again as John Boudebza made a smart break in the middle of the field giving Kelly a chance to run at the retreating Rhinos defence but after that was stopped the ball went to their left and was lost within 10 meters of the line again.

As the clock ticked down towards the break the game appeared to have slowed down and this was clearly to the benefit of Rovers as particularly James Donaldson and Welham were making impressions on the Rhinos defence.

Another chance came as Welham got to a hail-mary kick before Briscoe and Dixon suddenly had space to work in front of the Rhinos posts but his attempted kick through was stopped by full-back Zak Hardaker to see the Rhinos keep their 16 point advantage as the final reached half-time.

The second half started as the rain started to tip-down as Rovers hoped to make a record-breaking comeback for a Challenge Cup Final against the holders and Super League leaders.

The half started badly for them however as a mistake from Dixon gave Leeds a scrum 20 meters out after a kick by McGuire but they held them out and then a Sinfield grubber gave a glimmer of a chance as the full-back tried to get away down the right but then dropped the ball in the tackle 30 meters out to give the Rhinos another scrum.

Another attack though by Leeds was repelled as a pass by off-load machine Adam Cuthbertson ended up in Rovers hand just in-front of their posts.

The trophy was seemingly wrapped-up for the Rhinos after a spirited attack by Rovers as a kick by Maurice Blair was left by Dixon and Briscoe pounced and never looked back on a 90 meter race to the line despite the brave effort from Sio to try and stop him, the touchline conversion from Sinfield made it 22-0 in the 48th minute.

The more Rovers were panicking the more desperate the situation was becoming as the dream of playing at Wembley was turning quickly into a nightmare particularly for Dixon who was making mistakes with alarming regularity as the affect of playing lower league opposition in recent weeks was seemingly making a big difference against the battle hardened Rhinos.

The next name on the try scoring list was Brad Singleton as the big prop barged his way over despite the attentions of Dixon and video referees James Child and Richard Silverwood were happy to award the try as he managed to get the ball down before it squirmed free, the conversion from Sinfield made it 28-0 to the Rhinos in the 58th minute.

A rare attack by Rovers with an impressive build-up from a break by Graeme Horne promised to bear some fruit but eventually Larroyer was held up over the line.

Another attack shortly after saw a high kick from Kelly invite Josh Mantellato to chase but the bomb was easily defused by Hall again, Leeds then moved far too easily to the other end of the field and Briscoe was on hand to gobble up another pass from Watkins to slide over in the corner for his hat-trick, the touchline conversion attempt by Sinfield was somewhat hooked to leave the score at 32-0 with 15 minutes left to play.

Kelly finally got his 40/20 to give the robins a scrum 10 meters from the Rhinos line but another chance was wasted with a forward pass to Tony Puletua handing the possession back to Leeds.

Another opportunity came to Leeds as Watkins made a majestic break and then handed the ball inside to Rob Burrow for the diminutive number 7 to race in under the posts, the inevitable conversion by Sinfield stretched it it to a 38-0 lead for the treble-chasers with seven minutes left to play.

Within two minutes of that Briscoe was in for his fourth try after another break and pass by Watkins put him away down the right again, a sixth goal from eight attempts by Sinfield made it 44-0.

Dixon’s nightmare then carried on as he scooped up a kick and ran the ball back only to drop it in the first contact, McGuire snapped the ball up and put the ball out to Briscoe for the England winger to set a new record with a first ever five-try-haul eclipsing the four tries scored by Leroy Rivett in the Rhinos 1999 triumph against London Broncos, the conversion from Sinfield brought up the 50 point mark.

Chris Chester speaking afterwards said his team had not performed as well as they have shown for the rest of the season, jubilant Rhinos coach Brian McDermott said there had been a desire to give legends Peacock, Sinfield and Leuluai the perfect Wembley send-off but that they will also still be determined to carry off the league leaders shield and the Grand Final trophy as well.

