Hull KR 20 Hull FC 22, Stunning comeback bags derby bragging rights for Airlie Birds

Hull FC proved they have sheer guts and determination to claim the first derby bragging rights of the Super League season in thrilling fashion at the KC Lightstream Stadium.

Being 20 points down after nearly an hour the men from the KC Stadium produced a comeback some would have thought impossible in the pressure cooker that is the Hull Derby.

Full-Back Jamie Shaul was the main catalyst with a 60 meter try and then a fabulous kick-return which set up the position for a try by Vice-Captain Danny Houghton five minutes later.

Coach Lee Radford brought Mahe Fonua back into the starting 13 as the former Melbourne Storm man returned from injury that had kept him out since his debut on the opening weekend of the season.

Frank Pritchard was restored to the starting line-up as well after starting from the bench against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats and former Rovers prop Liam Watts came back into the starting side as well as Josh Bowden dropped to the bench.

Feka Palea’aesina was brought into the 17 for his first appearance of the season for the black and whites as Sika Manu dropped out for the first time in his debut season.

The first drama came within the opening minute as Josh Mantellato returned a deep kick from Marc Sneyd and appeared to drop the ball in the tackle which Carlos Tuimavave pounced on to score only to be controversially denied by video referee James Child.

The Robins were seeing most of the ball and territory in the early stages but a resilient defence from the black and whites was continually keeping them out with some superb scrambling.

The home side took the lead after 13 minutes as Ryan Shaw crossed in the right corner after a peach of a pass from Ken Sio, Mantellato was off target with the touchline conversion attempt.

Hull were able to build sustained pressure for the first time on the home line with a penalty and then forced a goal line drop out but, after the tackle count had been wiped down a knock on by Watts relieved the pressure for the Robins.

Big hits were flying in with great regularity as Scott Taylor and Ben Cockayne were making themselves felt by their opposition on both sides with some particularly fearsome hits.

Hull were again denied by the video referee, correctly this time, as Danny Washbrook touched down after competing for a Sneyd kick with Cockayne and knocking on.

Hull then tried to be too elaborate with a back-flip pass which was intercepted by Sio who went 60 meters after 30 minutes, Mantellato was successful with the conversion this time to make it a ten point lead for the home side.

Hull were being their own worst enemies with some stupid mistakes from forcing passes that weren’t on or trying too hard when they got near the home side’s line.

Mantellato was presented with a penalty bang in front of the posts and duly obliged to stretch their lead to 12 points with two minutes to go to half-time.

A scrappy first half was then brought to a close as Rovers hooker John Boudebza took a pathetic swan dive from a nothing shoulder charge which ignited a bit of fisticuffs and gave the home side a penalty which led to nothing after the hooter had sounded.

The Robins got the rub of the green early in the second half being given a harsh penalty after losing the ball at the first tackle.

The Airlie Birds first push at the home line came from a penalty but a forward pass from Sneyd brought the chance to an end frustratingly.

Another attack by Hull asked more questions of the Robins defence but again the home side stood firm until Mantellato was able to pouch a last tackle kick from Danny Houghton.

Video referee Child was called upon again as Iain Thornley somehow held off two defenders to role over the line after 51 minutes to be awarded the try, Mantellato was on target with the conversion from wide out.

Another penalty came to the home side from a high tackle on talismanic scrum-half Albert Kelly, Mantellato made it a 20 point lead for them.

A short kick off from the Airlie Birds presented the home side with more possession and territory but this time a knock-on stopped their momentum.

Just as the Robins were contemplating a first nilling of their great rivals in the Super League era the black and whites finally got on the scoreboard with a beautiful offload inside by Kirk Yeaman putting full-back Jamie Shaul away down the left to go 60 meters on the hour, Marc Sneyd added the extras from wide out.

A superb flowing move involving eight passes then put Houghton over beside the posts to establish there was still a game to be played, Sneyd then added the conversion to bring Hull back within eight points of their neighbours.

