Genuine contenders – even those who swung the hammer so profusely will struggle to deny Hull FC that, following a quite sensational 50-10 win in the South of France on Saturday evening.
The Black and Whites destroyed Catalans on their second trip to Perpignan of the year, giving an attacking performance that was a firm statement to the sides credentials in 2019. Make no mistake about it, Hull will not only be a play-off team this season, but also be one that can have a serious crack at both major pieces of silverware. There’s threats all over the field, and when those threats all hit some form as they are now, it’s a pretty devastating situation.
At times that was about as fluent as it gets. Whilst the Hull defence scrambled and repelled most of what Catalans threw at them, the attack was phenomenal. Hull were potent all over the field, they moved the ball crisply, made metres for fun, and scored some sublime tries that suggests the bipolar medication is finally working.
It’s madness to think that it’s only four weeks since the abomination served up in Liverpool, but since then Hull have a cup win under their belt and three good wins in the league against sides all chasing play-off places. Hull are hitting some continuity into their performances now. We’re well into June, approaching July, and the need to perform obviously has increased that extra notch. They say Super League is all about timing your run, and a lot can still happen this year, but right now Hull are right amongst the thick of it. On current form, you’d back them.
Magnificent. It’s the type of rugby too that was all the more impressive. Lee Radford has been here long enough to know exactly what he expects and demands from his players. Of course Hull play with big blokes and they’re as powerful as any, but the skill of the side is also apparent. The execution and pace shown was frightening. Hull are not just a team of big blokes anymore, if anything some of the size has gone, and the side can now mix their play up and that makes them an entertaining proposition. They were a genuine joy to watch in Perpignan and that doesn’t come naturally to a club renowned more for its graft than finesse. Make no mistake Radford has them playing. He’s undoubtedly still the Dadders and that contract extension for both him, Andy Last and co should be delivered on a velvet pillow.
What they’ve all done for the club puts them into the immortality bracket, and whilst we’ve had some shockers in the recent past, the good outweighs the bad. That goes without saying, and this win, in mafting conditions and flying in and out of Perpignan on the day, is all the more impressive. It’s a firm statement given how the side has evolved and adapted, and just the one quick glance at the Super League table shows the wonders it brings.
Whilst you could argue that this year’s recruitment was under-whelming, the real quality was already in-house and Radford knew that. That’s why certain predictions by those who make themselves look more of a clown than Bobby Bubbles were premature to say the least. Hull have some genuinely world-class players – that’s nothing new. There’s few better on this side of the world than Jake Connor and Albert Kelly after all. They are both magnificent players capable of utter carnage and when you have them in your side, then you’re always going to be a threat.
The chicken nugget fuelled sensation was at his brilliant best before going off to a hamstring injury, scoring an absolute peach of a try before assisting another, whilst Connor was equally sublime. That calibre of player makes Hull a title contender. The right edge is dynamite and when it clicks the opposition is hopeless to prevent it.
Elsewhere Ratu Naulago also continued his growing reputation with another breakaway try, but despite their brilliance, it was Josh Griffin in the back row who was the stand out. Few superlatives can do justice to his performance, and if that’s an indication to what’s to come in that role, then it’s an exciting future. Griffin was practically unplayable. He was a threat every time he carried the ball, scoring twice, and assisting others in a mental display. He’s always had that in his locker too. Griffin was Hull’s best player before he got injured last year and he’s right up there this year too.
Griffin, along with a stellar showing from young Kieran Buchanan, tightened up the left edge along with the attacking guile of Marc Sneyd. Defensively it only came unstuck once, but it’s with the ball too where it stood out. Buchanan, who’s long-term future like Griffin’s is in the back row, ran the ball superbly. He broke through tackles and scored his first senior try as well, backing up on the inside. It was a promising display from Buchanan, who’s played five of the last seven now and doesn’t look out-of-place.
Another finding his feet in this Hull team is Andre Savelio. The big forward arrived with a reputation following previous stints in Super League, and after a serious knee injury, will take time to really get his juices flowing. This was a good account though, another to get off the nudie, he played on the edge after Sika Manu and was a threat. Similar sentiments can be given to Josh Bowden too. It’s just great to see him back after his ACL nightmare, likewise with Chris Green and Brad Fash who are enjoying their runs in the team. Jamie Shaul too is looking good and scored another outstanding try, whilst remaining resolute in defence and under the high ball.
The result was never in doubt, but the margin of it was surprising. Even a Sam Tomkins opener did little to dampen the spirits. Hull soon responded and went into half-time 26-10 up, before cruising the second half, allowing a well-deserved rest for Danny Houghton. It was another of those games you wished would never end and things right now are looking good.
That injury card last year got under the skin of many people, even some under a Black and White persuasion, but it’s relevant – it’s always been relevant. That’s being proven now. Hull at something of a full-tilt side are doing bits. That’s absolutely not a coincidence. Who knows what would of happened if the injury nightmare didn’t persist over the past eighteen months, but now it’s showing signs of abolishment, there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and the side are flying. We’re on our way.
Catalans Starting XIII: 29. Sam Tomkins, 27. Fouad Yaha, 3. David Mead, 4. Brayden Wiliame, 5. Lewis Tierney, 6. Samisoni Langi, 7. Matty Smith, 8. Sam Moa, 9. Michael McIllorum, 14. Julian Bousquet, 17. Benjamin Jullian, 12. Benjamin Garcia, 8. Remi Casty. Interchange: 15. Mikel Simon, 19. Mikael Goudemand, 28. Sam Kasiano, 23. Antoni Maria.
Catalans Tries: Tomkins, Tierney. Goals: Tomkins 1/2
Hull Starting XIII: 1. Jamie Shaul, 33. Ratu Naulago, 14. Jake Connor, 38. Kieran Buchanan, 2. Bureta Faraimo, 6. Albert Kelly, 7. Marc Sneyd, 15. Chris Green, 9. Danny Houghton, 23. Mickey Paea, 21. Sika Manu, 4. Josh Griffin, 13. Joe Westerman. Interchange: 8. Scott Taylor, 10. Josh Bowden, 35. Andre Savelio, 20. Brad Fash.
Hull Tries: Kelly, Westerman, Savelio, Griffin 2, Buchanan, Naulago, Shaul. Goals: Sneyd 9/9
Hull 3-2-1 Man of the Match: 3pts Josh Griffin, 2pts Albert Kelly, 1pt Jake Connor
Scoring System: 6-0, 6-6, 6-8, 6-14, 10-14, 10-20, 10-26, 10-32, 10-38, 10-44, 10-50
Referee: Robert Hicks