Super League Grand Final, Wigan Warriors 20 Leeds Rhinos 22, Rhinos Wrap Up Treble Triumph Thanks To Josh Walters Winning Try

Teenage star Josh Walters scored a try he will never forget to make sure Leeds Rhinos departing stars Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai went out on the back of a thoroughly deserved outstanding treble triumph as this champion team wrote yet another chapter in the history of this great sport.

The proceedings began with the entry of the First Utility Super League trophy before superstar rock band The Charlatans were formerly introduced to the army of supporters who were amassing in Old Trafford for this eagerly anticipated Super League Grand Final which was the first time that Wigan and Leeds had contested it since they were the headline act at the first ever one in 1998.

Classical star Laura Wright then gave an uplifting performance of Jerusalem before the battle hardened Rhinos and Warriors entered the Theatre of Dreams to a cauldron of expectant noise for the formalities before the kick off.

Shaun Wane started Dominic Manfredi and John Bateman in his three-quarter line along with 19 year old Centre Oliver Gildart, his counterpart Brian McDermott also sprang a surprise with Brad Singleton being named in the starting line-up for the Rhinos and offload machine Adam Cuthbertson dropping to the bench where he sat with teenager Walters.

Brett Delaney also somehow made it into the 17 after departing Headingley on crutches after their semi-final win over St. Helens the previous week.

The men from Headingley started with more purpose but it was the Warriors drew first blood in the fourth minute as Liam Farrell caught Rhinos captain Kevin Sinfield out of place and raced through before handing on to Sydney Roosters bound Joe Burgess for the winger to repeat his try scoring performance from 12 months ago, retiring Matty Bowen added the conversion to give them a six point lead.

Leeds responded immediately though after Matty Smith knocked on from the restart and after the resultant scrum a deft grubber by Sinfield was pounced on by Danny McGuire to score beside the posts, Sinfield’s inevitable conversion brought the Rhinos level in the seventh minute.

Wigan forced the Rhinos to drop out after Tom Briscoe was forced behind his own line and with the sustained pressure Michael McIlorum made a dive for the Leeds try line but he dropped the ball just short.

Tempers threatened to boil over as Brad Singleton was penalised for tackling Burgess in the air from a high kick close to the Warriors line.

The game settled into an arm wrestle in which the most noteworthy incident was a clash of heads between Sinfield and Cuthbertson requiring both Rhinos players to have running repairs with strapping going round their profusely bleeding heads.

A cross-field kick by Steve Prescott Man of Steel winner Zak Hardaker then caused panic in the Warriors defence which ensued in the tackle count being wiped clean by referee Ben Thaler, in a frantic period of play Leeds flung the ball right to left and then back to the right and, despite a possible knock on in the build up by McGuire, the video referees awarded an eventual try to Joel Moon to a chorus of boos from the supporters in Cherry and White, uncharacteristically Sinfield missed the conversion to leave it a four point gap after 28 minutes.

The Warriors then marched to the Leeds end of the pitch and forced some sustained pressure on the Rhinos defensive line with a knock on by Ryan Hall giving them head and feed 10 meters from the Rhinos line but an organised defence from the men in Blue and Amber held them at bay.

Leeds then suddenly cut the Warriors apart with breathtaking speed and ingenuity as Wembley hero Briscoe engineered a break to put Kallum Watkins away down the right and the England Centre handed inside to put McGuire in for his 2nd try of the match, Sinfield’s conversion gave them a 10 point lead that they held for the last four minutes of the half.

Wigan had the first surge into enemy territory of the 2nd half but a pass from Bowen was knocked on by Farrell so the chance was squandered.

A knock on by McGuire then presented the Warriors with territory and possession and then a high shot by the retiring Kylie Leuluai gave the Warriors more possession and then a dangerous grubber was knocked dead by Sinfield forcing the Rhinos to have to drop out from under their posts for the second time in the game.

Sustained pressure from the Warriors on the Rhinos line eventually saw a high bomb from Sean O’ Loughlin stolen by Manfredi from the clutches of Hall for the Wigan man to dive over and put his side back in the contest, Bowen added the extra two points to bring them back within four points seven minutes into the half.

Within two minutes of that the Warriors were back in front for the first time since the 7th minute as Bowen cut his way through feeble Rhinos defence and raced in under the posts and then added the conversion to his try to make it 18-16 to the men from the DW Stadium.

Watkins gave away a soft penalty for a high shot on Farrell which led to more pressure on the Rhinos but this time Wigan managed to lose the ball over the Leeds try line in a frantic piece of play.

