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.

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Penalties: Wigan 4 Leeds 5

Goal Line Drop Outs: Wigan 0 Leeds 2

Harry Sunderland Trophy Man of the Match: Danny McGuire

Hull KR Homecoming Event

Their team may have been soundly beaten in record fashion by cup kings Leeds Rhinos at Wembley on Saturday, and the rain may have been tipping down but that didn’t stop hundreds of Hull KR fans from turning out to welcome their heroes home at Hull City Hall this afternoon.

Even rival fans from Hull FC and Leeds Rhinos braved the elements in Queen Victoria Square to join the party that signaled the Robins player’s return from the clubs first Challenge Cup Final in 29 years.

With banter aplenty supporters of the rival clubs stood side by side to generate an atmosphere that not even weather that would have sent the bravest of ducks running for cover could dampen.

This was all about fun, not dwelling on what might have been, it was the game of rugby league showing the world that even the greatest of rivalries can bring people together and friendship and comradeship can blossom even in the strangest circumstances.

The friendly game and the friendly city came together and showed everybody that this game is about more than just results and trophies.

As Chris Chester and his team were brought onto the balcony, despite their 50 point drubbing on Saturday, they were welcomed with raucous chants which showed genuine appreciation for their efforts to get to the Wembley showpiece in the first place.

Supporters who had been left shell-shocked, dejected and embarrassed on Saturday once again found their voice and, after a public apology, saluted chairman Neil Hudgell.

Rovers must now pick themselves up, dust themselves down, and get on with the business of trying to secure their Super League future starting with a home game against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats on Sunday, but at least they know they’ll go into battle with a loyal backing from the same fans who they so badly let down on the biggest stage.

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Hull KR 0 Leeds Rhinos 50, Dejected Rovers Simply Outclassed By Rampant Rhinos At Wembley

Hull KR’s dream return to the Wembley cup final after a 29-year absence turned into an embarrassing nightmare as they were simply ripped apart as cup holders Leeds Rhinos retained their trophy.

Records tumbled as winger Tom Briscoe became the first player to ever score five tries in a Challenge Cup final and the Rhinos made it a record biggest winning margin eclipsing their 36 point victory in 1999 against London Broncos.

The Wembley showpiece was started with a heart-rending performance of the traditional Challenge Cup anthem Abide With Me by Lizzie Jones the wife of Keighley Cougars and Wales player Danny Jones who tragically passed away a few months ago playing for the Cougars in London.

Chris Chester named Albert Kelly in his starting side after the half-back recovered sufficiently in time from a knee injury that had kept him out since the semi-final victory against Warrington Wolves ironically at Leeds Headingley ground four weeks previously.

Rhinos coach Brian McDermott brought back Joel Moon and Kallum Watkins in the centers and Danny McGuire returned after missing the Super 8s victory at Hull FC a week ago and Jamie Peacock was restored to the starting line-up having started from the bench in that 36-22 win at the KC Stadium.

Leeds set their stall out early moving menacingly up-field but an organised defence from the robins held them at bay although in both of the Rhinos first two sets the ball was turned over to the men from the KC Lighstream Stadium within 10 meters of their line.

The first points duly came the way of the cup holders after Kevin Larroyer was adjudged to have reefed the ball out of the grasp of Jamie Peacock in front of the Rovers posts and Brett Delaney snapped up the loose ball to to touchdown under the posts, the conversion from Kevin Sinfield inevitably followed to give them a six point advantage in the 6th minute.

The early exchanges were clearly going the way of the holders but a note of caution for them was that Hull KR were not panicking as maybe a lesser team would have and sticking resolutely to their game plan and getting settled in to the contest.

The first bit of luck to go the way of the men in red and blue came when McGuire put a high bomb up and full-back Kieran Dixon came to take the ball and knocked it onto an on-rushing Leeds player but was then able to re-gather the ball without referee Ben Thaler seeing the knock-on.

The first test of the Rhinos defence came when a pass from Peacock was fumbled and knocked-on in the Leeds half giving Rovers possession and territory but the chance was wasted as Tyrone McCarthy dropped the ball in-front of the Rhinos defensive line.

Leeds then moved to the other end of the field all too easily and finally McGuire got on the end of a fast move down their right hand side to score the second try in the right corner, the touchline conversion was successfully added by Sinfield to make it a 12 point advantage.

Disaster struck again as Rovers went for a short kick-off and Leeds winger Ryan Hall gobbled up the ball to make the break and then a fast move from left to right saw Watkins put former Hull FC winger Briscoe in for their third try inside the opening 20 minutes, Sinfield hit the post with the conversion to leave the score 16-0.

Despite the dominant opening from the Rhinos their opposition kept plugging away valiantly no matter how hopeless the situation seemed for them.

