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?

Easter Parade- Preview

It’s coming up to that time of year when Super League squads get tested, coaches sprout a few more grey hairs, supporters cheer themselves that bit more hoarse, the whole two games in three days debate rears its head again and a feast of rugby league keeps us all riveted while the men and the boys get separated.

It all starts on Maundy Thursday as the Tigers and the Rhinos lock horns in The Jungle, then after that starter we have a main course, a desert, coffee and liqueurs, after dinner treats and the Easter eggs (for want of a better way of putting it) if you please.

The Saints take on the Warriors in their little spat and while the Wildcats will try to cut the Giants down to size, the Wolves will be hungry to deal with the Viking invasion in Cheshire and the Red Devils and the Dragons will try to put out each others fire.

But on the banks of the Humber something quite different will take place as red and white and black and white will charge at full pelt into each other quite unlike any two other teams in this great feast of uncompromising sport.

In the heat of the battle between two quaintly nicknamed teams, known as the Robins and the Airlie Birds, performance will mean nothing, the result will mean everything as families, friends, work colleagues and acquaintances will be split down the middle of a divided city.

Win and you walk into work the next day, or week, with a glow and aura surrounding you like no other, lose and you want the ground to open up and swallow you and it had better be bloody quick about it.

Blood and thunder has nothing on the Hull Derby, there could be an apocalypse and it wouldn’t matter as long as you hold the bragging rights and the great, and scary, thing about it is that it comes around again and again and again.

Easter Monday is like the warm after-glow, or a chance for part redemption, with six more games as the Dragons tackle the Tigers, the Giants greet the Red Devils, the Champions at home to the Wildcats and the Vikings against the Saints.

But elsewhere the red and white half of Hull will travel to face the Warriors and the black and white half will return home to tackle two of their former employees with the men that replaced them as the Wolves come to the next City of Culture, one will be looking for redemption while the other will basque in the glow of a derby victory.

Easter is looming large on the horizon, are you excited yet about what could hatch?

Attacking Hull FC

Hull FC can attack! Yes the team known for their defending and low risk strategy are flinging the ball around with absolute abandon, and it’s working spectacularly well at the moment, as evidenced by their two games so far this year.

As we all know, their near neighbours were gobbled up and spat back out with absolutely genuine contempt, and now in their opening game of Super League Salford Red Devils have been treated with similar disdain.

It’s no joke, when the Airlie Birds make a break with one of their punishingly big forwards, there are 4,5,6 or even more players to be seen charging forward in support, both backs and forwards turning opposition players, particularly full-backs, into mere traffic wardens pointing players in different directions to the try line.

Power and drive are a big part of Hull’s game now and the pack will get lots of headlines and rightly so, but like the old saying tells us, forwards win you matches, but your backs decide by how many points and, with blistering pace and guile and enthusiasm, Hull’s backs are definitely taking full advantage of the gaps being presented to them.

As evidence of this, Hull scored 8 tries against the Red Devils, all from different try scorers, and 6 of those came from backs, with Marc Sneyd, the only back not to score, pulling his former clubs defence apart due to the time and space he was afforded behind a pack that was utterly dominant.

Carlos Tuimavave is proving to be a big success thus far, the half back is relishing playing at centre and producing breaks, passes and tries with monotonously stunning regularity.

In the process he’s leaving defenders floundering in his wake and producing gaping holes in opposition defensive lines as wide as the Humber to put his winger, full-back or himself through.

On the other side young Jack Logan is sniping and getting on the shoulder of his big forwards to get on the end of a move and, when he can’t finish it himself, he’s producing a peach of a pass to his winger or whoever’s closest to him in a black and white shirt.

With Jamie Shaul expertly positioning himself to make a break or profit from one with his searing pace and excellent vision let’s not forget that this back division has got enough to challenge, and hurt, certainly most sides in the competition.

