The Magic Weekend was certainly ‘magical’ up in the Toon as Hull FC beat our noisy neighbours once again to win our seventh Derby in a row.
That sounds a wee bit good doesn’t it, as we celebrate three years of dominance that has now seen us go unbeaten against the old enemy for 1,145 days and counting. In that period, and as we so eloquently explained post-Good Friday, that run has seen a record score been put on, a record comeback, a top of the table win, a win with a man sent off, and twice has it seen Rovers’ mediocrity in the Middle 8s confirmed. Now you can add a win to the list with the man who makes Lee Radford’s morning coffee’s amongst our ranks. Kirk Yeaman, an undoubted club legend, coming out of retirement to aid our injury crisis, and playing his part in a 34-22 victory.
Yeaman’s return was the source of some ridicule on social media but for a bloke who hasn’t played in 20-months, he did just fine. He still can’t pass, but defensively he’s strong and he carries well. Dread to think what state he’ll be in Monday morning, but yet again we have the last laugh. Rovers had the cheek to question the decision, and Rugby League fans elsewhere asked why Hull “weren’t playing the youngsters.” They were. Teenage centre Cameron Scott made his first grade debut, Jack Logan got a third appearance of the season and Hakim Miloudi also featured. This is how stretched we were in the backs, and with Josh Griffin now also injured, it’s probably not naive to suggest another debut could occur at Warrington on Friday night. Step up Jack Sanderson? We’ll soon find out.
Then there’s the half back positions, and with a fourth pivot in Carlos Tuimavave set back on the sidelines thanks to the battle at Featherstone, new 21-year-old signing Liam Harris, formerly of Rovers, had to step up and deliver, and in scoring a fine try and organising well all evening, didn’t he do just that. And isn’t it great to support a club that gives opportunities to these young players, rather than one that ships them off and replaces them with journeymen, or sends them elsewhere to play at lower league sides whilst you play a pudding and a revolving door in the halves. What kind of wizardry is that. More Crab and Goyle than Harry Potter, that’s for sure.
Harris, who let his feelings known in his try celebration, was brilliant, and we can be excited for what the future holds. Obviously it’s apparent that when Sneyd and Kelly are back fit his place comes under threat, but they’ll be chances for him. He’s only 21 after all and he’s unquestionably got a future here at the club he supported as a boy.
That brings us to his half back partner, Jake Connor, who again was sensational. Radford challenged Jake to lead the side during this difficult period and the Snake has responded to that challenge. He’s thriving off it and if there’s a more talented English player in Super League right now please point him out. Jake is an absolute class act, who gets under your skin, but backs it up with his skill, which is nothing short of superb. But the piece that held everything together, and yep you guessed it, was Joe Westerman. He was incredible. His three displays since returning to the club have been nothing short of magnificent. Westy has been a freak, playing eighty minutes again and proving to be an instrumental part of our attacking shape, whilst carrying the ball forward like every good middle man should.
Amongst individual performances though, what impressed me the most was how collective we were as a team unit. The win wasn’t all pretty, and we, as expected with eight players out either injured or suspended, had to grind it out. It was occasionally ugly, but the only thing that mattered was the two Super League points, which do wonders to our league position and capability to make the top four, which is more than achievable. We’ll still in this and when we get players back the comp will see our best.
But at the risk of dummies flying here, there, and everywhere, we must point out that it was a makeshift Rovers side too. It’s definitely fair to say though that Radford got his selections better than Tim Sheens, who’s side was questionable. He’s no wizard, and we can see why sections of their fan base are starting to question him. That frowned upon word: injuries. Yeah, Rovers had them too. Wouldn’t wish injury on any player, but it’s ironic to see the likes of Danny McGuire sit on the sidelines as a veteran big money signing half back after they ridiculed us so many times with Adam Dykes, Sean Long, Chris Thorman etc etc. Reap what you sew and all that.
Hostility aside though it’s hard to get Rovers. At times they look okay and then they go to sleep and before they know it they’re 14-points down. Must be frustrating, but in reality it’s actually hilarious. Stinks of the Agar-era, but we’re not going to complain are we. Jamie Shaul wasn’t, as his try brace, added to a first half effort from Scott Taylor that saw a Connor kick rebound off the crossbar and into the props hands, eased Hull into a commanding lead. Harris of course topped that, before second half tries from Jack Logan and Connor himself sealed the win, which wasn’t finalised before some handbags towards the end of the game.
Not a Derby without them, but amongst all the feuds, it was nice to mention the absence again of that famous Wembley song, and to remind them once again what we’ve been up to over the past two years. Hull FC, the undisputed Kings of Hull. That’s seven in a row now, as the jubilant scenes on the concourse told you post-match. All obsessed aren’t we.
Hull Starting XIII: 1. Jamie Shaul, 4. Josh Griffin, 30. Cameron Scott, 34. Kirk Yeaman, 24. Jack Logan, 35. Liam Harris, 14. Jake Connor, 8. Scott Taylor, 9. Danny Houghton, 15. Chris Green, 21. Sika Manu, 12. Mark Minichiello, 33. Joe Westerman. Interchange: 23. Mickey Paea, 29. Masimbaashe Matongo, 28. Hakim Miloudi, 11. Dean Hadley.
Hull Tries: Taylor, Shaul 2, Harris, Logan, Connor. Goals: Connor 5/6
Hull 3-2-1 Man of the Match: 3pts Joe Westerman, 2pts Jake Connor, 1pt Jamie Shaul
Rovers Starting XIII: 1. Adam Quinlan, 5. Ryan Shaw, 22. Liam Salter, 2. Junior Vaivai, 25. Kieren Moss, 11. Maurice Blair, 19. Tommy Lee, 10. Mose Masoe, 38. Aaron Smith, 8. Nick Scruton, 34. Danny Tickle, 17. Chris Clarkson, 15. James Donaldson. Interchange: 12. James Greenwood, 24. Chris Atkin, 13. Ben Kavanagh, 29. Jordan Walne.
Rovers Tries: Moss 3, Lee. Goals: Shaw 3/4
Scoring System: 0-4, 6-4, 12-4, 12-10, 18-10, 24-10, 24-16, 28-16, 34-16, 34-22
Referee: Ben Thaler