Mahe Fonua’s Challenge Cup winning run with Hull FC extended to nine games with victory over Castleford on Sunday afternoon.
Four tries were posted as Andy Last’s irregular hooped gods moved in to the last eight of the competition with a 29-16 win.
Here is Up the Cream’s Five Things column.
1.. King Carlos
All the middle aged ladies had a thing for Mark Minichiello and the teen girls loved Tom Briscoe, but Carlos Tuimavave is the one for us gents. What a bloke. What a player. What a specimen.
Tuimavave is just phenomenal isn’t he and the best thing about him is that he makes it all look so effortless. He’s just really really good at playing rugby league. He glides around the field like a gazelle, evades tackles in his sleep and is by far the most consistent player at the club.
It’s criminal how under-rated he actually is outside of Hull, but we know a good thing when we’ve got it and it’s no surprises the club obliged with a new four-year deal.
Carlos has been nothing short of sheer class since arriving in 2016 yet his performance against Castleford was probably one of his best yet. The two tries were great but how relaxed and comfortable he was when turning the ball on a six pence for Shaul to put Kelly over summed him up in a nutshell. Absolute quality.
2.. Backing up
After far too many defeats that went beyond the unacceptable, it was natural that the attitude of this side was questioned but if you want any indication that the mental components are improving you only have to look at the last two displays. Whilst the rugby hasn’t been perfect, the effort and commitment, particularly from the ones who played both Thursday and Sunday, has been unreal.
It was also eye opening to see on Josh Griffin’s Twitter page that no proper recovery is in place either. The players can’t use ice baths, swimming pools etc, which makes the two wins all the more impressive. Sure they were both clunky at times and there have been some squeaky bum moments in defence that better sides may have punished, but that won’t show up on the record books. Fair play to the players, medical/conditioning staff, and to Andy Last who rotated to effect and got some results.
Danny Houghton has picked up some criticism recently and he was the first to admit his displays weren’t up to scratch, but he is far from finished. He was incredible on Sunday following up from the win over Wakefield and looking more like his old self again. He darted out of the ruck and his distribution was spot on.
Maybe a serious threat to the hooking role was what Houghton needed but also it shows despite his enthusiasm and his willingness to put his hand up and play every minute of every game, that to do so (however admirable) is completely unnecessary and won’t prolong his career.
They’ll be games like Thursday when Houghton will start from the word go and games like Sunday when he’ll come on off the bench looking to provide an impact either from dummy half or even as a ball playing middle. The same goes for Jordan Johnstone as well. It’s about finding out which player is suited to which fixture. This isn’t a conundrum though. It should be a real luxury for Last and Hull instead of running one of them into the ground.
Hull’s attack has been dire at times especially against Warrington but some of the shape and execution we saw against Castleford was much better. In fact the full set for Kelly’s try was brilliant and shows what can happen when you stick to your patterns.
On the contrary there was a spell after half time where the ball turned into a bar of soap and the error count mounted up, but Hull prevailed through that period despite a scare or two.
The win could have been much more comfortable, and in all honesty (and like Thursday) it probably should have been. We talk about DNA and how those mistakes are embedded into Hull, but we should also talk about our ability to make ground at ease or how we have threats from pretty much everywhere. The quality is there and it was great to see Hull ride some waves and produce some entertaining stuff with a win at the end of it.
5.. A costly win?
Three wins out of the last four and into the last eight is some welcome spin after a few results where everything looked hopeless but at the risk of spoiling some needed positivity, the win over Castleford could be a real costly one.
Hull lost Jamie Shaul, Ratu Naulago and Albert Kelly to injury during the game, and Chris Satae and Jordan Johnstone both picked up knocks. It was a tough encounter as the effects of playing two games in four days were tested during this basket case of a season, and now there’s a few doubts for the quarter-final against Wigan.
Being a head knock and with six days between fixtures you can write Shaul off, and if Kelly has pulled or worse yet torn his hamstring, then he won’t be playing either.
Survival of the fittest, we all knew the injures would come once the fixtures started to pile up and luckily Hull have options. They could potentially be boosted by the return of Scott Taylor too. It’s a free pass though – few will expect Hull to beat Wigan, but we love ruining famous songs with a good Cup upset so bring it on.