McIlorum then claimed a clever penalty as he threw a pass against Watkins in an offside position at the play-the-ball and with 19 minutes remaining Bowen duly obliged to stretch their lead to four points as the pendulum continued to swing their way.

Three minutes later this great sport wrote another great fairytale chapter as young Josh Walters, coming off the bench in his first ever play-off game, scrambled over after the Warriors made a hash of clearing up a high kick and two passes later the teenager was in, Sinfield restored the Rhinos lead with the conversion.

A pitch invader then caused a short stop a few minutes later before the game resumed with the Warriors in possession.

Enthusiasm then got the better of Manfredi as he raised Hall in a dangerous tackle and dumped the England winger on his shoulder.

Desperate defence by the Warriors then led to a scrum for Leeds 10 meters from the line and then more desperation from the Warriors held them at bay somehow.

McIlorum then scragged Burrow to the ground with a head high tackle giving the Rhinos another penalty which was duly dispatched into touch.

Leeds kept forcing the issue but a very well organised defence still kept them out but then just as Tony Clubb seemed to be creating a break in midfield he tried to pass but the ball went forward and hit the deck.

For all the times that commentators Eddie and particularly Stevo kept referring to the superstar names in the Rhinos line-up as the ones who could put this game beyond the Warriors they somehow kept contriving to blow guilt edged chance after chance but, importantly held on to their two point lead.

In a breathless finish the Warriors tried everything they could after gaining possession with a scrum 10 meters from their line but a frantic kick wide was eventually defused by Hall giving way to absolute unbridled joy as they completed the Super League Leaders Shield, Ladbrokes Challenge Cup and Grand Final treble and defeated the Warriors in a major final for the first time in their distinguished history.

Penalties: Wigan 4 Leeds 5

Goal Line Drop Outs: Wigan 0 Leeds 2

Harry Sunderland Trophy Man of the Match: Danny McGuire

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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 FC Overall Recruitment For 2016

All-in-all the recruitment by Hull FC for the 2016 Super League season has been undeniably impressive with many bases covered for Lee Radford.

One thing that the Airlie Birds certainly won’t be short of is genuine grunt and brute force with the capture of the likes of Frank ‘The Tank’ Pritchard, Sika Manu and Hull-born Scott Taylor to put with a pack that already includes the likes of Gareth Ellis, Feka Palea’aesina, Mark Minichiello and Liam Watts.

Pritchard will turn 32 years old in November but the former New Zealand international still plays big minutes although this has now been somewhat curtailed with the announcement that he would miss 3-4 months with a pectoral injury he suffered when playing for current club Canterbury Bulldogs against New Zealand Warriors at the end of last month.

Despite that news he is an exciting signing for Radford’s side and he will undoubtedly bring massive impact for the men from the KC Stadium.

With 27 New Zealand caps and 4 Samoa caps to his name and having been involved in two NRL Grand Final’s Pritchard certainly brings a wealth of experience with him although his current injury could possibly be something of a warning for his new side especially considering his age.

Looking at the signing of Sika Manu it has to be said that it is a definite coup not only for Hull FC but also for Super League in general as the former New Zealand international turned down offers from NRL sides South Sydney Rabbitohs, St. George/Illawarra Dragons and Cronulla Sharks as well as Leeds Rhinos to join some old friends and a member of his family at Hull.

The cousin of cult hero Fetuli Talanoa will swap Penrith Panthers for life in the goldfish bowl that is Hull FC and join up with old friends Pritchard, Mahe Fonua and Carlos Tuimavave.

At 28 years old Manu certainly has time on his side and is another who brings great experience with him having won the Rugby League World Cup in 2008 with New Zealand and the 2012 NRL Grand Final with Melbourne Storm.

Manu is a player renowned for his strength and aggression who will be expected to control the ruck and get Hull on the front foot so as to allow people like Marc Sneyd and Danny Houghton time and space to work their magic and he will also cause panic in any defence with his destructive running.

In Scott Taylor the Airlie Birds have got hold of a Hull-born player who has supported the club since he was a boy. The former England international started his career impressively with much hated cross-city rivals Hull KR before joining Wigan Warriors for the 2013 season.

With international recognition and a Challenge Cup and Super League Grand Final double in his first season with the Warriors it seemed the world was Taylor’s oyster, however in recent times his career has somewhat stagnated after he fell out of favour with Warriors boss Shaun Wane.

Taylor was left out of the Wigan side for their 2014 Grand Final defeat to St. Helens and has spent much of this season on loan at Salford Red Devils.