Penalties- Rovers 2 Leeds 3

40/20- Rovers 1 Leeds 0

Lance Todd Trophy Winner- Tom Briscoe

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Hull KR 12 Hull FC 22, Airlie Birds Book Super 8s Place With Priceless Derby Win.

Hull FC secured the bragging rights and their place in the coveted Super League Super 8s with a gritty determined win as they became only the third visiting team to win at the KC Lightstream Stadium against bitter rivals Hull KR despite losing two of their most influential players in the first half.

Coach Lee Radford brought back captain Gareth Ellis and Mark Minichiello in the back row for the winner take all derby.

Meanwhile Rovers coach Chris Chester kept half back Albert Kelly in his starting line-up after he passed a late fitness test after picking up an injury in the defeat at Salford Red Devils.

The first mistake came from Rovers winger Josh Mantellato as he sent the kick off out on the full giving the black and white’s possession and territory but eventually a small grubber kick through by Marc Sneyd was gathered by Rovers full-back Kieron Dixon.

Hull’s next attack caused a few hearts in mouths after a kick by Jordan Rankin was not quite pulled in by Fetuli Talanoa over the Rovers line and the video referees ruled out the potential try because of the knock on.

Controversy then ensued as Talanoa was harshly adjudged to have knocked on at halfway giving the robins a scrum but organised defence from the visitor’s kept Rovers attack at bay to force a changeover just in front of the Airlie Birds line.

The first score came about as Rovers were given a soft penalty for offside and eventually Shaun Lunt scrambled over in the 9th minute, the conversion from Mantellato made it a 6 point lead for the home side.

Hull then forced back-to-back penalties but were unable to breach a well drilled Rovers defence and Dixon, for a second time, was able to get back into the field of play after catching a grubber behind his own line.

However Hull’s next attack proved more fruitful as a kick from Sneyd was just kept under control by Steve Michaels for the Aussie winger to bring his side back into the game, Sneyd however was unable to add the touchline conversion leaving the home side leading 6-4 in the 17th minute.

Rovers next opportunity arose when Michaels was adjudged to have knocked the ball out of play behind his own line despite Ken Sio appearing to have touched the ball first, forcing a goal line drop out but the attack seemed slightly unstructured and eventually Maurice Blair was taken down just in front of the visitor’s line to force a handover.

Rovers were soon in again though as Kris Welham chased Kelly’s towering kick and then flicked a pass out to Mantellato for the Italian international to cross the whitewash, his conversion to his own try made it 12-4 in the 27th minute.

After another Rovers attack which ended with a nothing kick over the dead ball line by Kelly the Airlie Birds then marched dangerously to the other end and a fast cross-field passing move finished with Tom Lineham finishing in the right corner, the conversion by Sneyd brought Hull back within two points of Rovers again as the half hour approached.

The next chance for Hull came as Rovers lost the ball in their own half and after a scrambled, untidy move to the right Lineham somehow got over in the right corner despite the attentions of three defenders to give them the lead going into the break, the conversion from Sneyd made it 12-16.

A note of caution for the black and white’s was that Leon Pryce and Ellis had both been taken off in the first half due to injuries which had left them short on options on the bench for the second half.

The visitor’s started the half with more purpose than their hosts and caused panic early as Talanoa hunted a try from a grubber before Mantellato managed to rescue the situation.

The next attack caused a goal line drop out but Mantellato fortuitously found touch with the drop out to give the home side a scrum near the halfway line.

Rovers then upped the pace with several eye-catching moves causing Hull’s defence to go into scramble mode especially when teenage centre Jack Logan had to get back to catch a kick through by Kelly with Liam Salter and Ken Sio closing in on the chance.

Hull then went to the other end and a high bomb by Jordan Abdull was taken by Sio but then lost in the challenge with Michaels who then pounced on the loose ball to tap the ball down to stretch Hull’s advantage and the conversion from Sneyd made it 12-22 after 54 minutes.