We also need to remember the supporting cast for this back division includes the likes of Callum Lancaster and Curtis Naughton both of which Super League are certainly aware of with both having scored tries, indeed hat-trick’s to boot, against notable opposition such as St. Helens, Castleford, Widnes and Warrington between them.

So yes everybody keep lauding the pack put together by former forward Lee Radford, just don’t forget that’s not all that Hull have in their locker, either on the pitch or waiting in the wings.

Hull FC Season review 2015

It was billed as the 150th anniversary year of Hull FC, despite the feeble attempt at billing it as the 15th anniversary by a small amount of fans from the other side of Hull, but while the Airlie Birds can point to clear progress on their dismal 2014 Super League campaign and the fact that they currently hold the bragging rights over their close neighbour’s Hull KR having won the derby series 2-1 and finished above them in the table the end of term report once again looks back at a very frustrating campaign when the sleeping giant failed to awaken from its slumbers.

It all started rather well as a black and white army converged on the birthplace of the game Huddersfield as a new look FC side started their campaign in emphatic fashion by inflicting an embarrassing defeat on the Giants who most experts expected to be genuine Grand Final contenders, nil-ling them in the process.

The next game saw a single point defeat to Warrington Wolves in Hull’s first home game of the season, despite that setback everything still looked very positive as Lee Radford’s men looked very competitive and able to handle the inevitable extra pressure that came with such a landmark season doubled with the start of a new experiment for the First Utility Super League with the tag line of “Every minute matters”.

The first alarm bells started to ring with a shock defeat at big spending Salford when the Red Devils found it far too easy to score points against a side who had only conceded one try in their opening two games, which was scored by the reigning Steve Prescott Man of Steel Daryl Clark.

Hull’s next game, at home against eventual treble winners Leeds Rhinos, almost encapsulated the Black and White’s season in 80 minutes, holding a deserved 12-0 lead at half time Hull were applauded off the pitch and seemingly back in the groove as they produced some of the best rugby they had played up to that point in the still fledgling season, what followed was frankly quite embarrassing as the Rhinos cut loose and scored 43 unanswered points too easily in the second 40 minutes.

Playing away to eventual Grand Finalists Wigan Warriors in their next game the Airlie Birds showed some genuine dogged determination, guts and pride but fell just short by a single point for the second time in the campaign, although a better more controlled pass in the last minute would surely have seen them gain the reward their efforts deserved as 2014 player of the year Fetuli Talanoa would surely have scored a match-winning try if the ball hadn’t flown into touch.

After that near miss at the DW Stadium Hull finally gave their fans something to shout about as Catalans Dragons were brushed aside far easier than the 11 point winning margin would seemingly suggest. Hull were then unlucky in defeat away to Castleford Tigers and then came the lowest point of the season without doubt as Hull KR breezed into the KC Stadium and left with the two points and bragging rights on offer far too easily as the Airlie Birds produced probably their worst performance of the season and almost gift-wrapped the game for Chris Chester’s side.

After that contemptuous low the Old Faithful still traveled in large numbers to the home of reigning champions St. Helens in the first game of the now annual Steve Prescott Memorial Trophy and a stunning comeback that few would have thought possible at the start of the Easter Weekend was capped by one of the tries of the season from full-back Jamie Shaul as Hull banished the memories of the previous Thursday night with a stirring 20-28 victory at Langtree Park.

Next up for the Airlie Birds was a home game against Widnes Vikings, on that evening Tom Lineham proved once again what a potent finisher he is with a hat-trick including two 95 meter interception tries, after that the Airlie Birds hit the road to Wembley dispensing of Sheffield Eagles at Bramall Lane in comfortable, if not entirely convincing, fashion before returning to Super League matters with a truly dismal performance against Huddersfield Giants in which Hull only just avoided the ignominy that they inflicted on the Giants on the opening weekend with a very late try by Steve Michaels.

