That’s 2019 done and dusted for the second string Hull FC side, with the Reserves putting on a big score to defeat Halifax Reserves 62-8 in their season finale on Thursday night.
But given the circumstances it was to be expected. The fixture got reversed the day before and then Halifax travelled with just nine players. Hull lent them three players, Callum Stark, George Cooke, and Jack Bartlett, and they played with just twelve men for the full game. When you take all that into consideration, it was a great effort from the away team. That’s the norm with Halifax though. Every game Hull have played against them at this level has been tough, right back to 2016. This player shortage was a one off, they are a great advocate for Reserves rugby league and certainly show a few Super League sides up in how they run it. Credit to them.
For Hull though the extra men told, even on a small pitch like at Hullensians. Richard Tate, who has done a great job this year stepping in for Gareth Ellis as coach, has got this side playing. Even on a wet weather night with persistent on and off rain, they chucked the ball about and were eye-catching to watch. There’s speed in abundance here too, and some power in the forwards. Most importantly, and this is really commendable given how little time they actually train together, there’s a cohesion with those that are full-time and part time. When you get that you’ve nailed this level, and whilst Hull will welcome tougher opposition next season, they’ve dealt with all that’s been thrown at them, losing just two of fifteen games despite using over forty players.
The star for Hull against Halifax was Lewis Bienek. For all the poise of the backs, you can’t ignore a prop forward that gets a hat-trick of tries. All showcased his power, which there is plenty of, and after foot problems early this year, the goal now will be to have a big winter and get himself in the mix for 2020’s pre-season games. There’s something in Bienek though, he’s a big lad, still young, and the rest is up to him. In the middle Ryan Dearing and academy youngster Ewan Badham also ran hard, whereas Jack Brown was quieter than usual playing out on an edge, but rather than seeing him continuously bust up the middle, his offload game was so good and in wet weather conditions too. There’s a lot of potential here, but it’s down to the individuals to nurture that potential alongside the coaching hierarchy and not wonder what might have been.
This though was a chance to play some fluent rugby league. Hull didn’t disappoint. They knew given a numerical advantage they’d find space, and ultimately they’d be fresher. That told. Halifax’s effort was gutsy, but Hull played some great stuff. On the wing Charlie Graham scored a brace of tries and showed his pace, as did young winger James Driver on the other flank, racing ninety metres for his own try. Late on, Ben McNamara and Kieran Smith also scored long range tries. The speed across Hull’s side was telling. They are full of pace, as you’d expect any young back line to be, and they didn’t disappoint.
Kieran Buchanan, fresh after his Super League experience, popped up everywhere and he evaded tackles like they were M&M’s. He ran superbly well, showed some pace, and kicked nine of his eleven attempts at goal. Again he’s a good young lad, a hard worker with his feet on the ground. Good traits for any player looking to impress Lee Radford.
Hull gave another run out to Elliot Windley at hooker, with Jordan Webster moving to half back and Lochlan Fitzgerald to full back. All had their moments, and all benefited from good service after a dominant ruck. Along with Badham, a second half try-scorer, there were first Reserves appearances for Matthew Smith and George Cochran. It was a young side fielded, a side that did the best they could do under unprecedented circumstances.
A great way to sign off, Hull will benefit further from a full-blooded competition next season, and the challenges that the big clubs, say a Wigan or St Helens will provide. This year has been frustrating at times, and there’s been plenty of big wins, but we’ve seen an emergence of young players into the first team, players like Brown, Buchanan and Connor Wynne, laterally still suspended for his very own Rocky Ballboa interpretation.
It’s easy to forget Ratu Naulago came via the Reserves set up too before being thrown into the deep end at Wigan back in February, and Brad Fash, Josh Bowden, Masimbaashe Matongo, Gareth Ellis, Jordan Lane and co have all had run outs in this team when needed. The beneficiaries one would hope will excel further into 2020, but for now it’s a job well done, a chance for reflection, and a longing for next season.
Hull Reserves Starting XIII: 1. Lochlan Fitzgerald, 2. Charlie Graham, 25. Matthew Smith, 14. Kieran Buchanan, 5. James Driver, 7. Kieran Smith, 29. Jordan Webster, 24. Ryan Dearing, 9. Elliot Windley, 13. Lewis Bienek, 11. Ryan Devaney, 12. Jack Brown, 15. Harvey Gotts. Interchange: 6. Ben McNamara, 16. Ryan Price, 23. Ewan Badham, 30. George Cochran.
Hull Tries: Bienek 3, Dearing, Graham 2, Buchanan, Driver, Badham, McNamara, K.Smith. Goals: Buchanan 9/11
Scoring System: 6-0, 6-4, 12-4, 18-4, 22-4, 22-8, 26-8, 32-8, HT, 38-8, 44-8, 50-8, 56-8, 62-8