Hull were suddenly in the driving seat as the seesaw nature of the game afforded them some territory and possession at last which was being exploited by some frantic attacking moves and passing.

Another penalty then saw Houghton put Fonua over with nine minutes remaining to put them back within one score, Sneyd was wide with the conversion but from a seemingly hopeless position the black and whites had all the momentum at 20-16.

In an unbelievable turnaround Steve Michaels then brought the Airlie Birds level as Fonua put him away down the outside and the Australian calmly rounded Cockayne to score with five minutes left to play, Sneyd gave the Airlie Birds a two point lead with the conversion.

The frantic pace of the game was suddenly stopped with less than two minutes left after an injury to Kirk Yeaman brought a stop to play.

Passionate defence from the black and whites then saw them close the match out to claim the unlikeliest of wins.

Penalties- Rovers 9 Hull 7

Goal Line Drop Outs- Rovers 2 Hull 0

Attendance: 11,050

Man of the Match: Jamie Shaul

Neil Hudgell Reflection And Vision

Neil Hudgell is looking forward to the 10th year for Hull KR in Super League, a season which sees him with the same relaxed demeanor but one which barely masks a burning ambition.

First he harks back to the beginning of his time as chairman when he saved them from financial and Rugby League oblivion: “We were at the bottom but just slightly coming out of the bottom, we were in administration and Don Robinson had bought the club on behalf of a company called Gain Group and acquired the stadium.”

Then his path to the top job became clear: “Peter May and Colin McNichol had been brought in as two local businessmen and two lifelong supporters of Rovers and then I came on board as a sponsor, got to know the lads and started to do some legal work for them and then I became a director.

“Basically they all jumped off leaving me more or less on my own so I brought back Phil Lowe, Paul Lakin came on board and that was like 12 years ago.

“We’d bottomed out, there was no money in the kitty and we were in the National League sort of mid-table, going nowhere and treading water.

Then another name was mentioned regarding the transformation the club was going through at that time. “Of course I got Rob Crossland in as well so that was sort of bottom but just turning upwards slightly.

“Then we had Malcolm Reilly as coach alongside Martin Hall and that never worked so Malcolm left and Martin resigned so short term we brought Harvey Howard in who didn’t work out.

“The sort of the beginning of the real upward turn was when we recruited Justin Morgan, heard about him via Tony Smith, he came from Toulouse who he got to the Challenge Cup semi-final that year in 2005.

“Interviewed Justin and he started just towards the end of that season, the year we won the National Rail Cup but flunked on promotion.

“So Justin said about the dead wood he wanted to push out so we pushed them out and gave him maximum salary cap in the National League as it was then and we more or less recruited a new team.

“James Webster was one the other Australian was Tangata-Toa but the main ones and probably the mainstay of the side that got us into Super League was probably Ben Fisher at hooker, Ben Cockayne at full-back those two.

“Gareth Morton had a big kicking boot on him and Webster was instrumental as well and Michael Smith in the back row, so we sort of constructed a team that we thought would be good enough to get us up but also to get Super League contracts because the whole thing at the time was you’d got to get a side that was good enough to keep you up as well as get you up because there’s this idea that if players are knowing that they’re not going to be good enough to perform in the elite then when it comes down to the cut and thrust of the end of the season they might not give their best because they might talk themselves out of a job.

“So we invested heavily and eventually it paid off and we got promoted and got to a Challenge Cup semi-final.”

The first season in Super League in 2007 is obviously a source of great pride for this very relaxed but competitive man and a glint appears in the eye as he talks of early successes as his side won four of their first five games in the top-flight:

He said:”Four of our first five games we beat Wakefield at home, last minute, Ben Cockayne scored.

“Then we won away at Huddersfield and then I think we lost at home to London but then we won at Wigan and beat Leeds, so we won four of our first five so that meant we were never bottom of the table all season.

