The dressing room effect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hull FC In 2016- Preview

Hull FC will hit the new Super League season with very much increased fire power after gathering some very impressive signings and an ever growing list of youth players coming through the ranks who have either already graced, or are expected to grace, Super League this year.

The marquee signing for the men from the KC Stadium is undoubtedly Frank ‘The Tank’ Pritchard, hence the tag line ‘Every Army Needs A Tank’ the 32 year old rugby league icon is sure to be a big cult hit with the Old Faithful and is a genuine coup for the competition as well as Hull.

But another very shrewd bit of business by coach Lee Radford could prove to be the signing of Sika Manu who was pinched by the black and white’s from under the noses of champions Leeds Rhinos as the lure of the strong history between the Airlie Birds and New Zealand proved stronger than Manu, and the Rhinos, could resist.

With NRL Grand Final and World Club Championship winner and Tongan international Mahe Fonua and former Junior Kiwis player Carlos Tuimavave joining the Polynesian contingent which already included Fetuli Talanoa and Feka Palea’aesina a strong bond has no doubt been formed which could prove vital to Hull’s hopes.

With top try scorer for them last season Tom Lineham, England player Joe Westerman (both Warrington) cult hero Jordan Rankin (Wests Tigers) and barnstorming prop Mickey Paea (Newcastle Knights) having departed Hull do have some rebuilding to do.

But Fonua is very much the sort of player who can blossom in Super League and fill the sizeable boots of Lineham, when a player can be seen teasing Greg Inglis before finally dotting the ball down for a try in the corner in the NRL you tend to realise you have got a cult player on your hands, and his defending is infinitely stronger than that of the flying pig which could also prove vital.

The protracted arrival of Scott Taylor has also seen Hull replace Paea with some more severe grunt that will help Hull bully teams more.

Last year Hull were 2nd in the table for clean breaks but one problem for them was an exasperating inability to finish off those breaks especially when Lineham was struggling for form or out of the team, the answers to that problem would appear to be Tuimavave, lightning fast full-back Jamie Shaul and jet-heeled youngster Jack Logan.

Halves Leon Pryce and Marc Sneyd will also have no shortage of competition from Tuimavave (signed as a Centre but who has played most of his rugby in the halves or at full-back) and youth players Reece Dean and Harry Tyson-Wilson who will start their season in the newly formed under 23s side.

Given the number 13 shirt people will expect teenage sensation Jordan Abdull to start at loose-forward, and against Salford Red Devils in their opening game he probably will, but don’t be surprised to see the rampaging Manu taking over that role against the more physical teams while Abdull will be employed with his kicking and ball-handling skills against the more defensive units.

Club Captain Gareth Ellis is expected move up to prop more this year and the established front row will be ably supported by the likes of Chris Green and Josh Bowden, whilst Richard Whiting, Jordan Thompson and club stalwart Kirk Yeaman will provide substantial support for an already frighteningly powerful looking back row that will also have Mark Minichiello in the mix.

Danny Washbrook returns to his old side so Vice-Captain Danny Houghton can maybe concentrate more on his attacking game rather than just being the tackling machine of the side.

Houghton, and Hull, should definitely benefit from this as his distribution and spark has seemed somewhat wayward in recent times due to the massive amount of energy he loses from repeatedly tackling to get his team out of scrapes that have sometimes been caused by his understandable errors, and those of his team-mates.

What will be expected of the black and white side of this divided city is open to debate with some experts expecting mid-table and a seven week hurrah in the Super 8s and at least one noted expert, Martyn Sadler, touting them for a possible top 4 finish as long as they keep the squad healthy.

Hull are the perennial sleeping-giant and the Old Faithful have had to endure many false dawns (I should know as a member of the Old Faithful) but with arguably the strongest pack in Super League, I certainly hope, it could be a very good year for the Airlie Birds.

I would say top 6 is where Hull should aim for, possibly higher, and don’t rule out a big run at the Challenge Cup if a bit of fortune favours them.

Westy Gone West

So Joe Westerman is the latest player to leave the KC Stadium and head west for the big cash on offer from Simon Moran and Warrington Wolves at the Halliwell Jones Stadium (how are they even under the salary cap must be the first question?)

