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

Sheffield Eagles 12 Hull FC 34, Airlie Birds Safely Through to Home Tie in 6th Round

In a weekend that was littered with potential banana skins, including one which saw a top 4 Super League side dumped out by Championship opposition, Hull FC safely negotiated a tricky away game against Championship high-flyers Sheffield Eagles in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup 5th round.

With Joe Westerman withdrawing on Saturday coach Lee Radford gave a competitive first team debut to Under 19s prop Bobby Tyson-Wilson from the bench and switched Jordan Thompson to Westerman’s position at loose forward and brought back injured pair Liam Watts at prop and centre Kirk Yeaman on the bench.

The game started with Hull’s forwards making big yards down the middle and the spirited Eagles fighting for every inch they earned and defending very strongly.

About halfway through the first half Mark Minichiello scored his first competitive try for the club since arriving on these shores, Jordan Rankin missed the conversion to leave Hull leading 4-0.

A few minutes later Mickey Paea crashed his way through the championship sides defence to score down the left hand side, Rankin was successful this time with his kick to move the black and white’s into double figures.

Shortly after that Steve Michaels was pulled down just short of the try line after making a break in the Eagles red zone, from the resultant play-the-ball Tom Lineham squeezed over in the corner and Rankin stretched the lead to 16 points with a majestic touchline conversion.

About 5 minutes before half time Leon Pryce made a fast break down the Hull right and slipped a pass to Jamie Shaul, who was one of four in support, and the full-back raced in unopposed under the posts, the goal from Rankin gave Hull a 22-0 lead at half time and effectively finished the game as a contest.

Half Time: Sheffield Eagles 0 Hull FC 22.

The 2nd half started with the Airlie Birds in casual mood with the game already sewn up and the Eagles in determined mood to avoid a hammering that their performance didn’t deserve and, as a result, the home side started a mini comeback.

The first points of the half came as Sheffield half back Cory Aston was controversially awarded a try despite dropping the ball over the line, the conversion from Dominic Brambani made it 6-22.

Soon afterwards giant centre Menzie Yere scored the Eagles 2nd try and brought them right back into the game, another goal from Brambani brought the Eagles back within 10 points of their Super League opposition and a comeback seemed possible.

With play fluctuating between one end and the other mistakes on both sides kept chances at a premium until Jordan Rankin produced a deft little kick which was jumped on by Yeaman for him to score on his first game back from injury, another goal by Rankin made it 12-28 to the visitors.

There was time enough left for Rankin to score as well as he made a break in broken field and finished off the scoring with his try and goal making it 12-34.

In the draw for the 6th round this evening Hull have been drawn at home against last year’s runners up Castleford Tigers which is due to be played on the weekend of 15th to 17th May.

Man of the Match: Jordan Thompson

Attendance: 1,620?

Lineham Hat Trick Topples Vikings! Hull FC 22 Widnes Vikings 8

Tom Lineham fired Hull FC to back to back victories with a spectacular hat trick of tries against Widnes Vikings at the KC Stadium last night.

At the end of a hectic period which has seen both these teams play 3 games in just 8 days this was not vintage stuff but it was a desperate performance in which the result was all that mattered as the race for the Super League top 8 hots up.

With 2 tired teams and a very poor performance from referee Richard Silverwood this game would have been instantly forgettable if it wasn’t for Lineham.

It took less than 10 minutes for Lineham to get his first try as Jamie Shaul spun out of a tackle with outstanding footwork and then produced a superb cut out pass to put the winger in at the right corner, Jordan Rankin missed the conversion but Hull led 4-0.

Soon after Hull had another chance with a 2 on 1 overlap but the pass by Shaul was knocked down by Patrick Ah Van to bring the chance to an end.

Shaul was proving a constant thorn in the side for Widnes as he kept turning up on Leon Pryce’s right shoulder and the understanding between these two and Joe Westerman was causing their left edge defence major trouble.

Another break down the right by Hull finished with Lineham trying to find Danny Houghton with an inside pass which was intercepted by former Hull man Aaron Heremaia.

Widnes first try came in controversial circumstances as a Kevin Brown kick was clearly knocked on by Ah Van but referee Silverwood allowed play to carry on and then after the next tackle Brown sneaked his way over to score, Jack Owens missed the conversion to leave the score at 4-4 after 20 minutes.

Seven minutes later Widnes scrum half Joe Mellor produced a grubber kick close to the Hull line but knocked on over the line as he followed it up.

Just two minutes after that near miss Widnes were pressuring the Hull defence again but this time Kevin Brown tried to throw a long pass to Ah Van and Lineham intercepted and raced 95 metres to the Widnes line for his 2nd try of the match, Rankin converted this time and the home side had a 10-4 lead.

Half Time Hull FC 10 Widnes Vikings 4.

It took just 7 minutes in the 2nd half for Hull to wrap up the points, Rhys Hanbury clearly hadn’t learnt from what happened in the first half and tried to throw a long pass to Ah Van, once again Lineham plucked the pass out of the air and raced 95 metres for his hat trick, again Rankin added the extras and Hull had a 16-4 lead which they never looked like surrendering.

With 13 minutes left to play Jordan Rankin produced a grubber kick close to the Widnes line, the ball was clearly aimed at the post padding and it had the desired effect as Kevin Brown was totally wrong footed and Jamie Shaul was quickest to react to follow up and score, Rankin’s kick made it 22-4.

A few minutes later Ah Van finished impressively in the corner and the video referee awarded him the try that his performance deserved but it was mere consolation, Owens missed the touchline conversion.

In the press conference afterwards Hull coach Lee Radford questioned some of referee Silverwood’s decisions saying they left him scratching his head at times particularly when a try to Jordan Rankin was ruled out and Widnes were given a penalty for a ball strip when it was clear for all to see that it was just a loose carry and drop by Widnes hooker Lloyd White.

Asked if he was tempted to rest any senior players for the Challenge Cup match away to Sheffield Eagles next week he replied “For who? The players who played tonight are the only fit ones we have left!”

Having said that he did suggest that some of the injured players look on course to return possibly for the Super League game against Huddersfield the following week including hopefully captain Gareth Ellis and scrum half Marc Sneyd.

Final Score Hull FC 22 Widnes Vikings 8

Man of the Match: Tom Lineham

Attendance 9,295