The following week was quite a comedy with next opponents Salford Red Devils asking the Airlie Birds to postpone the game due to the injury and suspension crisis they were going through which Hull, understandably, flatly refused so the game went ahead as scheduled, despite their pleas and protestations the team built expensively by Dr Marwan Koukash arrived much healthier than first envisaged, sporting seven internationals, a spirited performance almost saw them through, but once again a gutsy comeback which was crowned by an individual barnstorming try by Setaimata Sa saw Hull eek out a victory that would have been predicted.

Lee Radford then told his side to take off the shackles and start to attack with more purpose, this appeared to be going slightly wrong for Hull in the next game away to Warrington Wolves but, yet again, Hull showed a spirit that proved they never knew when they were beaten as they came from 10 points behind in the last 10 minutes to grab a priceless victory with a drop goal from Marc Sneyd with just three seconds remaining on the clock to send the Old Faithful into very noisy raptures and gain sweet revenge for their single point defeat earlier in the year.

Castleford Tigers were the visitors to the KC Stadium in the 6th round of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup and a hat-trick from new young signing Curtis Naughton saw the previous years beaten finalists put to the sword in sizzling fashion as more evidence of Hull taking off the shackles was put on full display.

However the positive mood that was sweeping the team and supporters was soon dampened down as Saints came to town and won an arm wrestle game although not by enough to rob Hull of the Steve Prescott Memorial Trophy.

Magic Weekend, however, delivered another high note as close neighbours Hull KR, holding smug bragging rights since the Easter derby, were taught a very harsh lesson as they were thoroughly whipped by an arrogant Hull in record fashion as they ran up a record 46 points in a competitive derby topping the 44 points they had hit Rovers with in 2008, at this point I suppose for the benefit of certain friends that Rovers do still hold the record for the biggest winning margin by 36 points in 2007.

The following week saw Hull travel to Widnes for what was seen as a defining match as both sides were competing for the coveted Super 8s spot with just 1 league point separating them, with the Vikings storming into a 12 point lead it was fast starting to look like a forlorn journey for Hull, however another Tom Lineham hat-trick allied with a try from Leon Pryce and a delicious kick and gather try by Marc Sneyd swept Hull home to a convincing victory.

Unfortunately after that success Hull’s season began to almost implode with defeats away to Catalans Dragons and Leeds before being unceremoniously dumped out of the cup by the Rhinos at the KC Stadium and then an embarrassing defeat at basement side Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, in this topsy turvy season however the Black and White’s rallied once again and, in their second double header, they gained revenge over the Wildcats, by now being coached by former Hull coach Brian Smith, with a victory which maybe wasn’t really deserved but, after a three game losing streak, it was a priceless victory which breathed much needed new life into a faltering season.

The top 8 cause was then further aided with another gutsy comeback victory at the KC Stadium against Castleford Tigers as the Tigers were given little choice by the intensity of Hull’s performance but to surrender an eight point half time advantage.

The game that mattered most though was taking place in front of the Sky cameras the following Friday at the KC Lightstream Stadium as the biggest rivalry in Super League was pushed to the forefront with the promise of victory holding the key to the door of the much vaunted Super 8s and defeat promised the ignominy of a place in the dreaded Middle 8s and the knowledge that it was your closest rivals who would have put you there.

Everything seemed to be going wrong in the derby match, losing their two most influential players Leon Pryce and captain Gareth Ellis to injury in the heat of the battle in the first half, trailing 12-4 when they lost Ellis to a snapped Achilles Hull looked in desperate trouble on a ground where only Leeds and Castleford had previously triumphed this season, but that fast growing resolve was soon on show again as Hull out-fought and out-thought their nearest and dearest enemies to take charge with another stirring comeback which saw them take the lead by half time and then produce a masterclass in how to control an opponent and a game at arms length to wrap up the points, the bragging rights and the place in the Super 8s in one evenings work which led to jubilant celebrations among the Old Faithful.

With so much attention and emphasis having been placed on the derby match it was probably not a surprise that the first phase of the season for Hull ended with a whimper as Wigan Warriors arrived at the KC Stadium and inflicted a heavy defeat on the home side.