What to say about the 25 year old who has 1 England cap to his name! The boy from Pontefract was schooled by Hull FC in the academy set-up before he signed his first professional contract for his local side Castleford Tigers for the 2007 season, in 2010 the Airlie Birds came calling and signed him in a blaze of publicity.

When he first arrived at Hull he was billed as the future Steve ‘Knocker’ Norton who also left Castleford for East Yorkshire 30+ years earlier. It was maybe a tad unfair to put the 20 year old under that sort of pressure but life at Hull FC is never straightforward due to the aspirations of the Old Faithful.

Five years later, after one Challenge Cup Final and one England cap, he’s headed for pastures new joining what would appear to be a worrying trend of young British players who have left such as Tom Lineham, Ben Crooks and Tom Briscoe.

In five years at the club Westy has had three different coaches, Richard Agar, Peter Gentle and Lee Radford and it has to be said it was only in 2014, Radford’s first season in charge which ended in dreadful failure, that Hull FC really saw the best of him and that’s why he gained international recognition.

Since then he hasn’t been the same player and, with 12 months left on his contract and no negotiations over a new one, it’s very understandable that the Black and White’s have taken the decision to take the big money on offer and re-invest it where it’s probably needed more in the team.

No matter how many people may argue with me I do genuinely believe, and maybe some others might surprise me and agree, Hull FC do have the best set of back-rowers, maybe even the best pack, in Super League for 2016, something tells me that a pack with the likes of Gareth Ellis, Mark Minichiello, Frank Pritchard, Sika Manu, Jordan Thompson, Richard Whiting, Dean Hadley and young guns Jordan Abdull, Jansin Turgut, Brad Fash and Jack Downs to call on in their back row will be able to easily absorb the loss of one misfiring loose forward.

The Airlie Birds have let it be known that the money received for Westerman will be put to use for a high profile back who is currently on the radar, I won’t mention names because that’s not my thing, I’ll just wait and see which I wish so many other people would do as well sometimes.

We’ll wish Joe good luck as we send him on his way to Cheshire, to another mid-table team much like ourselves, and indeed some of the lady fans will miss him with his boyish good looks, but the overwhelming feeling here on the Black and White side of Hull, East Yorkshire, is that it’s pretty good business getting £150,000 for a player who would have left for nothing in 12 months time anyway.

As for Joe the player, it seems to have been a frustrating chapter for both club and player which is probably best put down to experience and time to move on.

Joe Westerman

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 FC 24 Catalans Dragons 28, Controversial Performance By Referee Leaves Airlie Birds With Bitter Losing Feeling At Season’s End

A truly shambolic display by referee Richard Silverwood cost Hull FC a victory in their final game of their 150th anniversary season despite a memorable last performance by Tom Lineham and Mickey Paea before they head off to pastures new.

This most special of days for this most special of clubs began with many heritage events including a memorial service, singers outside the KC Stadium, a tribute inside the stadium to supporters and players of this great club who have passed away since the end of the 2014 season and club captain Gareth Ellis, club legend Johnny Whiteley MBE and their oldest and youngest season pass members bringing the match ball on to the tune of We Could Be Heroes Just For One Day.

Lee Radford restored Jordan Thompson, Richard Whiting and departing winger Tom Lineham to his line-up with Jack Downs, Leon Pryce and Dean Hadley making way from the team that played against Huddersfield Giants.

Jack Logan was returned to his more customary Centre position having deputised on the wing in the absence of Lineham last week while Jordan Abdull switched back to Stand-Off having played at Loose Forward against the Giants, fellow academy graduates Jansin Turgut and Brad Fash retained their places on the bench.

The first chance soon came the way of the black and white’s as Mark Minichiello and then Liam Watts made barnstorming runs and offloaded Harlem Globetrotter style before Abdull made a break from his own 20 meter line into Catalans territory, but the attack was brought to an end as a delicate grubber was shepherded over the dead ball line.

The Dragons however drew first blood in the 5th minute as a concerted effort in attack on the Hull line saw Jordan Sigismeau scramble over somewhat fortuitously in the left corner, the lead went unimproved as Scott Dureau pushed his touchline conversion across the face of the uprights.

Straight from the kick off the Dragons coughed up possession with a knock on giving the Airlie Birds head and feed 15 meters from the Dragons line, back-to-back penalties increased the pressure on the Dragons defence but then a knock on by Marc Sneyd handed them possession back with a scrum.

