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?

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Widnes Vikings 12 Hull FC 25, Lineham Hat-Trick Sees Off Vikings Again As Airlie Birds Move Into Top 8.

Hull FC took their destiny into their own hands with a stunning comeback to complete a league double over Widnes Vikings as they claimed an eighth victory in 10 games in all competitions and move 7th in the Super League table.

Down 12-0 inside 11 minutes Hull looked dis-organised until Marc Sneyd stamped his class on the match and took control of proceedings and prolific winger Tom Lineham ran in his second hat-trick against this opposition this year.

The Vikings started the game without former Hull player Cameron Phelps after the Australian was injured in their victory over Salford Red Devils at Magic Weekend in Newcastle which forced coach Denis Betts to bring Matt Whitley in at centre.

Coach Lee Radford recalled Jamie Shaul to the Hull FC side to rest Jordan Rankin and Setaimata Sa and derby hat-trick hero Fetuli Talanoa were out injured so Richard Whiting and Steve Michaels were brought in as replacements for the visit to the Select Security stadium

The match was billed as a Super 8s Play Off with the Vikings just one point ahead of Hull as the sides sat 8th and 9th respectively at the start of the evening.

The first penalty of the match saw the home side put the first pressure on the Hull line but Shaul cleared up the threat of a chip over the line before Hull were awarded a relieving penalty.

The opening score of the match came to Vikings winger Jack Owens after Kirk Yeaman gave away a penalty with a high tackle the ball was moved quickly right by the home side and Owens squeezed in at the corner despite the attention of Shaul, the winger then added the touchline conversion to give them a 6-0 lead in the 8th minute.

Three minutes later a break down their left by full-back Rhys Hanbury put centre Matt Whitley in under the posts and Owens added the extras to give the home side a 12 point lead after 11 minutes.

After another attack from the home side Hull suddenly burst into life and a break down the right by captain Gareth Ellis and short pass put Tom Lineham in at the corner for his 13th try of the season and his fourth against Widnes after his hat-trick against them at the KC Stadium, unfortunately Marc Sneyd slipped slightly as he took the kick at goal and missed to leave the score 12-4 to the home side after 16 minutes.

Just as Hull thought they were going to make a break with a pass from Leon Pryce to Shaul referee Phil Bentham made a shocking call saying the legal pass was forward and then awarded the home side a penalty in the Hull half for dissent but scrambling defence from the visitors kept the Vikings at bay as they looked to press home the advantage they had been handed.

As the first half wore on the home side seemed to have more appetite for the battle as Hull looked laboured and unable to break through the home defence but despite their continued dominance in the possession and territory stakes the Vikings lead was still only eight points after half an hour.

After a penalty was given to the men from East Yorkshire they got their first chance at some sustained pressure on the Vikings line and Pryce duly brought them further back into the game with their second try, however Sneyd had forgotten his kicking boots and missed again to leave the score 12-8.

The fightback continued after a high tackle by Vikings captain Kevin Brown on Richard Whiting gave Hull another attacking set on the Widnes line and a deft chip by Sneyd saw Lineham claim his second try of the game in the corner with seconds to go to half time, Sneyd then found the mark with his touchline conversion to send his team in at the break with an unlikely 12-14 lead.

The second half started with Hull showing more grunt and trying to establish control and they were soon on the attack but Mickey Paea knocked on 15 meters from the Widnes try line.

The Vikings then went down-field and a kick from former FC player Aaron Heremaia forced a second goal-line-drop-out but their resulting attack ended with a tackle by Steve Michaels taking the Widnes attacker into touch.

After 51 minutes a piece of individual brilliance from Sneyd created a try that was worth the entrance money alone as he placed a delicate little grubber kick through the defensive line and followed-up to score under the posts and stretch the visitors advantage and the inevitable conversion from the try-scorer made it 12-20.

Six minutes later Lineham made it home and away hat-tricks against the Vikings as a break from Shaul cut the home side apart again and then his deft pass put the winger in at the corner to the delight of the travelling supporters, unfortunately Sneyd was unable to add the extras so the lead stayed at 12 points for the visitors.

The next attack from Hull saw them set up for the drop-goal and Sneyd again duly obliged to give them a three score lead with 18 minutes left to play.

The home side were showing plenty of endeavour but the goal line defence from Hull was too tight and smart to stop them breaching the line.

Whenever the home side seemed to have an opportunity Hull’s resolute defence was there from all angles covering for any chink in the impressive armour as the game ambled towards its inevitable conclusion.

With seven seconds remaining on the clock Patrick Ah Van thought he had given the home fans something to cheer as he dived in at the corner but he was denied by the video referee as he had put a foot in touch.

Hull coach Lee Radford praised the impressive defence from his side afterwards saying the victory had come because they were all willing to work for each other.

Penalties: Widnes 6 Hull FC 4

Goal Line Drop Outs: Widnes 1 Hull FC 2

Attendance: 5,573

Man of the Match: Marc Sneyd