The Super 8s was something of an anti-climax for the Airlie Birds due to the fact that they were playing teams who were in some cases superior sides who were always expected to be pushing for the semi-finals and a trip to Old Trafford and the Grand Final, having started brightly away to Castleford with two early tries the old frailties once again took over and Hull slipped to an unfortunate defeat but nobody could really say the Tigers didn’t deserve their victory.

The following week Hull again traveled to the home of the defending champions and, as on Easter Monday, Saints were ambushed by yet another comeback, including another hat-trick by Curtis Naughton, and soundly beaten 22-32.

The epitaph on this season will show that Hull lost all of their last 5 games, however it must be said that is far from the end story under the circumstances. With a growing injury list which included Gareth Ellis, Leon Pryce, Josh Bowden, Chris Green, Steve Michaels, Jordan Thompson, Setaimata Sa, Joe Westerman, Kirk Yeaman, Fetuli Talanoa and Dean Hadley for at least some, if not all, their Super 8s games Hull could possibly have been excused for asking to delay some games due to their unprecedented injury crisis, however no such Salford-like request was forthcoming, or even entertained, by the Black and White’s as they put their trust in youth.

A week before their Wembley date against Hull KR, Leeds rolled into town and rested some stars although not many as they still had Challenge Cup Final places up for grabs, Hull had some senior stars playing, such as new joint-players of the year Mark Minichiello and Liam Watts, but there was also more than just a smattering of under 19s players present in the match-day squad and, indeed, the 17 man match team, the Rhinos inevitably won but, according to Rhinos coach Brian McDermott afterwards, only because they got a few opportunities that only men like Ryan Hall and Rob Burrow could finish despite their inability in certain quarters to breakdown an enthusiastic Hull side.

Unfortunately the down side to using lots of youth is sometimes it breeds inconsistency and so it proved as Warrington Wolves were handed the points on a plate at the Halliwell Jones Stadium two weeks later, more injuries ensued in that game and Hull were only able to name 18 men instead of the regulation 19 in advance of the trip to Wigan for their one and only appearance in front of the Sky cameras in the Super 8s the following Friday.

In a match that was seen as a chance for the battle-hardened Warriors, who were just coming into top form, to put a severe dent in Leeds Rhinos points difference advantage at the summit of the table, Hull had to name seven youth players and were given no chance and were indeed tipped to succumb to a worse beating than 60-0 thrashing the Warriors had inflicted on a similarly severely under-strength Hull KR earlier in the season but somebody forgot to give the script to the kindergarten Hull side.

Although the Warriors squeezed out a thoroughly and totally undeserved 30-24 win a Hull team containing Curtis Naughton, Jordan Abdull, Jack Logan, Masimbaashe Matongo, Jansin Turgut, Brad Fash and Jack Downs left a more than lasting impression on the crowd in the DW Stadium and, no doubt, had fans of other teams sat at home glued to their television sets and cheering them on as they gave Shaun Wane’s side the fright of their lives.

Hull then returned home for their heritage week games against Huddersfield Giants and Catalans Dragons, with youthful enthusiasm on their side, but also a great deal of in-experience, the Airlie Birds fall to two more narrow defeats that could surely have been avoided with a bit more know-how.

The 14 point margin of victory for the Giants looks much more comfortable than it was, a point made very succinctly by coach Paul Anderson, the four point victory for the Dragons didn’t flatter them but could again have been avoided by Hull if only tries had been scored further infield rather than right in the corner every time.

Reaching the Super 8s was set as a minimum requirement by owner Adam Pearson at the start of the season and that was duly achieved. There was also some major highlights in the season for instance the two victories over Hull KR, the manner of them and what both meant to the supporters cannot be overestimated and the emergence of some genuinely exciting youth is a major plus.

The down-side, it was yet another false dawn in a lot of ways, certain players have clearly just been taking money from the club and not giving much in return and, in my humble opinion, Tom Lineham should never have been sold but that’s now water under the bridge and we’ll have to get used to the sight of him in primrose and blue.