The Dragons next push into the Hull half forced a goal line drop out as Curtis Naughton had to run a dangerous grubber kick dead, however that chance came to nothing for the visitors as they surrendered possession in broken field.

Hull then surrendered the ball as a move from right to left saw the ball thrown into touch with Naughton unable to get anywhere near the pass giving the Dragons easy possession in Hull’s half as the Dragons threatened the line though Sigismeau was pounced on by Lineham and the Warrington-bound winger was able to steal the ball one-on-one.

Hull were granted another opportunity with a penalty for offside which Abdull planted into touch 40 meters from the Dragons line, another penalty then gave Hull more territory and possession but a clever little grubber by Sneyd wasn’t read by any of his team-mates and Catalans full-back Morgan Escare was able to clear it up in front of their posts.

Catalans then tried one of their party tricks on the first tackle after receiving head and feed on Hull’s 20 meter line but somehow Krisnan Inu and Tony Gigot contrived to hand the ball to Naughton 5 meters from the Hull line.

The Dragons next attack saw another grubber being chased by Inu but Naughton again beat him to the ball to push it dead for another goal line drop out, back-to-back penalties for the Dragons then saw the home defensive line stretched to its limits and eventually Sydney Roosters bound Ian Henderson scrambled over in the 24th minute to stretch their lead, the conversion by Dureau took them into double figures.

A penalty for a high tackle then gave the Dragons more territory and Inu finally got his try as he managed to reach out through three defenders to ground the ball in the 27th minute, Dureau’s conversion attempt from the touchline again went across the face of goal but Catalans had a worrying looking 14 point lead.

Another penalty for the french side again saw them building pressure on the home sides line and after two errors by either side Canberra Raiders recruit Elliott Whitehead was able to cross in controversial circumstances in the 31st minute as the match was seemingly slipping away from Hull, the conversion from Dureau made it a 20 point lead for the visitors.

A knock on at the play the ball by Catalans then gave Hull head and feed on their 20 meter line and another chance to build some pressure and eventually the pressure told as a flowing move from left to right saw Lineham easily cross in the right corner with space to spare in the 34th minute, the touchline conversion from Sneyd however was just wide but at least the Airlie Birds had shown some intent at last.

A stupid attempt at a miracle offload by Hull gave the Dragons another scrum 30 meters from the home sides line but a comedy of errors between Whitehead and Escare handed possession back to Hull as Naughton grabbed the loose ball with Escare flat on his back.

As a result of that the black and white’s swept up-field and Abdull was able to bash his way through some frantic defending to register Hull’s second try, Sneyd however was again just off target with the touchline conversion attempt but with two tries in four minutes you could visibly see confidence and enthusiasm flowing back into the home side.

Another attack by the black and white’s almost brought more reward as Naughton made a dash down the left hand side but a suspicious tackle by Whitehead stopped him 15 meters out and, though Hull showed some desperation to keep the attack going they ran out of time as the half time break arrived with them within 10 meters of the Dragons posts.

During the break Hull FC legend John ‘Jack’ Harrison VC and MC was remembered with a resounding rendition of Old Faithful and a parade by current and ex military, former players and youth players on a day when, fittingly, the visitors were from France, honouring his still held club record of 52 tries in a season (1914-1915) and his outstanding bravery when fighting in France in World War 1 for which he received his Military Cross and posthumous Victoria Cross.

The first chance of the second half came to Hull when Richard Silverwood awarded them a penalty in Catalans territory, unfortunately the chance was wasted as Jack Logan was forced into touch five meters from the Dragons try line.

The Dragons were then piggy backed up the field as they were given a penalty for a ball-steal.

Hull’s next attack came when Logan made a break in midfield but just as it looked like the Dragons were running out of numbers in defence Danny Houghton tripped and sprawled on the floor as he took the pass from the young Centre.

Hull attacked again and a dangerous kick from Sneyd saw Hull regain the ball and given another six tackles and eventually the pressure on the visitors was too much to bare as Naughton got the try his performance had deserved in the left corner with less than 10 minutes of the half gone, Sneyd however was having a bad day with the boot and his latest touchline conversion again drifted wide leaving Hull eight points behind.