“After those first five we lost six on the trot and then we had the Paul Cooke saga, Paul came over first game we just lost narrowly to Huddersfield but then we beat Hull FC at magic and then we beat Wigan again so Paul gave us a bit of catalyst when we’d hit a bit of a trough.

“Then we had another trough and we brought in Rhys Lovegrove and we rallied at the end, we beat Salford and Hull again to ensure our safety but we were never at the bottom of the league the entire season and I think that was a mind-set thing because it was always going to be either us or Salford.

“A big week was when we won in Catalans on Bastille Day and Salford lost so that gave us a 4 point push and that momentum to stay above them and stay up.”

We then moved onto the subject of fans expectations after that early success and the answer is very strongly delivered: “Well expectations are always high in Hull no matter what, you win three games and people think you’re gonna be world beaters, fans now I think would have expectations beyond where we would normally sit which is about the bottom half of the top 8.

“There’s a top 4 that’s usually there or thereabouts and Huddersfield are just sort of battling to get in there as well now and then there’s a clutch of clubs battling it out for the next four positions and we’re sort of bottom of that and that is our natural rank if you look at the side, the support base and the facilities.”

We then move onto the Tony Larvin episode and whether it was difficult for the club to move on from that, the reply is very swift and decisive: “It’s interesting you raise that, I didn’t think it had credible legs at any point and if you actually follow the media coverage the whole time there was nothing that anybody said in the club that would give any encouragement that it was gonna happen.

“The whole publicity came from Tony himself and the Hull Daily Mail got hold of that and decided in their infinite wisdom that they were gonna run the story or a series of stories around it so it was never, it never got off first base in my mind.”

There is clearly still a wish in this engaging man’s mind to see Rovers as a self-financing club as the subject is broached: “Yes I think anybody in any business wants to make a profit or, if not, to at least break-even.

“Rugby League in the main is an expensive luxury for those who own the clubs there’s only a few who are profitable, I mean Leeds sit miles ahead of anybody else and the likes of Saints and Wigan that are profitable but possibly have some historic debt, or certainly would have had historic debt.

“We’ve probably made an honest surplus on last year but that’s because of Wembley and the boxing but that’s an unusual year but on the whole rugby is still not a cash rich sport.”

Another subject to be chewed over is what the man himself thinks is his proudest achievement as chairman of Hull KR, this draws a slightly less sure than normal answer: “Err I dunno, getting into Super League, staying in Super League, getting to Wembley, I don’t think we’ve got the proudest moment yet because we’re still working on it but at this point in time I suspect probably getting out the gutter and actually becoming a serious contender at the top table, being in Super League and when you look at the day-to-day durge I suppose being in Super League for 10 years is a bit of an achievement.”

Ground improvements are the next subject but are plans imminent to put another stand at the opposite end of the ground to the newest stand at the KC Lightstream Stadium? “Yeah there are plans for another stand but the key at the moment is to fill what we’ve got, we’re not at capacity so there’s no pressing urgency but I’d like to finish the ground off in the next two or three years.”

The conversation then turns to the academy merger and the subsequent decision by Hull FC to run an under 23s team, are there any such plans for Rovers, the answer leaves no doubt whatsoever: “No it’s not on the horizon, I don’t think there’s any need if that’s what Adam wants to do then that’s up to him.”

Looking at the season just past there is obviously some regret and some things that could maybe have been done differently: “You can always learn and develop I think, certainly key parts of the season where we lost players, every club has injuries but we really suffered especially with our halves.

“Our front row was also very light at times during the season as well, I think we were really disappointing in some games and maybe our preparation could have been better.”

Inevitably the 10th year in Super League comes into the conversation and Mr Hudgell clearly has certain wishes for the milestone season: “A solid top 8 finish, another cup run, good football that people want to see and increased crowds.”

Finally we get to the subject of the structure of the game now with the new era of the Super 8s and whether he would like to see anything change in the current structure: “I don’t like the structure, I think the fact that we’ve now got it democratically voted in by the narrowest margin means we’ve now got to stick to it, rugby league tends to chop and change and I don’t think that’s good for the game.

