Well that was certainly promising. Full of power and with the intent to promote the ball, Hull FC enjoyed a comfortable 38-6 win at Batley on Sunday afternoon.
Despite it only being a friendly there was a lot to get excited about, even from the simplicity of the way Hull looked to play. Full of positives, there’s power right across the field and that was complimented with a slick range of passing. It was at times eye-catching stuff. Hull will be a team that evades tackles and offloads for fun this year. The second phase attack will be splendid to watch and there were signs of it on show here, despite it being against second tier opposition. That’s not to disrespect Batley either who had good shape about them and like many Championship clubs they are full of big tough lads who aren’t afraid to get stuck in. It all made for a compelling battle.
This was a good game in the winter sun. Like many fixtures in January it was on occasions a bit flat, a bit stop start and prone to error, but from a Hull perspective those errors were rare. It was tight to start with as Batley tried to stay with their opponents, but once things opened up the slick nature of the away side told. Most of it came on the back of the offloads, and that’s no surprise given the personnel playing. Those offloads were rampant. The power in this side really is in abundance. It was more notable as the game flowed, with more penalties given early on than one would desire for an uncompetitive fixture. Those Batley fans at the scoreboard end didn’t shy away from telling us either.
It was the strongest Hull squad we’ve seen so far this year with just a flutter of senior players missing. As it will on many occasions this year the day belonged to the Tongan Terminator Manu Ma’u. On his first appearance and on his first carry in the Black and White shirt, he sat down his would be tacklers and on the next play Hull scored. Of course Ma’u was the main attraction in West Yorkshire, taking more selfies with fans than opposition players he will leave shitting their pants this year. He was solid – he breaks tackles in his sleep. He’s so intimidating and everything he did was with sheer class like many expected it to be. This is a bloke easily still good enough to play in the NRL after all.
Josh Jones too produced a hefty workload that we’ve come to expect after watching Salford last year. It’s some back row. In the front row Scott Taylor and Ligi Sao had some mongrel about them, and Chris Satae impressed off the bench. Gareth Ellis still bends people despite being old enough to be Jack Brown’s dad and the minutes going into Andre Savelio’s engine are so pleasing. He’s a player. To be fair all the forwards got through some minutes going both down then up the aptly named Mount Pleasant ground. No Foxes Biscuits nonsense here though, and it was definite nose bleed territory when working their way up the hill.
That platform from the forwards allowed Hull to play. Partnering Marc Sneyd in the halves and with Albert Kelly playing from full back, Jake Connor was tidy in everything he did and heavily involved. Literally no idea how that one will pan out during the course of the season though. The same can be said of many positions. As always after pre-season games all eyes are on the Super League opener and who will play. The conundrum still stands. 23-players were on show here, and with one or two still to come into contention, trimming this squad down to a match-day seventeen, well as far as the back line goes anyway, is going to be some job for Lee Radford. He reckons he knows most of his seventeen. It’s a guessing game until then but we can be pleased at least with what we’ve seen.
We said in the January fanzine our opinion changes on that seventeen every day. Quite literally. Based on what we saw against Batley, and again against London last week, there’s no way Bureta Faraimo can be left out. He’s been excellent – an absolute powerhouse that makes meters for fun. He also scored twice and didn’t get hung out to dry defensively either. On that front Hull were also solid and it speaks volumes that the head coach singled out the late try conceded. Standards. Love em. On the other wing Ratu Naulago got a second half hat-trick, taking his tries superbly well, whilst Josh Griffin and Carlos Tuimavave each scored a try each. It was promising. Mahe Fonua was quieter after coming on, but how can you leave him out? Adam Swift too hasn’t played yet but by all accounts has looked really good in training. It’s a right ballache for Radford, but all seven tries at Batley coming from the starting three-quarters could paint half the picture. If it doesn’t then the Reserves outing at our nearest and dearest next week could make it more conclusive.
Options are aplenty, and whilst options leave us scratching our heads, the way Hull played as a team was worthy of highlight. There was no panic when getting into prominent positions. Hull were calm with the ball and they looked to play. The shape was good with the ball carrier always supported. There was even a try direct from a scrum – halcyon days. That fluency brought an entertaining brand of rugby and whilst the two competition points each week are of the most importance, you can’t play that down. Exciting rugby league puts bums on seats and there was plenty to get excited about. Kudos to how Radford set out his team. Hull should be good to watch this year, and as the norm goes when on top there was a purple patch of first half try-scoring to take the game away from the hosts. From then on Hull kept the ball moving as they rotated the line up as the game endured. There was a couple disallowed too that could have brought a bigger score line.
At a ground that’s unfamiliar territory, well maybe not to the elder lads and lasses but certainly in the modern-day era, it was encouraging stuff all round. The next time we see a first team line up it’ll be at Headingley, it’ll contain Manu Ma’u once again and an abundance of stars. There’s an excitement brewing. Guilty of some premature ejaculation perhaps, but this squad has plenty to be optimistic about. If they live up to the hype we will be in for some season. As always with Hull FC though it’s the if, but this team can’t go far wrong. It’s some squad, and all the early signs are promising.
Batley Starting XIII: Luke Hooley, Wayne Reittie, Keenan Tomlinson, Lewis Galbraith, Dale Morton, Ben White, Daniel Yates, Toby Everett, Shaun Lunt, James Brown, Dane Manning, Lucas Walshaw, Anthony Bowman.
Interchange: David Scott, Nyle Flynn, Jovilisa Taira, Michael Ward, George Senior, Sam Bowring, Johnny Campbell.
Batley Tries: Bowman. Goals: Morton 1/1
Hull Starting XIII: Albert Kelly, Ratu Naulago, Carlos Tuimavave, Josh Griffin, Bureta Faraimo, Jake Connor, Marc Sneyd, Scott Taylor, Joe Cator, Ligi Sao, Manu Ma’u, Josh Jones, Gareth Ellis.
Interchange: Chris Satae, Andre Savelio, Brad Fash, Masimbaashe Matongo, Jordan Johnstone, Jordan Lane, Mahe Fonua, Jack Brown, Eldon Myers, Jack Sanderson.
Hull Tries: Faraimo 2, Tuimavave, Griffin, Naulago 3. Goals: Sneyd 4/6, Connor 1/1
Scoring System: 0-6, 0-12, 0-18, 0-22, 0-26, 0-32, 0-38, 6-38