The up-side, Hull FC do have a lot of very exciting youth that they need to keep hold of in future, the likes of Jack Logan, Callum Lancaster, Jordan Abdull, Jansin Turgut, Brad Fash, Jack Downs, Masimbaashe Matongo and Curtis Naughton are all seemingly very exciting players and that’s before we think about the likes of Reece Dean and Harry Tyson-Wilson.

Future. It’s no secret Hull do have some financial problems mainly due to having to pay off dead wood with some big money plus the big payout to Willie Manu but with great support, season pass membership sales, merchandising etc I’m sure they can get over the worst of it.

New Signings. Frank Pritchard, Sika Manu, Scott Taylor, Danny Washbrook, Carlos Tuimavave and Mahe Fonua are genuinely very impressive additions especially the forwards who will be added to an already mean pack that is bristling with quality.

Controversy. There is clearly absolutely no need for a ‘Super Academy’ merger with Hull KR.

Positive. The creation of an under 23s side with Richard Horne as its boss will give certain players more chance to develop and will hopefullt dispense with the ridiculous dual-registration idea.

Derby Match Jamie Shaul Jack Logan

NEWS/SPORT...with James Smailes, 06/11/14  :  Hull Daily Mail Sporting Champion Awards, held at the Wilberforce Suite, KC Stadium, Hull.  Pictured, Sporting Champion Award Winner, Jordan Abdull.  Picture: Jerome Ellerby

Sika_Manu-1200 Danny Washbrook Mahe+Fonua+NRL+Rd+23+Storm+v+Titans+lzIeGJEH0zXl Carlostuimavave 1200-Frank-Pritchard Scott Taylor

Hull KR 36 Warrington Wolves 10, Rampant Robins Move Within Striking Distance of Top 8 With Demolition of Wolves

Hull KR turned up the heat on the top 8 in Super League with an outstanding performance to blitz Warrington Wolves at the KC Lightstream Stadium.

The Wolves started this game as slight favourites despite their erratic form while Rovers tried to close in on the coveted top 8 in by following up their impressive win against Widnes Vikings last week.

The first chance of the game came the way of the Robins with back-to-back penalties giving them possession and field position close to the visitors line but the chance came to nothing after their third set on the Wolves line ended with a poor grubber kick which was snapped up by the defence.

The visitors then marched up-field but their own chance came to nothing as Ben Westwood was tackled just short of the line by Liam Salter which led to the handover.

In the next exchange Albert Kelly tried a kick which was charged down by Man of Steel winner Daryl Clark and the chance ended with Chris Hill going over under the posts in the 10th minute to give them a lead against the run of play, the conversion from Declan Patton stretched the lead to 6 points for the men in primrose and blue.

Rovers then marched to the other end and created an opening down their left but Maurice Blair’s kick for Josh Mantellato was cleared up by a well organised defence.

Another penalty to the visitors invited them to the other end again and when they earned a repeat set they had more chance to apply pressure but a dropped pass by Patton gave Rovers the chance to clear their lines again.

The next attack from the visitors ended with a speculative kick by Patton but it was well claimed by Mantellato before Wolves captain Joel Monaghan could pounce.

Referee James Child wasn’t endearing himself to the home support especially when James Laithwaite was allowed to get away with a blatant ball-steal in a two man tackle as loan man Tony Puletua closed in towards a first try for Rovers.

Warrington were getting more into their stride in the second quarter but workmanlike was the best way of describing the efforts of both sides in a very end-to-end affair in the first half with defence on both sides giving the most noteworthy contributions to the proceedings.

Eventually Ken Sio provided a piece of magic in the 36th minute after a fast cross-field move set him free from just over 40 meters out and the winger raced through to cross the whitewash in the right corner, the touchline conversion from Mantellato fell just short to leave the visitors two points ahead.