“My view is we stick with what we’ve got, in terms of the product I don’t think there’s a lot wrong with it, I think I would change the video referee and how that operates, but on the whole n o I don’t think there’s a lot wrong with the product.”

The idea of giving out the league leaders shield and a World Club Series place after 23 rounds and then starting the Super 8s teams on 0 points again draws a reply relating to a conversation he had with Adam Pearson: “We said do you wanna finish 8th or do you wanna finish 9th, if you finish 8th it’s a seven week hurrah at the end of the season.

“If you finish 9th you’ve got the jeopardy of the middle 8, now we never moved out of third gear apart from half a game against Leigh and against Wakefield, apart from that it was just plain sailing so there was no jeopardy and it was very flat.

“I don’t think there’s any hardened fast or easy solution other than there’s always winners and losers in any play-off system.”

Hull KR supporters could therefore have plenty to look forward to over the coming years with more changes afoot and a chairman with a burning desire that comes across as clear as a bell.

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 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 Recruitment For 2016 Part 1, Scott Taylor

Hull FC ended a long and protracted chase for Hull-Born Scott Taylor when they announced he had signed a four year deal on 19th May.

The Prop Forward who grew up supporting the black and white’s actually started his career with bitter cross-city rivals Hull KR then switched Craven Park (now the KC Lightstream Stadium) for the DW Stadium as he signed for Wigan Warriors for a substantial fee at the start of the 2013 season.

Taylor was in the Warriors team that beat the Airlie Birds at Wembley in the Challenge Cup Final that year and also picked up a Super League Grand Final winner’s ring as Wigan completed the double in 2013.

Taylor missed the Warriors 2014 Grand Final defeat to St. Helens and was sent out on a long term loan to Salford Red Devils this year rather than seeing out the final year of his contract at Wigan.

Now the former Hull KR prop is on his way home to Hull to play for the club he has supported all his life.

When the deal was announced Taylor said: “I had a few options put in-front of me but there was only really one choice when I knew Hull wanted to sign me.”

The 24-year-old will be a natural replacement for Tongan prop Mickey Paea who is returning to the NRL having signed for Newcastle Knights at the end of this season.

Scott Taylor

Hull FC 21 Castleford Tigers 18, Airlie Birds Keep Destiny In Their Own Hands With Breathless Victory Over Tigers

A very young Hull FC took a big step towards qualifying for the much coveted Super League top 8 with a stirring comeback win against Castleford Tigers at the KC Stadium.

Teenager Brad Fash was drafted into Hull FC coach Lee Radford’s match day squad in place of captain Gareth Ellis for this Super League clash with the in-form Tigers who arrived on the back of a five match winning run.

Chris Green also returned in place of the suspended Mickey Paea and Richard Whiting came into the starting line-up having come off the bench in the victory over Wakefield Trinity Wildcats the previous week.

The first opportunity was presented to the visitors as a deep kick from Marc Sneyd went into touch on the full giving the Tigers a scrum 30 meters from the home sides line but an organised defence from the black and white’s easily repelled the resulting attack.

A soft penalty then presented the Tigers another opportunity and eventually a fast move from left to right saw Denny Solomona finish spectacularly in the corner in the 6th minute, Liam Finn was unable to add the touchline conversion to leave the score at 0-4.

Another Castleford attack started as Solomona made a break in midfield but he was dragged down just short of the line by a desperate Hull defence and the overlap on the left wing was wasted with a nothing kick that Justin Carney was unable to gather in front of the line.

The Airlie Birds then marched menacingly to the other end with a significant break from Steve Michaels and eventually Leon Pryce sent Richard Whiting over with a deft little pass in the 11th minute, Sneyd then gave Hull the advantage with a successful conversion to make it 6-4.

Suddenly Hull were taking the game to their opponents and throwing the ball around with confidence and thought they were in for another try but the final pass to Joe Westerman was deemed forward by referee Joe Cobb less than 20 meters from the Tigers line.