Three minutes later a move as fast as a powerboat across the Humber saw Lineham set free down the right and the powerful winger swatted off two defenders to race in at the corner, Jordan Rankin attempted the latest touchline conversion but again it drifted just wide.

Benjamin Garcia then appeared to have a touch of the Ben Pomeroy’s about him as he scragged Logan and thumped him to the ground causing the young Centre to need treatment on the ground as Hull’s enthusiasm threatened to strangle the visitors after their early dominance.

Hull then gifted Catalans six points when Jordan Abdull tried to kick deep but it was blocked by two defenders and Rankin claimed the loose ball but then dropped it in the tackle presenting the ball to Thomas Bosc with nobody near to stop him going under the posts, the conversion from Dureau made it a 10 point lead again for the Dragons with 22 minutes remaining.

Rankin then repeated the dose as he ran the ball back after the next kick by Catalans this time handing them a scrum 20 meters out, a penalty then increased the pressure and Whitehead was held up over the line and then a grubber kick was grounded over the line by Kirk Yeaman causing Hull to have to drop out from under their posts for a third time in the game.

After yet another penalty the Dragons continued to pursue another score but with their defence back to its miserly best the Airlie Birds held them out this time.

A flowing Catalans move saw them move far too easily from one end of the field to the other but with the line gaping and a match winning score beckoning they somehow contrived to blow the chance as Bosc knocked on in front of the line when it would have been easier to score.

Hull then went to the other end and pushed the issue but Lineham just put his foot in touch before he dived in at the corner.

Catalans then definitely got the rub of the green as Silverwood failed to see a forward pass that would have made Michael Dobson at magic in 2012 proud and then harshly were given a penalty on halfway.

The referee then went about his main business of the day awarding the Dragons yet another penalty 20 meters out and Dureau obliged to give them a 12 point lead with eight minutes remaining.

Two minutes later and Lineham had his hat-trick to say goodbye with as another fast move saw him finish spectacularly in the corner, another miss from Rankin on the touchline again left an eight point gap so Hull still needed two scores.

Lineham was then denied a fourth try as the ball was adjudged to have gone forward off Jack Logan from a high kick by Sneyd.

Hull were then controversially denied another score by Silverwood as he continued to gift wrap the win for the Dragons as Logan put Houghton through with a deft short pass and the hooker raced in only to have the try disallowed incredibly for a forward pass which was definitely not forward in any way, shape or form.

Lineham then got his fourth try after two more penalties and a fast move left to right again saw the winger dive in spectacularly in the corner, this time Sneyd took a token drop-kick at goal after the final hooter.

So yet another frustrating season draws to a close for the Airlie birds and their superb band of supporters and the club will now take stock and move on to 2016 when Frank Pritchard, Sika Manu, Scott Taylor, Danny Washbrook, Carlos Tuimavave and Mahe Fonua will join the ranks of the black and white’s.

Catalans coach Laurent Fraysinnous said it was a big deal for his team to have won at the KC Stadium for the first time since 2007 and it will help them to look forward to 2016 despite another frustrating season when many had expected them to challenge for the top 4 with signings such as Willie Tonga, Todd Carney and the returning Remi Casty.

Hull coach Lee Radford, summing up his sides season, said they had been gallant in defeat and there had been no issues with their effort and commitment to the cause, he also went on to say that the creation of the under 23’s side and the merged ‘Super Academy’ with Hull KR’s youth squads are a definite positive moving forward.

Attendance 10,832

Man of the Match: Tom Lineham

Penalties: Hull FC 11 Catalans Dragons 11

Goal Line Drop Outs: Hull FC 3 Catalans Dragons 0

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Hull FC 20 Huddersfield Giants 34, Airlie Birds Youth Fall Just Short In Battle With Top 4 Dwellers

A youthful Hull FC side again provided a scare for Grand Final contenders Huddersfield Giants with another enthusiastic performance that mirrored the previous weeks effort at Wigan in the Super League Super 8s at the KC Stadium.

Lee Radford sprang a surprise as teenage back rower Jack Downs started at Centre next to the returning Kirk Yeaman while Jack Logan moved onto the wing in place of Tom Lineham for the match against Paul Anderson’s side.