Another chance came their way when a ball was batted back by Maurice Blair and Kris Welham kicked the ball forward but it went dead-in-goal, shortly after that a Leeds mistake gave Rovers more possession and territory but a kick to the right side was easily gobbled up by Hall behind the Rhinos line.

Leeds next visit to the Rovers line caused more pressure but a try was not forthcoming this time when a grubber kick by McGuire was snaffled up by former Rhinos player Shaun Lunt.

After Ken Sio dropped a ball Hall was held up over the line and then Kylie Leuluai was also held up and then a fast move to the right saw a chance squandered as Watkins dropped the ball.

Just when the robins needed a shift in momentum Kelly produced what everybody thought was a 40/20 but then referee Thaler reversed the decision to give them head and feed when replays showed his foot was about half an inch over the Rovers 40 meter line to the relief of the cup holders.

Rovers threatened again as John Boudebza made a smart break in the middle of the field giving Kelly a chance to run at the retreating Rhinos defence but after that was stopped the ball went to their left and was lost within 10 meters of the line again.

As the clock ticked down towards the break the game appeared to have slowed down and this was clearly to the benefit of Rovers as particularly James Donaldson and Welham were making impressions on the Rhinos defence.

Another chance came as Welham got to a hail-mary kick before Briscoe and Dixon suddenly had space to work in front of the Rhinos posts but his attempted kick through was stopped by full-back Zak Hardaker to see the Rhinos keep their 16 point advantage as the final reached half-time.

The second half started as the rain started to tip-down as Rovers hoped to make a record-breaking comeback for a Challenge Cup Final against the holders and Super League leaders.

The half started badly for them however as a mistake from Dixon gave Leeds a scrum 20 meters out after a kick by McGuire but they held them out and then a Sinfield grubber gave a glimmer of a chance as the full-back tried to get away down the right but then dropped the ball in the tackle 30 meters out to give the Rhinos another scrum.

Another attack though by Leeds was repelled as a pass by off-load machine Adam Cuthbertson ended up in Rovers hand just in-front of their posts.

The trophy was seemingly wrapped-up for the Rhinos after a spirited attack by Rovers as a kick by Maurice Blair was left by Dixon and Briscoe pounced and never looked back on a 90 meter race to the line despite the brave effort from Sio to try and stop him, the touchline conversion from Sinfield made it 22-0 in the 48th minute.

The more Rovers were panicking the more desperate the situation was becoming as the dream of playing at Wembley was turning quickly into a nightmare particularly for Dixon who was making mistakes with alarming regularity as the affect of playing lower league opposition in recent weeks was seemingly making a big difference against the battle hardened Rhinos.

The next name on the try scoring list was Brad Singleton as the big prop barged his way over despite the attentions of Dixon and video referees James Child and Richard Silverwood were happy to award the try as he managed to get the ball down before it squirmed free, the conversion from Sinfield made it 28-0 to the Rhinos in the 58th minute.

A rare attack by Rovers with an impressive build-up from a break by Graeme Horne promised to bear some fruit but eventually Larroyer was held up over the line.

Another attack shortly after saw a high kick from Kelly invite Josh Mantellato to chase but the bomb was easily defused by Hall again, Leeds then moved far too easily to the other end of the field and Briscoe was on hand to gobble up another pass from Watkins to slide over in the corner for his hat-trick, the touchline conversion attempt by Sinfield was somewhat hooked to leave the score at 32-0 with 15 minutes left to play.

Kelly finally got his 40/20 to give the robins a scrum 10 meters from the Rhinos line but another chance was wasted with a forward pass to Tony Puletua handing the possession back to Leeds.

Another opportunity came to Leeds as Watkins made a majestic break and then handed the ball inside to Rob Burrow for the diminutive number 7 to race in under the posts, the inevitable conversion by Sinfield stretched it it to a 38-0 lead for the treble-chasers with seven minutes left to play.

Within two minutes of that Briscoe was in for his fourth try after another break and pass by Watkins put him away down the right again, a sixth goal from eight attempts by Sinfield made it 44-0.

Dixon’s nightmare then carried on as he scooped up a kick and ran the ball back only to drop it in the first contact, McGuire snapped the ball up and put the ball out to Briscoe for the England winger to set a new record with a first ever five-try-haul eclipsing the four tries scored by Leroy Rivett in the Rhinos 1999 triumph against London Broncos, the conversion from Sinfield brought up the 50 point mark.

Chris Chester speaking afterwards said his team had not performed as well as they have shown for the rest of the season, jubilant Rhinos coach Brian McDermott said there had been a desire to give legends Peacock, Sinfield and Leuluai the perfect Wembley send-off but that they will also still be determined to carry off the league leaders shield and the Grand Final trophy as well.