Rovers were then presented with a chance after a high tackle by Liam Watts on Dixon gave them a penalty and Tony Puletua was held up over the line.

Another opportunity came the way of the Robins after a kick through was kicked dead by Jordan Rankin causing the black and white’s to have to drop out from under their own posts for a second time but again the opportunity was bombed by the home side as teenager Logan made a fortuitous interception.

A break by Lineham then caused panic in the Rovers defence and when Sneyd followed up his own grubber over the line Sio had to knock the ball dead to prevent the half back from scoring.

Jack Logan was disallowed a seemingly good try for a knock-on in the 70th minute by the the video referee.

Rovers continued to try and take the game to their rivals as the clock ran down but Hull’s defence kept scrambling and answering the questions they were being asked and they forced a chance with less than five minutes to go but Kelly’s pass to Puletua was just slightly forward causing referee Richard Silverwood to bring the prop back from under the posts.

A professional performance for the remaining time, as it had been for the majority of the game, saw the clock down and jubilant scenes for the black and white’s fans as they contemplated the Super 8s whilst their near neighbour’s stare down the barrel of a scrap for their Super League lives in the Middle 8s.

Penalties- Rovers 5 Hull 4

Goal Line Drop Outs- Rovers 2 Hull 2

Man of the Match- Mark Minichiello

Hull KR 32 Catalans Dragons 26, Rovers Move Within 80 Minutes of Wembley With Tense Victory Over Channel Hoppers

Hull KR put their supporters through agony before booking a first Challenge Cup semi-final since 2006 with a nervous victory over Catalans Dragons after a dominant first half gave way to a substantially less disciplined performance in the second half.

Coach Chris Chester brought hooker Shaun Lunt and prop Dane Tilse back on the bench but the line-up remained largely the same as the 17 who had thumped Warrington Wolves in Super League last week for this Challenge Cup Quarter-Final at the KC Lightstream Stadium.

Catalans got the game underway on a balmy summer evening which might have suited the men from the south of France but the early exchanges saw the home side settling into their stride quicker with a kick from Kelly causing panic behind the Dragons line before the ball was knocked out to force a goal line drop out.

There was early controversy as the Robins were awarded a scrum after Kris Welham had clearly knocked the ball into touch in a tackle on Krisnan Inu, they then took advantage with a fast cross-field move which released Ken Sio down the right to score the first try of the game after seven minutes, the conversion from Josh Mantellato made it 6-0.

Catalans got their first chance at some sustained pressure on the home sides line a few minutes later after a ball was batted down by a Rovers defender to give them a repeat set which then led to Welham attempting an intercept but he was unable to drag the ball in causing more pressure.

Inu then came perilously close to a try but Welham then knocked the ball out of his hands deliberately but referee Phil Bentham gave the home side head and feed wrongly at the scrum.

The red and white’s then moved swiftly down-field and after a dropped ball by the visitors ended up in the hands of Kelly and eventually Kieran Dixon got over the line to stretch the lead after 17 minutes, the conversion from Mantellato made it 12-0.

The next attack from the Robins two minutes later came via a Maurice Blair kick, Mantellato got to the ball before Dragons full-back Morgan Escare and handed the ball on to Kelly to score, another goal from Mantellato made it 18-0.

Catalans then got another scrum inside their oppositions half but facing an organised defence they never really looked like cutting through to get back in the game as the game moved into its second quarter despite forcing a goal line drop out when Dixon was caught behind the line.

A break by Mantellato down the left wing and inside pass which cut-out two Catalans defenders and two Rovers attackers found its way to Graeme Horne for the back rower to go in behind the posts in the 29th minute, the inevitable conversion by Mantellato made it 24-0 and left the men from France facing a gap as wide as the Humber to try and recover.

