A blockbuster start maybe, but Hull FC have headed into a brand new Super League season still feeling the repercussions of the previous campaign.
Yes that tedious word that we are all sick of saying is still biting this side hard. Injuries. That old chestnut. But despite them the bookies still had Hull as slight favourites. That tells you a lot. It tells you that those whom we empty our bank accounts into every weekend still believe in the never say die spirit of Lee Radford’s team. It tells you that whilst those that deputise are not the most articulate set of blokes to have ever graced our great game, there are still qualities installed into them that still make the Airlie Birds a match for anyone.
When you open your eyes to the fact that Hull were missing no fewer than eight blokes through either injury or suspension for a round one clash, to lose just 18-16 against an almost full-strength opposition with a winning try going against you in the very last play of the game was certainly no disgrace. We’re talking quality missing here too. Not journeymen. That’s the difference. But despite the unquestionably undesirable finish, anger wasn’t the main emotion here. It was gutting, don’t get us wrong, it’s a game we should have won after all, but there’s encouragement and certainly something to build on. It was better, and much closer, than many predicted, against an opposition that handed out debuts to several new players, and whose coach had the luxury of a selection headache or two.
Taking a 12-0 first half lead and then a 16-14 lead late on, it looked for all the money like Hull would see the result out, but a nothing kick from Josh Drinkwater, bizarrely awarded the MOTM, was flicked back and the home side found the overlap to score with just six seconds remaining. Gut wrenching. That’s sport though. It offers you both the complete ecstasy and the agony, and us Hull FC fans have been on the receiving end of both emotions in the recent past. It was cruel on a side that battled well and kept themselves in the contest despite the hindrance of poor discipline and a failure to post significant points on the board when on top. Ultimately that wayward spell before half time where the game spiced up and the Hull players lost their heads cost us dearly, and despite regaining the lead, it proved to be the unlocking of a match we seemed to have a grip on.
What transpired is maybe unjust, but as the old cliche goes you have to take your chances. This sport is ruthless. Despite a commendable effort level, Hull had chances and ultimately failed to kill the game off. The end result is tough, and we can’t blame the referee, orange balls, snowy conditions, length of grass, or anything like that, but instead take it on the chin, and go again, with the welcome knowledge that at least one player in Jake the Snake will return next week. Injuries, tedious as they may be, or in the oppositions case, a word they would rather blithely be inattentive to, really are a nuisance and we are craving the day when we can field our strongest line up again. Only then will we get a real perspective of where Hull are at. Regardless of who’s selected though this side has got to be smarter. Those penalties really kicked us in the knackers and the lack of a game breaker eventually stifled us.
To be a harsh critique of that Hull performance though is naive to say the least. There’s plenty to take from it, despite the nature of the defeat. Masimbaashe Matongo was right up there as one of the best blokes on the field at the grand old age of 22. The fanzine was harsh on him last season, but we demand excellence, and the Zimbabwean-born prop took the first step to planting a custard pie in our eds direction with a fine display. He showed all the promise we first saw in him when he first joined the Hull FC Academy. He was aggressive – both in attack and defence. There was that element of bastard in his play. He wanted it and he showed it with one or two thunderous hits and strong carries.
On the contrary though, and we hate to do this, but Mickey Paea was the complete opposite. No Hull FC fan wants to ‘bag’ players but ask yourself if we’ve got enough out of Paea since his return. The answer is no. He’s a quota player and he won’t be on peanuts. He has got to roll his sleeves up and show the form that earned him so many admirers in his first stint at the club. Additionally it highlights just how much the side are missing the likes of Josh Bowden. You can add Joe Westerman, Chris Green and Lewis Bienek to that list too. Proper banter our current situation.
You can’t fault the effort from the Black and White players. Sika Manu was good. He looked like he’d done ten rounds with Mike Tyson after that Tonga text in the Autumn, but that was a step in the right direction. Jamie Shaul was tireless and Dean Hadley was a welcome highlight too. You know what you get with Hadley and he was solid, energetic and dependable. The two wingers were particularly impressive too. Matty Dawson looked really shaky at St Helens in pre-season but he was miles better here, scoring his first try for the club too. On the other flank Bureta Faraimo was excellent. He ran the ball with such potency and got us moving forward. It’s just a shame Rovers’ winning try came down his edge. Faraimo was caught out of position and couldn’t get back in time. That itself can be reiterated again as a right sucker punch, as given the circumstances the effort, although lacking intelligence at times, was outstanding.
It’s imperative too that Hull continue to keep Marc Sneyd out on the field. There seems to be no problems what’s-so-ever with his knee, and we’ll continue to see the beneficiaries of that in the coming weeks. Considering he was the only recognised half back out there he was terrific at times, with both a handy passing and kicking game. The reality is if you add a Jake Connor or an Albert Kelly to that line up, then Hull FC win the game. That’s a fact. Lee Radford won’t be downbeat on that performance. He knows there’s an abundance of quality to come back and when they do we’ll be just fine. As for the opposition, it’ll be nervous twitch time knowing they were second best in periods against what was effectively half a first choice team, a side that can still welcome Fetuli Talanoa and Liam Harris amongst the names mentioned above.
UTC for one, despite a meltdown or two in the retched losing run last season, remains upbeat. We know we won’t blow up trees this season, but this team, when at full tilt at least, is better than a mid to lower one like many have predicted. It’s probably one middle short to really prosper, but the lack of form of one individual can be the opportunity another requires. We’ll wait and see how that pans out, but despite the winless sequence reaching a competitive dozen, it’s a different feeling to the sinister one felt during the Summer last year. That was a ferocious start to Super League, there’s a long road ahead, but rest assured things will get brighter for Hull FC in the weeks ahead.
Rovers Starting XIII: 17. Chris Atkin, 3. Ben Crooks, 4. Jimmy Keinhorst, 19. Junior Vaivai, 2. Craig Hall, 7. Danny McGuire, 24. Josh Drinkwater, 10. Mose Mosoe, 21. George Lawler, 8. Robbie Mulhern, 11. Joel Tomkins, 23. Kane Linnett, 13. Weller Hauraki. Interchange: 20. Danny Addy, 14. Mitch Garbutt, 12. James Greenwood, 15. Tommy Lee.
Rovers Tries: Tomkins, Garbutt, Keinhorst. Goals: Drinkwater 3/4
Hull Starting XIII: 1. Jamie Shaul, 17. Matty Dawson-Jones, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 4. Josh Griffin, 2. Bureta Faraimo, 30. Danny Washbrook, 7. Marc Sneyd, 8. Scott Taylor, 9. Danny Houghton, 19. Masimbaashe Matongo, 21. Sika Manu, 12. Mark Minichiello, 11. Dean Hadley. Interchange: 23. Mickey Paea, 16. Jordan Thompson, 22. Jordan Lane, 28. Jez Litten.
Hull Tries: Manu, Dawson-Jones, Faraimo. Goals Sneyd 2/4
Hull 3-2-1 Man of the Match: 3pts Masimbaashe Matongo, 2pts Bureta Faraimo, 1pt Marc Sneyd
Scoring System: 0-6 (Manu), 0-12 (Dawson-Jones), 6-12 (Tomkins), 12-12 (Garbutt) 14-12, 14-16 (Faraimo), 18-16 (Keinhorst).
Attendance: 12,100 and one floodlight on a wagon
Referee: Ben Thaler