Penalties- Rovers 2 Leeds 3

40/20- Rovers 1 Leeds 0

Lance Todd Trophy Winner- Tom Briscoe

wpid-wp-1440865551738.jpeg wpid-wp-1440865436744.jpeg

Hull FC, Youth and Leeds Rhinos

The average age of the Hull FC squad against Leeds Rhinos was 23 years old, and it was pushed up to that by the presence of 33 year old Mark Minichiello and 32 year old Feka Palea’aesina.

During the match at the KC Stadium the Rhinos, in certain quarters, looked like a team who had a trip to Wembley for the Ladbroke’s Challenge Cup Final on their mind, Hull looked like a side who had youthful energy and desire on theirs.

As would be expected it was the treble chasing Rhinos who came out on top 22-36, but not until they had a thorough examination from a fledgling group of young players with a smattering of senior, experienced players.

In recent weeks and months the defensively robust Airlie Birds have suddenly removed the shackles and started flinging the ball around and, at times, it has worked to great affect, although probably not enough to worry the bigger sides like a Leeds Rhinos or a Wigan Warriors.

Since Lee Radford has been in charge of the team on the black and white side of Hull one thing he hasn’t been afraid to do is to bring his youth players into the first team set-up.

Callum Lancaster, Jordan Abdull, Jack Logan, Jansin Turgut, Brad Fash, Jack Downs, Curtis Naughton and brothers Harry and Bobby Tyson-Wilson have all been given their opportunity to show what they can do and have seemingly dealt with it with great maturity and zest.

Against the best team in the land the baton was handed to Naughton (who scored a hat-trick at the home of the Super League champions a week earlier) Fash, Downs and, dare we say it, first team regulars Logan and Abdull.

While the talk in Hull, on both sides, is of the creation of a ‘Super Academy’ by merging the academies of the bitter rivals Hull FC and Hull KR there is outrage and disgust and incredulity at a statement by Hull FC chairman Adam Pearson who stated that it is necessary because there isn’t enough of a talent pool available for the two clubs to have separate academies.

Never mind the fact that the black and white’s academy was recently rated by the RFL as ‘Outstanding’ if you wanted a sign of the talent being produced you need only look on the pitch at the KC Stadium.

Such was the impression made by this very young Hull side it prompted Rhinos head-coach Brian McDermott to announce that a 14 point victory margin for his side was harsh on the home side and he “Couldn’t have complained if we had lost.”

Any team needs its elder statesmen but it also needs its youth production line and, right now, it has to be said that the production line at Hull FC is looking very healthy, and as evidenced by their upcoming trip to Wembley to face the Rhinos, there isn’t much wrong with the one at Hull KR either although they maybe do have a bit of catching up to do, although a ‘Good’ rating from the RFL suggests they are heading in the right direction.

The man of the match for Hull FC last night was another product of the youth set-up at Hull FC, Jamie Shaul had been a bit of a forgotten man but he took his chance with a sublime try against St. Helens last week and took a beautiful offload from Jack Downs to race 90 meters to the line last night.

Add to that his creation of tries for Steve Michaels and Jordan Rankin, the man who has largely kept him out of the team this year, and it must almost be like bringing in a new signing for Hull.

It seems to me that the future in Hull is very bright in black and white, so why fix what ain’t broken?

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

Jack Logan Jamie Shaul Derby Match

Hull FC 22 Leeds Rhinos 36, Airlie Birds Top 4 Hopes Ended Despite Brave Effort

Hull FC were left ruing some basic mistakes as they pushed the table-topping Leeds Rhinos all the way but were ultimately undone by their more clinical opponents leaving them feeling what might have been as their slim top 4 hopes were dealt a decisive blow in the Super 8s.

Lee Radford brought back Jack Logan, Steve Michaels and Feka Palea’aesina after they missed the win against Super League champions St. Helens at Langtree Park last week.

Tom Lineham dropped out of the side that stunned the champions for the visit of the Rhinos to the KC Stadium while Jamie Shaul kept hold of his place along with hat-trick hero Curtis Naughton and teenagers Brad Fash and Jack Downs also deservedly kept their places.

The first chance came to the Airlie Birds in the first minute as Logan made an impressive break down the left before passing to Michaels who was just brought down short and forced into touch.

Despite the bright start by the home side it was the Rhinos who drew first blood after a devestating break by Zak Hardaker saw them go from one end to the other before the ball was finally handed to Ash Handley to dive over in the sixth minute, the conversion from captain Kevin Sinfield gave them a six point advantage completely against the run of play.

However it didn’t take the home side long to draw level as another foray into the Rhinos danger zone saw Mark Minichiello completely wrong-foot the defence to stroll through under the posts, the inevitable conversion from Marc Sneyd restored parity after 10 minutes.

Hull were clearly willing to chance their arm against the Wembley-bound Rhinos and Logan made another significant break in broken field but his final pass was ruled a touch forward by referee Joe Cobb to give the Rhinos a relieving scrum inside their own 20 meter area.