Leon Pryce and returned to the run-on 13 and prop Josh Bowden returned from injury on the bench but there was no place for other returnee Jordan Thompson with Jordan Abdull moving from the halves to loose-forward. Masimbaashe Matongo made way after his debut against Wigan Warriors while Jansin Turgut and Brad Fash retained their places on the bench.

The first chance of the game was handed to the black and white’s as the Giants spilled the ball on their 20 meter line, Jack Logan was forced into touch on the free play but from the resulting scrum they hit the front as NRL bound Jordan Rankin scrambled over on Hull’s left sidewith less than four minutes played, Marc Sneyd pulled his conversion attempt across the front of the posts to leave the advantage at four points.

Huddersfield’s first real attack came to a comical end a few minutes later as three kicks were attempted with the final one going out on the full, however the Airlie Birds soon squandered possession with a knock on giving the visitors possession in the Hull half.

Referee Ben Thaler soon had to go to his pocket after 10 minutes to put Craig Huby in the sin bin for a thunderous high tackle on Rankin as the full-back threatened to cut loose in broken field. From the penalty Hull moved the ball quickly left but Curtis Naughton just failed to take the final pass in and the ball went into touch just in front of the Giants try line.

Another penalty gave the Giants a chance and a swift move to their left saw winger Aaron Murphy dive over in the corner in the 15th minute, Danny Brough put the Giants undeservedly in front with a touchline conversion.

Hull gave away another soft penalty with a ball-steal which Brough promptly dispatched into touch less than 10 meters from the black and white’s try line, excellent scrambling defence held them at bay but then another penalty gave them more possession in Hull’s red zone and eventually Jake Connor acrobatically dived in at the left corner in the 24th minute to increase their advantage, Danny Brough hit the post with the conversion and the ball failed to go over to leave the Giants lead at six points.

Just as it seemed the form team in Super League were getting into their stride it was they who then gave away a soft penalty in their own half but Pryce squandered possession just five meters from the Huddersfield line.

Hull were soon granted another opportunity as the Giants then put the ball down on their own 20 meter line but again the attack came to nothing and eventually Huddersfield were given a relieving penalty.

Having marched into the Airlie Birds half Huddersfield were given yet another penalty which Brough again put into touch close to the Hull line however this time the Airlie Birds defence was more than equal to the task.

Another Huddersfield attack saw Jack Hughes break through the defensive line too easily and Scott Grix backed him up to cross the whitewash in the 32nd minute, the conversion from Brough made it a daunting 12 point lead for the Grand Final contenders.

Just when the match was threatening to get out of their reach Hull marched to the Huddersfield end of the field and Rankin cut through some uncharacteristically flat defending by the Giants to race in for his 2nd try with four minutes to the break, Sneyd added the extras to bring Hull back within six points.

With less than three minutes of the half remaining Michael Lawrence made a punishing break in the middle of the park but excellent defending held him back just short of the line.

Huddersfield were granted another chance with a scrum for a forward pass on half way, controversy then ensued as Hull were harshly penalised when Murphy seemingly dropped the ball going for the line and Logan caught the loose ball and was away with open ground in front of him, Brough converted the penalty as the hooter sounded to give a 10-18 half time score.

Hull made a fast start to the 2nd half as they found meters easy to come by on their first set and after reaching the Huddersfield red zone a grubber kick by Sneyd under the posts was missed by two Giants defenders and Josh Bowden pounced to drop on the ball, the conversion from Sneyd made it a two point ball game with less then three minutes of the half gone.

Huddersfield’s first attack of the half seemed somewhat telegraphed and the inevitable grubber by Brough close to the home line was easily snaffled by an organised defence and then a penalty granted Hull more possession and territory and a flowing move to the left saw Yeaman race in at the left corner to give the Airlie Birds the lead their start to the half deserved with eight minutes of it gone, Sneyd was unable to stretch the lead beyond two points as he pulled his touchline attempt across the face of the uprights.

Another penalty then granted the black and white’s more territory and possession but eventually Logan was forced into touch on the last tackle.

As the half wore on the enthusiasm that was so prevalent last week was again flowing through the youth of Hull as they hassled, harried and generally bullied the Giants all over the pitch and, as a result, the visitors became more and more frustrated.