Rovers then had a second try awarded by the video referee after a kick by Kelly was caught by Monaghan but the ball was forced free after a clash of heads with Kris Welham and eventually Mantellato forced his way over in the 38th minute and then added the conversion to give the home side a 10-6 advantage at half time.

Rovers started the second half with more urgency and forced a repeat set near the Wolves line but Jordan Cox brought that to a stop by knocking on 15 meters from the visitors line.

However the home side soon forced another chance as Ryan Atkins was forced into touch less than 40 meters from the Warrington line but the resulting attack came to an end as a grubber kick from Kelly was snaffled by the Wolves defence.

A penalty for obstruction gave Rovers another attack and this time they took full advantage as Kieran Dixon cut through a non-existent defence and went over under the posts, the inevitable conversion stretched their lead to 10 points in the seventh minute of the half.

The Robins looked much the hungrier and better organised of the two sides and, with Kelly orchestrating the attack, they were making light of the absence of their talismanic captain Terry Campese.

The next Rovers attack saw a speculative kick from Kelly which Sio beat Gene Ormsby to and knocked back to Salter for the centre to just drop down and score in the 54th minute, the majestic touchline conversion from Mantellato made it 22-6 to Rovers.

A mistake by Dixon gave Warrington a chance as he dropped a high bomb under minimal pressure and eventually a quick move across field saw Ormsby slide in at the corner, Patton pushed the touchline conversion wide to leave the men from Cheshire trailing by 12 points after 58 minutes.

A mistake at the other end by Ormsby then gave Rovers another attacking scrum 15 meters from the away sides line but despite the threat Warrington maintained their slim chance by keeping them at bay this time.

A break by Dixon then led to another attack and a deft little grubber kick by Kelly saw stand-in captain Tyrone McCarthy get over the whitewash against his former club, Mantellato missed the conversion to leave the score 26-10 with just under 15 minutes left to play.

Mantellato then added a penalty from 40 meters out in the 70th minute to stretch the advantage to three converted tries for the home side.

A knock on by Warrington after one scrum then gave the Robins yet another attacking scrum close to their line and Kris Welham forced his way over from a delightful pass by Maurice Blair, Mantellato again added the extras to stretch the score to 34-10 with six minutes left on the clock.

Wolves prop Ashton Sims then gifted Rovers another penalty with a little braul which Mantellato duly converted from 40 meters out to make it 36-10 with the final act of the match.

This result will undoubtedly see Rovers deservedly head into their Challenge Cup Quarter Final at home against Catalans Dragons next week with great confidence.

Penalties: Hull KR 6 Warrington 3

Goal Line Drop Outs: Hull KR 1 Warrington 1

Man of the Match: Albert Kelly

Attendance: 7,455

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Penalties: Catalan Dragons 10 Hull FC 7

Goal Line Drop Outs: Catalan Dragons 1 Hull FC 2

Man of the Match: Mark Minichiello

Widnes Vikings 12 Hull FC 25, Lineham Hat-Trick Sees Off Vikings Again As Airlie Birds Move Into Top 8.

Hull FC took their destiny into their own hands with a stunning comeback to complete a league double over Widnes Vikings as they claimed an eighth victory in 10 games in all competitions and move 7th in the Super League table.

Down 12-0 inside 11 minutes Hull looked dis-organised until Marc Sneyd stamped his class on the match and took control of proceedings and prolific winger Tom Lineham ran in his second hat-trick against this opposition this year.

The Vikings started the game without former Hull player Cameron Phelps after the Australian was injured in their victory over Salford Red Devils at Magic Weekend in Newcastle which forced coach Denis Betts to bring Matt Whitley in at centre.

Coach Lee Radford recalled Jamie Shaul to the Hull FC side to rest Jordan Rankin and Setaimata Sa and derby hat-trick hero Fetuli Talanoa were out injured so Richard Whiting and Steve Michaels were brought in as replacements for the visit to the Select Security stadium

The match was billed as a Super 8s Play Off with the Vikings just one point ahead of Hull as the sides sat 8th and 9th respectively at the start of the evening.