To their credit the Dragons wouldn’t throw the towel in and a break in mid-field by Louis Anderson saw them set up the platform to build from and a delicious little kick from Elliott Whitehead was dotted down by Inu for their first try after 35 minutes, Scott Dureau was unable to add the extras which left them trailing by 20 points.

Rovers were then awarded another penalty in the last minute of the first half after a high shot on Horne and Mantellato duly obliged from 35 meters out to send his side in at the break 26-4 ahead.

The second half started with a bit of handbags at dawn between Inu and Lunt but from that the visitors then made the first attacking opportunity before Inu was denied by Welham after a high bomb.

An attack at the other end by Rovers was similarly unfortunate as Liam Salter caught a hick kick but was held down just short of the line.

Catalans were appearing more purposeful as the game wore on and Zeb Taia took advantage of a quick tap penalty for off-side to crash over in the 50th minute, a first conversion of the evening for Dureau reduced the gap to 16 points and give them some form of hope.

The next visit to the home sides line saw an audacious kick through by Tony Gigot and Inu followed it up to score in the corner in the 55th minute, Dureau missed the conversion but at 26-14 the Dragons seemed to be sensing a comeback which at half-time had looked like an impossibility against the in-form Robins.

The 50-50 calls that had gone the way of the men from East Yorkshire in the first half now seemed to be going more in favour of the Frenchmen.

Ken Sio finally added to his try tally as Rovers took the bull by the horns and a fast passing move saw him dive in at the corner in the 65th minute, the missed conversion left the score at 30-14.

However Catalans still wouldn’t go away and they charged straight to the other end and video referees Steve Ganson and Joe Cobb awarded a try to Ian Henderson in the 67th minute, the goal by Dureau reduced the deficit to 10 points again and a nervous tension descended on the ground again.

A measure of the concern for the home side became apparent with 10 minutes left when, after a crusher tackle on Dixon 10 meters from the Catalans line, Mantellato opted to take the two points on offer to give them a two converted try lead.

Catalans immediately went for a short kick-off and won the ball within Rovers territory which led to sustained pressure. Back-to-back penalties increased the pressure but Rovers stuck manfully to the task in hand to keep them at bay and a knock-on relieved the pressure and enabled them to clear their lines.

Another Catalans attack then produced another try as a kick through by Jason Baitieri was pounced on by Elliott Whitehead in the 78th minute and the conversion by Dureau put them back within one score of the hosts.

Rovers however saw the game out to move on to their first Challenge Cup semi-final since 2006 and within sight of a first trip to Wembley in nearly three decades.

Penalties- Hull KR 6 Catalans Dragons 9

Goal Line Drop Outs- Hull KR 1 Catalans Dragons 2

Attendance: 6,073

Wigan Warriors 60 Hull KR 0. Injury Stricken Robins Made To Suffer By Rampant Warriors.

Hull KR took to the pitch minus Josh Mantellato, Dane Tilse, Shaun Lunt and captain Terry Campese then, at the last minute Kevin Larroyer had to be withdrawn following an injury in the warm up so Rovers coach Chris Chester brought in youngsters Connor Robinson and Josh Guzdek to put with fellow teenagers Sonny Esslemont and Aaron Ollett and Tyrone McCarthy took the captains armband.

The first try took less than 3 minutes to arrive as Wigan ran the ball on the last tackle and prop Dominic Crosby charged over from 20 meters out, the conversion from Matty Smith gave the home side a 6-0 lead.

The tone was being set very early as, from the kick off, after a few tackles the Warriors shifted the ball from right to left and a move involving Dan Sarginson, Joe Burgess and George Williams from 70 meters out led to a 6th minute try for Burgess under the posts, Smith tagged on the goal for a 12-0 lead.

A penalty caused by the Robins kick off going out on the full led to more pressure on their line and Wigan stretched their advantage as Liam Farrell swept through a non-existent defence for the 3rd try in 8 minutes and Smith again made no mistake to make it 18-0.