Another penalty gave Hull another crack in the Huddersfield half but a knock on gave the visitors a scrum but then the Giants were put into defensive mode again with a knock on at the base of the scrum unfortunately Hull then handed possession back two plays later with yet another knock on.

Huddersfield forced the first goal line drop out as the hour approached and the Giants made it pay with another controversial decision as Jake Connor crossed in the left corner after a blatant forward pass from Aaron Murphy, Brough missed the touchline conversion to a round of boos and jeers from the home fans caused by the try.

Hull again surrendered possession in midfield but then in the ensuing set another mistake by Huddersfield led to a break and another attack but Sneyd was just stopped short as he tried to kick through the defensive line and the loose ball was snapped up by the Giants as the game continued at breakneck speed.

Huddersfield then thought they had earned some breathing space as Grix dived in at the left corner but referee Thaler ruled it out as he dropped the ball over the line with 12 minutes remaining.

As the temperature raised Hull’s youth were again going toe-to-toe with a Grand Final contender and again they weren’t looking out of place with the step up from the academy as the game ebbed and flowed from one end to the other despite persistent interruption from Mr Thaler’s whistle.

As the game entered it’s final stages Huddersfield had seemingly fallen into the same trap as Wigan the week before thinking the clash against Hull’s youngsters would be easier than it actually was and, like the Warriors the week before, they were playing for time until Super League’s top try scorer Jermaine Mcgillvary squeezed in at the right corner with two minutes left and the majestic touchline conversion from Brough wrapped up a thoroughly undeserved win.

Former FC half back Jamie Ellis then rubbed salt into very harsh wounds with the last act of the game after Brough’s grubber kick found its way through the Hull line, Brough’s conversion gave a totally undeserved gloss on a final score in a game that Hull’s youth had done themselves proud again.

After the game Giants coach Paul Anderson questioned his sides attitude and praised Hull’s young side saying, “Hull have got some bright times ahead with some of them young lads.

“I haven’t had to say anything in the changing room, Broughy’s the captain and he’s told them that effort wasn’t good enough.”

His counterpart Lee Radford was again delighted with the effort from his young players for a 2nd game on the trot and is expecting some star quality from them in the years to come.

Speaking of their step up in physicality he said: “I can’t knock their effort and they’ll continue to develop physically.”

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Wigan Warriors 30 Hull FC 24. Airlie Birds Youth Claim Moral Victory With Gutsy Performance

Injury ravaged Hull FC frightened the living daylights out of Grand Final contenders Wigan Warriors in a classic Super 8s match at the DW Stadium.

Hull coach Lee Radford trusted youth due to their unprecedented injury crisis with no fewer than six academy players as Zimbabwean born prop Masimbaashe Matongo made his debut from the bench and Jansin Turgut made his second appearance alongside Brad Fash, Jordan Abdull, Jack Logan and Jack Downs.

The game started with a very flat atmosphere as both sides started cautiously and defences were undoubtedly on top in the first few minutes.

Just as Wigan appeared to create their first opportunity with a fast move from right to left winger Joe Burgess put the ball down with open ground in front of him.

From the resulting scrum Hull then moved the ball to their left and Curtis Naughton made a dash only to be brought down into touch by a tackle that looked a touch high by Warriors full-back Ryan Hampshire.

The Warriors then went straight back to their left side with George Williams making a dart down the wing before handing inside for 19 year old centre Oliver Gildart to race in after 10 minutes, the conversion by Hampshire gave the home side a six point advantage.

Hull youngster Jack Logan then made a dangerous break from inside his own half and had the Warriors defence on the run until he tried a pass which was taken somewhat fortuitously by Burgess despite him seemingly knocking the ball on.

Wigan then forced a last tackle play with several passes but the covering Airlie Birds defence got back in numbers to halt the danger 10 meters from their own line as they refused to just lie down.

Wigan soon extended their advantaged as a fast move to the right side saw Anthony Gelling draw winger Naughton in before putting Josh Charnley over in the corner in the 22nd minute, the touchline conversion by Hampshire gave them a 12 point lead.

Unfortunately for the badly under strength black and whites the Warriors were finding yards rather easy to come by but Hull did keep making clean breaks which would have upset Warriors boss Shaun Wane.