Some sections of supporters of both Hull KR and Wigan have made much of him being out of condition and, as a result he has become the subject of several jokes due to his expanded waistline.

Despite his hard luck in recent times Taylor, who will be an automatic replacement for Newcastle Knights bound Mickey Paea and, with a good pre-season, the black and white’s could easily benefit from his arrival. What they have in Taylor is a prop forward who will tackle for all he’s worth and run his blood to water.

He isn’t the quickest or most mobile in his current condition but his strength is obvious and he has a good offload in him as well.

Mahe Fonua is one name that not many people in Super League will be aware of but he will arrive on these shores with a point to prove to any doubters and, having played and been a regular try scorer for Melbourne Storm, he can point to experience of having played alongside such superstars as Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk as well as former Storm player Manu.

Billed as a player similar to Castleford Tigers star Justin Carney, much is expected of Fonua by his new boss, Having won the 2012 NRL Grand Final and then the 2013 World Club Challenge when his hometown side came over and ambushed then Super League champions Leeds Rhinos at Headingley Fonua certainly has big game experience.

Turning 23 on Christmas Eve he is still young but with 23 tries to his name in 50 NRL games he certainly knows his way to the try line but that is just part of his armoury.

The young winger is a big, robust player who is equally known down under for his ability to break the line and also for his tackling and he can also produce the occasional moment of genuine magic.

With spectacular finishes being another part of his game it would seem that Hull have got hold of the perfect replacement for the Warrington Wolves bound, and extremely popular, Tom Lineham.

Carlos Tuimavave is another young talent that Hull have snatched from the NRL. Brought in to provide competition in the centre’s the cousin of former Hull KR prop Evarn Tuimavave is known primarily as a stand-off and can also fill in at full-back if required.

Tuimavave sprang to prominence when forming a half back partnership with New Zealand superstar Shaun Johnson when reaching the Toyota Cup Grand Final in 2010 and 2011 with New Zealand Warriors junior side, he also played for the Junior Kiwis.

He is known for his sublime ball-handling skills and is a very good support player who is usually to be found on the end of a break to poach a try.

Turning 22 in January he is another young player who is an undeniably exciting signing of who Lee Radford said “He has a bit of that X-Factor about him.”

What could well be key to any success Hull may enjoy in 2016 will be just how quickly Tuimavave and Fonua settle in to life in a new country and a new culture.

Another signing who will have no such fears is the returning Danny Washbrook who has been brought back after a four year stint at Super League rivals Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.

On the surface it would seem that bringing back the 29-year-old is maybe a bit of a public relations signing, however there is a definite purpose to bringing Washbrook back to his hometown club.

Having played in the 2006 Grand Final for the Airlie Birds he certainly has experience but another reason he has seemingly been brought back for is to provide cover for hooker and vice-captain Danny Houghton.

Washbrook is not a player who will do something spectacular that will win you a game but he is certainly the sort who will do something unseen that will ensure you don’t lose a game.

Having won the 2012 Super League hitman award as the top tackler in Super League it is clear why Washbrook is seen as the ideal foyle to tackling machine Houghton and this could be what makes this a very shrewd bit of business by Radford.

What Hull have added with their six signings are pace, power, strength, experience, know how, grunt and absolutely genuine quality.

If they can make them gel together and get them to click they could have the makings of a very exciting squad.

Sika_Manu-1200Danny WashbrookMahe+Fonua+NRL+Rd+23+Storm+v+Titans+lzIeGJEH0zXlCarlostuimavave1200-Frank-PritchardScott Taylor

Hull FC 6 Leeds Rhinos 24, Airlie Birds Dumped Out By Cup Holders With Dismal Display

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

Attendance: 9,261

Man of the Match: Jordan Abdull

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Catalan Dragons 20 Hull FC 14, Airlie Birds Left to Rue Mistakes As Vital Points Dropped

Hull FC slipped down to 8th in Super League with a heartbreaking defeat in Perpignan as Catalan Dragons continued their impressive home form which has seen them only lose once on their home ground.

Coach Lee Radford brought back Jordan Rankin at full-back in place of Jamie Shaul and derby hat-trick hero Fetuli Talanoa returned in place of Warrington-bound winger Tom Lineham and Setaimata Sa also returned from injury to face his former team at the Stade Gilbert Brutus after missing the win at Widnes Vikings.

The first chance came the way of the black and white’s with a scrum 10 meters from the Catalan line after Morgan Escare knocked on a high kick which then led to the young full-back being caught behind the line after a full set on the home sides line.