Less than 11 minutes had passed as another break down the middle by Farrell teed up a 12th try of the season for Joe Burgess, a fourth goal for Smith made it 24-0 and the match was effectively over as a contest.

Rovers right hand defence was having a genuine nightmare but the middle was also being made to suffer as the home side were finding big yards far too easy to come by even considering the personnel the men from East Yorkshire had missing.

The 15th minute saw another flowing passing move from the Warriors which finished with Joel Tomkins, playing at Centre for the first time since his sides defeat away to Rovers, charging in at the corner to score, Smith missed the conversion from wide out but the Warriors looked very comfortable at 28-0 ahead.

Three minutes later Burgess thought he had his second consecutive hat-trick but he was pulled back for a forward pass by Sarginson.

A goal line drop out was forced as Ben Cockayne was caught behind the line after a precise grubber kick by Williams and this again invited pressure on the visitors line which led to Williams then throwing an absolutely outrageous dummy which was taken hook, line and sinker and left a gap wide enough for a sherman tank for the stand off to dart through and dive in for the 6th try in 21 minutes, the goal from Smith stretched the lead to 34 points.

There was a brief period when Rovers strung a few passes together but at no point did they threaten the home sides line. However Wigan seemed to drop their intensity visibly and at the same time the Robins rolled up the sleeves and seemed determined to shackle the Warriors and this they did with the help of a few uncharacteristic mistakes like forward passes and dropped ball.

Despite not scoring for the last 19 minutes of the first half and some silly mistakes the home side still went in at the break with the game wrapped up at 34-0.

An early penalty in the second half for offside brought more pressure and the first try of the half was awarded by the video referee after a kick from Williams was snaffled by Burgess before offloading to Farrell who, in turn, flicked the ball out to Sarginson to score in the corner, Smith’s touchline conversion saw the cherry and white’s hit 40.

More mistakes cost a fatigued Rovers more and more possession and territory and a poor attitude certainly wasn’t helping them with Wigan in such ruthless mood.

The 52nd minute saw the video referee called upon again by referee Phil Bentham to award another try to Dominic Manfredi who forced his way over from close quarters despite the attentions of five would-be defenders, the missed conversion from Smith left the score at 44-0.

Thankfully for the visitors the Warriors kept trying the party tricks but whilst some of them came off, plenty of others ended with forward passes and dropped ball along with other needless mistakes otherwise the score could have been much worse.

Five minutes after the Manfredi effort former Wakefield man Taulima Tautai charged onto a pass to barrel his way over next to the posts, Smith’s goal brought up the half century.

Another try duly arrived in the 62nd minute as Williams fooled everybody on the last tackle with a sudden burst of pace from 40 meters out to race through a huge gap and score beside the posts, another conversion from Smith made it 56-0.

On the one occasion the Robins managed to break their hosts defensive line a forward pass from James Donaldson saw Green pulled back and a certain try ruled out. Rovers fans were seen doing a conga around their stand, unfortunately it couldn’t inspire their team to get the try their fans so desperately deserved.

The deadly duo struck again with less than three minutes left to play as George Williams once again produced a delightful little chip over the defence and Joe Burgess profited to grab his hat-trick try, Smith missed the conversion to leave the final score at 60-0.

The obvious concern for the Robins going forward is that in their last three games (league and cup) they have now shipped in 122 points, they will obviously be a different proposition in two weeks in the Challenge Cup match which is taking place on neutral territory at Leigh Sports Village whilst the pitch is relaid at the DW Stadium.

Post match Shaun Wane said he was under no illusions that they would be a different proposition in the cup match, on the other hand it was noted about Chris Chester’s almost casual attitude to what had just happened as he also knows his team should be very much stronger for that cup match, and indeed should carry much more threat at home against basement side Wakefield Trinity Wildcats next week.

Attendance 11,468

Rovers man of the match: Graeme Horne