Another break by Jordan Rankin after Matty Smith knocked on near the Hull line saw the Airlie Birds again press the Warriors defence until an unfortunate pass hit Rankin and ballooned over Tom Lineham into touch.

Wigan were then given a fortuitous scrum when a short kick was unluckily fumbled by Logan giving them a scrum 20 meters from the Hull line but a move to the right was snuffed out after a forward pass from Gelling to Charnley was pulled up by referee James Child.

Warriors forward Sam Powell was then very lucky to face no further action after clearly gouging Lineham’s eye which saw the winger taken off for further treatment.

Mark Minichiello was then harshly penalised for a ball steal in a 1-on-1 tackle giving the Warriors another penalty and eventually John Bateman crossed under the posts, the conversion from Hampshire made it 18-0 after 32 minutes.

Another Wigan attack threatened another try but then a dropped ball presented full-back Jamie Shaul with a chance to run and the Hull man raced 95 meters for his 8th try of the season, the touchline conversion from Marc Sneyd brought the black and white’s back into the game with four minutes to go to the break.

Two minutes later the Airlie Birds were in again as a fast move to the left side saw Logan dispense with one tackle from England scrum half Matty Smith and then  rounded two more defenders all too easily to score, the conversion from Sneyd reduced the deficit to six points with less than a minute to half time.

Hull started the second half in good mood and after their first set in the half Sneyd came within a whisker of a 40/20 but the ball just went into touch short of the 20 meter line much to the home sides relief.

The Warriors were afforded the first chance of the half as Minichiello made an uncharacteristic error as he dropped a pass inside his own 20 meter area but a well organised defence from Hull kept them at bay forcing Smith into a kick which was fielded by Naughton to force a goal line drop out.

A harsh penalty for interference against Matongo then gave the Warriors more possession and territory but a nothing attack was easily repelled by a vice-like Hull defnce as a Warriors player was forced into touch under a pack of defenders.

Another Warriors attack then saw another kick to the Hull left and this time Naughton managed to tap the ball back for Sneyd to take the ball and bring it away from the line again.

Another comical attack from the Warriors then saw a rare mistake from Shaul as he failed to take a grubber kick in, the loose ball was thrown inside to Powell but as he slid over the line he was foiled by Danny Houghton’s hand forcing the ball clear resulting in a 20 meter restart for Hull.

Hull then attacked again as they sensed another chance but Naughton was stopped less than 10 meters short and then a wide kick by Sneyd was knocked on.

Wigan then thought they had another try after Abdull spilled a kick and Bateman grabbed the loose ball to touchdown but the video referee disallowed the try after Flower was adjudged to have tackled the young stand-off without the ball.

Another Wigan attack then saw Josh Charnley held up over the line but then on the next play Flower forced his way over the whitewash, the conversion from Hampshire stretched the Warriors lead to an undeserved 12 points with 18 minutes left to play.

Hull then came again as Fash made a dash in broken play but was then penalised for pushing Hampshire off him trying to get a quick play the ball.

Wigan then attacked again and another kick was floated out to Charnley’s wing but again Naughton was equal to it to push the ball out to touch in goal.

Wigan were then awarded a penalty in front of the posts and, uncharacteristically they opted to take the two points and Hampshire duly obliged to make it 26-12 with 13 minutes left.

Hull then made a great break through Steve Prescott Man of Steel contender Liam Watts and with the Warriors defence at sixes and sevens a kick right by Sneyd was taken in by Rankin and the departing Australian dotted the ball down to score, the conversion by Sneyd brought them back within eight points.

Hull then cut the Wigan defence apart embarrassingly easily again and a deft kick by Houghton saw Logan race up outside Charnley, scoop the ball in, and leave the England winger floundering in his wake to race in unopposed, the conversion by Sneyd made it a two point ball game with eight minutes remaining.

Taulima Tautai was then sin-binned for a dangerous tackle on Mickey Paea with less than seven minutes left to play.

Wigan then grabbed a totally undeserved win as Super League’s leading try-scorer Burgess rounded off a move down the left hand side with a palpable sense of relief to leave a final score of 30-24.

Penalties Wigan 5 Hull FC 3

Goal Line Drop Outs Wigan 0 Hull FC 2

Attendance 12,028

Man of the Match (Shared) Curtis Naughton and Jack Logan

Jack Logan