Well that was much more like it, with Hull FC having some overdue quality about them to defeat Castleford 29-16 in the sixth round of the Challenge Cup.
The Black and Whites, sporting some godly-like match-day attire, were much like their old selves. They were a threat in attack and looked dangerous pretty much every time they went forward. Sure not everything clicked and still a lot of ball went to ground, but the shape and execution was much better than what we’ve seen in recent weeks. There was some mileage in the ball and a zip about them. Getting up the field seemed effortless such was the power on show, it was good to watch at times and it resulted in a much-deserved win.
Defensively too it wasn’t perfect but Hull stood up to be counted and had a resolve about them. The game, thanks to an abundance of errors from both sides, looked in real danger of slipping away at one point and under similar circumstances this year with a similar error count we’ve seen the side crumble, but this one was a performance full of pride and one we can be proud of after a tough few weeks both on and off the field.
It’s a massive cliche, but it was one of those occasions where the team really came together, and to be honest there wasn’t a bad performer on the Hull side. Talk about gods in irregular hoops though as Carlos Tuimavave after signing a new four-year contract at the club was on a different planet. Ripped to absolute smithereens, he is the most consistent player at the club by a mile and he took it up another notch here with a superb try brace and general classy centre performance. On the other flank the powerhouse Josh Griffin also impressed whilst tearing up the metres, yet it was the displays of others that have copped some flack recently that also caught the eye. Danny Houghton was much more like his old self at hooker, darting out the ruck and playing with an energy about him, and Mahe Fonua, who remember has never lost a Challenge Cup game, was also much improved.
That was great to see alone wasn’t it, but its amazing what a bit of competition can do. Maybe a lower work-load and a serious threat to the number nine shirt was what Houghton needed all along, but on that display there’s plenty of fuel left in the tank just yet – especially being one of the nine players to back up from the Wakefield win on Thursday. Fonua has took a while to get going and whilst there is still a risk of shitting ya pants every time he touches the ball, he was much more solid and came up with a few slick plays especially late on. Despite being voted the fourth best player in the comp back in 2017, he actually took a while to hit his straps in both of the seasons during his first spell here, but regardless of his tendency to do something crazy, he’s always a threat.
How about Jake Connor too who slotted into the halves well. They’ll always be a jury out whenever he has the six on his back and everyone will always compare him to Albert Kelly, but this a bloke who came on in Denver and bent New Zealand’s defence in half as a ball player. Whilst he can infuriate you, he can play a bit and that was a much more polished display. The smartness was there too from Connor to bang over two penalty goals to take the result beyond doubt – not to mention a cheeky drop-goal. It was much better all-round and with a hamstring problem for Kelly, he’ll really have to lead the team around the park against Wigan next week – but then again that’s going to be a different kettle of fish without the room for the errors we saw here. That’s the only negative from the game really – the cost of it. Hull also lost Jamie Shaul at half time to a failed Head Injury Assessment and Ratu Naulago to a calf injury. Jordan Johnstone went off as well (before coming back late on) and Chris Satae took a bang. Obviously if you want to go tit for tat, Castleford lost Grant Millington and Sosaia Feki, and fatigue was a factor for both sides.
Whilst we’re on a bit of a gloat fest, if anyone finds Daryl Powell’s dummy around the Langtree Park touchline please let him know. It might have slipped the old timers mind, but Hull also played on Thursday night and also lost players to knocks and injuries during the game. Shame he didn’t try rotating his squad and back some of his younger lads, on Thursday but then again it must have been the earlier kick off of 6pm that did it for Hull. Obviously… On that note fair play to Andy Last. He’s come into this interim role under a lot of pressure to perform right from the off, but he’s got it absolutely bob on this week using the full extent of his resources and getting two deserved wins to go with it. That’s three from the last four games now and also into the last eight of the cup. We won’t overdo it as the same frustrating errors are still there and it was against a Castleford side out on their feet, but it’s nice to put a positive spin on things after some abject performances.
That’s arguably the most impressive thing about that win too – the toughness of it. After an almost perfect first half from both sides, the errors certainly piled up after the break as fatigue came into place and Hull responded to them well. They didn’t fold but instead stuck to the task in hand and and showed a bit of resilience too. Of course there were one or two hiccups but all in all it was pleasing to see that fight and grit. The game threatened to boil over at times and that biff might not be for everyone but when it occurs you learn a lot. Every single Hull player pilled in when that niggle game into play. Even the old warhorse Gareth Ellis had a few choice words with Cas youngster Jacques O’Neill. Great to see.
You can only sit and be in awe of these rugby league players sometimes though. The physicality they play under is incredible and one player who runs every hit up like its his last is Bureta Faraimo. Sometimes that can be to his detriment but when he’s on form he’s an absolute wrecking ball. The incident with Millington had the potential to be massive too just before half time. Referee Liam Moore stopped play instantly despite Faraimo being well on his way to the try line. Not sure on the ruling there with head injuries but interestingly the game didn’t stop until the tackle was completed when Shaul went down and that was a head knock – all we want is a fair game and Moore for one is probably lucky it didn’t really matter with Tuimavave intercepting for his second try soon after. It definitely felt like a bit of justice.
Finally a few words on that playing kit and how good was it to see a Hull FC side playing in a proper black and white irregular hooped shirt, but also with white shorts and white socks. That’s about as traditional as it gets and all for a great cause too. You talk about identity though and whilst Hull had stars and V’s in Championship wins and what not, the hoops are who we are and what we’re famous for. Identity is a huge thing and should never be undervalued. Therefore it was fitting that the best kit we’ve probably had since the one it was in tribute for had a good win to go with it.
Castleford Starting XIII: 21. James Clare, 2. Derrell Olpherts, 18. Chesye Blair, 4. Michael Shenton, 5. Sosaia Feki, 3. Peter Mata’utia, 7. Danny Richardson, 8. Liam Watts, 9. Paul McShane, 16. George Griffin, 11. Oliver Holmes, 12. Mike McMeeken, 22. Jacques O’Neill. Interchange: 10. Grant Millington, 13. Adam Milner, 24. Tyla Hepi, 26. Calum Turner.
Castleford Tries: Griffin, Holmes, Mata’utia. Goals: Richardson 2/3
Hull Starting XIII: 1. Jamie Shaul, 33. Ratu Naulago, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 4. Josh Griffin, 2. Bureta Faraimo, 14. Albert Kelly, 6. Jake Connor, 29. Gareth Ellis, 16. Jordan Johnstone, 20. Brad Fash, 12. Manu Ma’u, 21. Jordan Lane, 15. Joe Cator. Interchange: 13. Ligi Sao, 10. Chris Satae, 9. Danny Houghton, 24. Mahe Fonua.
Hull Tries: Tuimavave 2, Kelly, Naulago. Goals: Connor 6/6. Drop Goal: Connor
Hull 3-2-1 Man of the Match: 3pts Carlos Tuimavave, 2pts Danny Houghton, 1pt Josh Griffin
Scoring System: 0-6 (Tuimavave), 6-6 (G.Griffin), 6-12 (Kelly), 6-18 (Tuimavave), 6-24 (Naulago), 12-24 (Holmes), 16-24 (Mata’utia), 16-26, 16-28, 16-29.
Attendance: Behind Closed Doors
Referee: Liam Moore