The goal line drop out led to another attack but the Airlie Birds were unable to make it count as a grubber kick from Marc Sneyd was eventually cleared up.

However the respite for the Dragons was only temporary as finally Joe Westerman made a break in the middle of the pitch and Rankin came up in support to go over under the posts in the 11th minute, the conversion from Sneyd gave the visitors a 6 point lead.

It took until the 16th minute for Catalan to draw level when captain Remi Casty made a break in midfield and then put the supporting Thomas Bosc over under the posts, the conversion from Scott Dureau brought the home side level.

Another mistake by Catalan led to another Hull scrum 10 meters from the Dragons line but a structured set from the visitors was ineffective as the home side comfortably held them out.

As the game settled down the home side became slightly more frustrated than Hull and a petulant ball steal by Dureau in the 28th minute gave them a penalty which Sneyd added to take the score to 6-8 in the 29th minute.

In the 35th minute a telegraphed pass from Sneyd to Mark Minichiello gifted an intercept and simple dash to the line to score for Dragons centre Tony Gigot to put the home side in the lead for the first time, the conversion from Dureau stretched it to a 4 point advantage.

Back-to-back penalties then led to another attack and try for the home side by Greg Mounis under the posts in the 39th minute, the inevitable conversion from Dureau gave the Dragons a 10 point lead going into the half time break.

Hull only had themselves to blame for trailing at half time after they had plenty of territory but made mistakes which had led to scores for the home side after a solid opening 30 minutes.

A penalty given away by the Dragons early in the second half gave Hull some pressure on the Catalan line again but again the attack was well quelled by an organised defence until a grubber kick by Sneyd went over the dead ball line.

The Dragons then got a penalty for a stolen ball and attacked with purpose but a stray pass cost them another try and gave the visitors a relieving scrum.

Another purposeful attack from the Dragons saw Dureau put a grubber kick over the Hull try line with Elliott Whitehead hunting the try but Steve Michaels managed to knock the ball dead for a goal line drop out then a mistake by Catalan in the ensuing attack gave Hull some relief.

However another mistake by the visitors led to another attack until another mistake from the home side gave Hull possession back.

The play then moved back to the Catalan end as Hull appeared to start to get into their stride and then Gigot knocked on 30 meters from his own line to give Hull another attacking scrum and Mark Minichiello brought his side back into the contest in the 52nd minute as he bashed his way over despite the attentions of three Dragons defenders, the simple conversion for Sneyd brought the score to 18-14.

Another fluid attack from the Dragons led to a break by Escare who chipped over the head of Talanoa but Sa was on hand to take the kick behind the try line for a goal line drop out again which led to another attack until a forward pass gave Hull another relieving scrum.

Hull then moved quickly down-field and the two former Dragons players combined as Leon Pryce chipped over the defensive line but Sa lost the ball over the line under pressure.

A silly penalty given away by Hull then led to more pressure on their line but another poor pass led to a knock on by Man of Steel contender Zeb Taia to give them another scrum to clear their lines.

Another fast move down-field by Hull then saw Pryce kick towards the Dragons line so Escare knocked the ball into touch to give Hull another scrum close to the home sides try line which then led to another knock on by Gigot to give Hull another scrum with little over 10 minutes remaining.

A fast cross-field move by Hull then led to a try by Fetuli Talanoa but the video referee denied him controversially for obstruction which appeared to be caused by the Catalan player Ben Pomeroy.

Shortly after that a break through the middle of the field by Minichiello then saw another mistake by the black and white’s deep in Catalan territory to let the home side off again.

A penalty for a ball steal on Ian Henderson then gave the home side a penalty which Dureau duly converted to give them a six point advantage.

A short kick off then led to another attack from Hull after the ball was batted back into their possession but a pass over the top for Talanoa ended up going into touch with five minutes left to play.

Finally Catalan saw the match out as Hull were left to rue too many mistakes at crucial times and some controversial calls by referee Ben Thaler and the video referee.

Hull will wonder what might have been if they hadn’t coughed up so much possession and given the home side so many penalties and territory but there are clearly issues that need to be addressed before a trip to Headingley next week for the fist of a league and cup double-header against Challenge Cup holders Leeds Rhinos.

Questions will also inevitably be asked about referee Ben Thaler’s performance although it would be unfair to blame the defeat entirely on him after he made some bad calls against both sides.

Penalties: Catalan Dragons 10 Hull FC 7

Goal Line Drop Outs: Catalan Dragons 1 Hull FC 2

Man of the Match: Mark Minichiello