Leeds were afforded another chance against the run of play after being awarded a harsh penalty but an organised and resilient defence from the black and white’s kept them at bay.

The second quarter of the game descended into a multitude of mistakes as both sides continually coughed up possession and territory with embarrassing regularity.

Finally Hull seemed to get hold of the ball and use it with some purpose after a kick from Leeds went out on the full leading to them being handed possession just inside the Rhinos half but the chance came to nothing as Sneyd’s grubber went dead in goal.

Soon after that Naughton made a dash from inside his own 20 meter area before finally being caught 30 meters from the Leeds line, another Sneyd grubber went through and had to be kicked dead by Handley to force a goal line drop out.

Another dab through from the boot of Sneyd then unfortunately hit the outside of the post padding to deny the on-rushing Joe Westerman and give the Rhinos desperate defence a chance to run the ball back into the field of play with five minutes to go to the break.

The Rhinos gained another chance as they were given a scrum in Hull territory when referee Cobb deemed that a pass had gone forward before hitting the ground, the resulting attack then saw Jamie Peacock held up over the line by a committed and tenacious defence leaving the score at 6-6 at the break.

The Rhinos were the first side to force a chance in the early part of the 2nd half with a break in midfield but eventually Jimmy Keinhorst was held up just short of the Hull line as they started the half with more purpose.

Hull suddenly sparked into life as Jordan Rankin made a break in the middle of the park, Jamie Shaul took over and then gave a deft pass to Michaels for the Australian to cut inside and give the home side the lead in the 48th minute, Sneyd was unable to add the kick from wide out to leave the hosts leading 10-6.

The league leaders were soon on attack however after being awarded a very harsh penalty and eventually the pressure told as Carl Ablett crossed the whitewash on the left side to bring the sides level in the 52nd minute, the conversion from Sinfield edged the Rhinos back in front by two.

The Rhinos were seemingly taking the game by the scruff of the neck and were finding yards alarmingly easy to come by and another break from Hardaker saw Rob Burrow race in under the posts to stretch their advantage after 55 minutes, the conversion from Sinfield took them two scores in front and in the blink of an eye Hull looked to be facing mission impossible to save their ailing play-off hopes.

On Hull’s next attack another grubber from Sneyd found its way through and the Old Faithful thought Rankin had touched it down but referee Cobb rightly ruled he had knocked it on rather than grounding it.

That setback didn’t seem to worry Hull though as a minute later Jamie Shaul raced onto an offload 10 meters from the home sides line to race 90 meters to touchdown under the posts, the conversion from Sneyd brought Hull back within two points with 20 minutes left to play.

Hull though made a mess of the short kick-off from Leeds and Ryan Hall gleefully took full advantage to race 40 meters to take Leeds out of range again and the conversion by Sinfield again made it a two score lead for the Rhinos.

However Hull weren’t done yet and a chip over the top of the Leeds defensive line from Jordan Abdull was snapped up by Shaul moving at the speed of a race car and then a delightful pass put Rankin in at the right corner, the majestic touchline conversion from Sneyd again brought Hull back within two points with 15 minutes left to play.

Two minutes later Hull forced a big mistake as a high kick was spilled by Hardaker under pressure from three players 10 meters from his own line but the pressure was relieved with a knock-on by Hull two tackles later.

Another high kick from Hull was then dropped by Ash Golding 10 meters from the Rhinos line and Hull again pressed from the scrum but a wayward pass was snapped up by former Hull favourite Tom Briscoe who then raced 90 meters to go under the posts after 72 minutes, the conversion from Sinfield again took Leeds eight points clear and time seemed to be running out for the black and white’s.

A short kick-off from Hull gave them possession but another mistake led to another penalty for the Rhinos to march to the other end again but this time Hull were able to keep them out.

The Rhinos then wrapped up the points with three minutes left as Sinfield made a dart down the left and his pass inside put Burrow over for his 2nd of the game, the conversion from the Leeds skipper stretched the lead to a harsh 14 points which rubbed salt into already gaping wounds for Hull.

Radford bemoaned a lack of a cutting edge when they needed it, he said: “If you likened that to a boxing event we jabbed their head off but when they got their opportunities they landed a great big haymaker straight on our chin.

“That performance showed why Leeds are where they are.

“They’ve got blokes that take their opportunities. We made plenty of line-breaks but we got mopped-up.”

Echoing his counterparts words Leeds coach Brian McDermott thought a 14 point winning margin for his side was a harsh reflection on Hull, he said: “We got three breakaway tries, we call them opportunist, but I don’t feel we broke Hull down, I don’t feel we were better than them.”

Penalties: Hull FC 3 Leeds Rhinos 3

Goal Line Drop Outs: Hull FC 1 Leeds Rhinos 1

Man of the Match: Jamie Shaul

Press Box Hull v Leeds

Attendance 10,469