Castleford were gifted another opportunity when Jordan Rankin spilled a high bomb giving them a 10 meter scrum and they took full advantage as Luke Dorn pounced to score from close range to give the visitor’s the lead in the 18th minute, this Finn obliged with the extra points to give them a four point lead again.

Another opportunity was squandered by the Tigers after a penalty for a ball-steal gave them territory but as they attacked down the left a forward pass put paid to the chance.

Both teams seemed intent on knocking lumps out of each other and a series of bone crunching tackles were clearly having an effect but still no quarter was being asked or given at either end.

Castleford pressed the Hull line again and once again Solomona  got in at the corner as Hull’s defence just simply ran out of men after a fast move from the middle to the right, once again Finn was unable to add the extras but the Tigers were looking good value with an eight point lead.

Hull then attacked just before half time and Tom Lineham seemed to have a perfectly legitimate try but referee Cobb controversially disallowed it after consulting with his touch judge to leave the Airlie Birds with a two score deficit going into the half time break.

Hull started much the livelier in the 2nd half and were unlucky in the 42nd minute when a pass intended for Lineham just evaded the winger and went into touch.

However the home side soon put that disappointment behind them three min utes later as Jordan Abdull crashed over despite the attentions of three Tigers defenders to get Hull back in the game, the conversion from Sneyd brought Hull back within two points.

Hull were looking more aggressive and willing to chance their arm and another attack soon after saw Danny Houghton held up over the line by desperate Tigers defence.

Lineham got the try he deserved in the 59th minute as a cross-field move as fast as a Ferrari formula 1 car allowed the flying winger to provide a spectacular finish in the corner to give Hull a two point advantage, Sneyd was unable to add the extras from the touchline to leave the score at 16-14.

A mistake in defence by the Tigers when trying to stop a Pryce offload in front of the line gave the Airlie Birds a 10 meter scrum but a knock on wasted the chance after a push at the scrum.

The table then turned as Finn put a high bomb up and Michaels knocked the ball into touch 10 meters from his own line under intense pressure from Solomona.

However the Tigers were unable to take advantage as Hull’s superb scrambling defence held them at bay until a kick over the top was caught on the full by Lineham behind the Hull line.

Hull then split the Tigers defence again in broken field as Rankin scampered through after shrugging off two defenders and, as he slipped in front of the line, had the presence of mind to look outside and see Lineham waiting to scoop up his pass and crash over in the 69th minute, Sneyd was off-target again with the conversion to leave Hull with a six point lead.

Sneyd then came back to haunt his old team with a drop goal in the 71st minute to leave the Tigers needing two scores.

Castleford suddenly found their vigour again and started pushing the home defence with a desperate looking attack but their captain Michael Shenton wasted another chance with a knock on 10 meters from the line under intense pressure.

Hull’s halves Sneyd and Pryce and captain for the day Houghton were causing the Tigers all sorts of problems especially in broken field and the kicking game of Sneyd and Houghton was  constantly turning them round and sending them scuttling back.

However a controversial penalty for Castleford after Solomona had been bundled into touch by the Hull defence led to a chance attack and half back Ben Roberts reached out to score in the 76th minute, the kick was missed by Finn to leave Hull leading by three points.

Try as they might the Tigers couldn’t break down a resilient Hull defence again and after a frantic closing few minutes a soft penalty for Hull finished the game for a much deserved win for the black and white’s and send them into next weekends crunch derby match against Hull KR at the KC Lightstream Stadium with back-to-back wins.

Radford confirmed afterwards that Hull have an appeal hearing on Tuesday about Mickey Paea’s ban which effectively rules him out of the game against his former employers as things stand.

He also said that influential back row Mark Minichiello and captain Gareth Ellis look likely to play against their cross city rivals as they both look to overcome niggling injuries.

Penalties: Hull 5 Tigers 6

Man of the Match: Richard Whiting

Attendance: 10,949

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