The first penalty of the match saw the home side put the first pressure on the Hull line but Shaul cleared up the threat of a chip over the line before Hull were awarded a relieving penalty.

The opening score of the match came to Vikings winger Jack Owens after Kirk Yeaman gave away a penalty with a high tackle the ball was moved quickly right by the home side and Owens squeezed in at the corner despite the attention of Shaul, the winger then added the touchline conversion to give them a 6-0 lead in the 8th minute.

Three minutes later a break down their left by full-back Rhys Hanbury put centre Matt Whitley in under the posts and Owens added the extras to give the home side a 12 point lead after 11 minutes.

After another attack from the home side Hull suddenly burst into life and a break down the right by captain Gareth Ellis and short pass put Tom Lineham in at the corner for his 13th try of the season and his fourth against Widnes after his hat-trick against them at the KC Stadium, unfortunately Marc Sneyd slipped slightly as he took the kick at goal and missed to leave the score 12-4 to the home side after 16 minutes.

Just as Hull thought they were going to make a break with a pass from Leon Pryce to Shaul referee Phil Bentham made a shocking call saying the legal pass was forward and then awarded the home side a penalty in the Hull half for dissent but scrambling defence from the visitors kept the Vikings at bay as they looked to press home the advantage they had been handed.

As the first half wore on the home side seemed to have more appetite for the battle as Hull looked laboured and unable to break through the home defence but despite their continued dominance in the possession and territory stakes the Vikings lead was still only eight points after half an hour.

After a penalty was given to the men from East Yorkshire they got their first chance at some sustained pressure on the Vikings line and Pryce duly brought them further back into the game with their second try, however Sneyd had forgotten his kicking boots and missed again to leave the score 12-8.

The fightback continued after a high tackle by Vikings captain Kevin Brown on Richard Whiting gave Hull another attacking set on the Widnes line and a deft chip by Sneyd saw Lineham claim his second try of the game in the corner with seconds to go to half time, Sneyd then found the mark with his touchline conversion to send his team in at the break with an unlikely 12-14 lead.

The second half started with Hull showing more grunt and trying to establish control and they were soon on the attack but Mickey Paea knocked on 15 meters from the Widnes try line.

The Vikings then went down-field and a kick from former FC player Aaron Heremaia forced a second goal-line-drop-out but their resulting attack ended with a tackle by Steve Michaels taking the Widnes attacker into touch.

After 51 minutes a piece of individual brilliance from Sneyd created a try that was worth the entrance money alone as he placed a delicate little grubber kick through the defensive line and followed-up to score under the posts and stretch the visitors advantage and the inevitable conversion from the try-scorer made it 12-20.

Six minutes later Lineham made it home and away hat-tricks against the Vikings as a break from Shaul cut the home side apart again and then his deft pass put the winger in at the corner to the delight of the travelling supporters, unfortunately Sneyd was unable to add the extras so the lead stayed at 12 points for the visitors.

The next attack from Hull saw them set up for the drop-goal and Sneyd again duly obliged to give them a three score lead with 18 minutes left to play.

The home side were showing plenty of endeavour but the goal line defence from Hull was too tight and smart to stop them breaching the line.

Whenever the home side seemed to have an opportunity Hull’s resolute defence was there from all angles covering for any chink in the impressive armour as the game ambled towards its inevitable conclusion.

With seven seconds remaining on the clock Patrick Ah Van thought he had given the home fans something to cheer as he dived in at the corner but he was denied by the video referee as he had put a foot in touch.

Hull coach Lee Radford praised the impressive defence from his side afterwards saying the victory had come because they were all willing to work for each other.

Penalties: Widnes 6 Hull FC 4

Goal Line Drop Outs: Widnes 1 Hull FC 2

Attendance: 5,573

Man of the Match: Marc Sneyd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Half Time Hull FC 10 Widnes Vikings 4.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Score Hull FC 22 Widnes Vikings 8

Man of the Match: Tom Lineham

Attendance 9,295