That was mental, in fact that was sheer madness at times as Hull FC eventually got through a match they won, lost, then won again, beating Castleford 32-28 on Thursday night.
Wheldon Road with its minuscule pitch rarely disappoints, and whilst that game featured a far from perfect Hull FC performance, it was absolutely bonkers and full of drama. We are all sat at home these days enduring all this behind closed doors bullshit and cursing Boris, but the game had everything – we were laughing, shouting, cheering and ranting all in the space of eighty minutes. It was farcical yet brilliant, amateur yet quality, frustrating yet reliving, with a late victory grasped from the jaws of defeat.
Hull through their own insecurity to hold onto a lead had to dig deep on more than one occasion and the two points, especially with the Sky cameras putting Daryl Powell’s miserable yet hilarious whining face on screen every thirty seconds, are pretty sweet. Hull had to really graft for those points too. The errors were ridiculous yet again and at one point it was a miracle when a set was actually completed. Defensively, and despite holding out their goal-line on a handful of occasions, Hull were also questionable, particularly on the edges as the lead changed hands over and over again. It was, or so we thought, de-ja-vu when Michael Shenton scored to edge Castleford ahead late on, but yet again Marc Sneyd pulled a play out of his backside to rescue a win for the Hull side.
Returning to the mix after being precautionary left out in defeat to Salford last week, it was vintage Sneyd. The play with Jake Connor to win the game was brilliant and his general kicking and influence on the Hull side was apparent throughout. However, the end result should have been much more comfortable but that’s not the Hull way of doing things these days, and to fit in with this crazy unorthodox season, the Airlie Birds sure made it hard for themselves. Though given the course of the past two and a half years it wasn’t a surprise to see Hull losing a game they seemed to have the measure of. That’s the norm now. The way points are leaked remains a worry but on the contrary finding ways to win is equally as pleasing and especially in a game that threatened to boil over every other five minutes.
A bit of credit where it’s due then. Up the shithousing Black and Whites. Amongst Castleford’s rancid lack of discipline, constant niggle, and general be a dickhead policy, Hull showed some grit and also had a bit of overdue mongrel about them. The game was both scrappy and a right soap opera at times between two struggling sides, and was best summed up in the first half after one of Castleford’s numerous late hits saw half the two teams in a scuffle in back play, and the other half watching Hull play on as Jordan Johnstone picked up his first try for the club. Cheers lads. Prime Hull and District, that. Powell was spewing. Strewth, mate. But you’ve got to play to the whistle. Hull did and reaped the reward.
Johnstone at hooker again came up with some neat touches and whilst on a stats rampage Cameron Scott, Chris Satae, who was impressive all the way through a big powerful stint, and Ben McNamara on debut all got their first tries for the club. McNamara, just eighteen years old and the 1161st player to play for Hull, was composed for all of the 65 minutes he was on the field. He supported Connor well to score his try and there’s plenty more in his locker. He’s a good lad with a great attitude and he wasn’t fazed by anything.
Hull did well to keep their heads to be honest. The late hits by Castleford were ridiculous, unnecessary even, and the penalty count being 10-0 in Hull’s favour at one point wasn’t even obscure. Castleford were a joke. Not that Powell will obtain from his recent referee bashing but there seems to be a common denominator here. Don’t envy referee Tom Grant there, or any of the officials on any given week for that matter. They can’t win and whilst it’s easy to say this after a win, if Hull ended up losing that game then they would have only had themselves to blame.
Never in doubt though, was it… Nah, for all the positives that come with victory it wasn’t perfect by any stretch and even some of the positives expose the flaws within the Hull side. For instance Jake Connor. Wow. All this persistence of trying to be a half and whilst there’s been glimpses however few and far between you put him out wide and he’s a completely different class. Sure it’s the centre spot where those exploits usually come to the fore, but here at fullback he was up there with the best of the lot and seemed to enjoy himself. He had the most influence that’s for sure, with key roles in tries for Johnstone, McNamara and Scott not to mention getting the winner himself.
Connor at fullback came about after Kieran Buchanan went off with a head knock after just fifteen minutes, to then pass his assessment only to then cop a thigh strain and miss the rest of the game. Madness. Like the constant benching of Sao who with his Polynesian chum Satae turned the game in the first half, it was another bizarre selection call from Andy Last to play Buchanan at the back though and having struggled early on he could have been hung out to dry if not for the chain of events that unfolded. Thankfully for Hull both Connor and young McNamara looked the part with no Jamie Shaul who pulled up with an Achilles problem in the team run. On that front an ill Manu Ma’u didn’t make the seventeen either and Hull were left again to trust big minutes into young Jordan Lane and Andre Savelio.
Not to turn it into another pissing contest though. Powell loves them. He loves telling you who he had missing and who has built up a run of games in a short space of time when every other team is in the same situation trying to forfil the contractual obligations before drawing a line under this year and hibernating for the winter. He’s got a siege mentality where it’s literally anything but his fault and we all know that attitude stems from a bloke under pressure.
Hull had the luxury of fielding Scott Taylor for the first time since March and whilst he looked like his old self at times driving the ball in with some good contacts, it’s that presence he brings to the side, that leadership which is so valuable. Elsewhere Carlos Tuimavave was back to old tricks in the centre and Bureta Faraimo on the left wing was impressive yet again. When you talk yardage the Kiwi-American island hopping powerhouse is always amongst the thick of it, yet he hasn’t scored a single try this year. To an extent that’s everything summed up with Hull’s attack in a nutshell – when’s the last time a Hull winger got a walk in? Yardage isn’t a problem, but the structures and execution near the opposition line are. Hull rely on individual quality to get them over. It’s been the case for a couple of years at least now and usually comes in the form of an Albert Kelly.
The win over Castleford means some will ignore those problems altogether, at least for a week or two, but they haven’t gone anywhere. The same errors in both structure and lack of execution near the opposition line is nothing new, and the ease at which the opposition can capitalise and get back into the game still makes us queasy. Sadly a win against a mid-table Castleford side set on cheap shots doesn’t change any of that. In all honesty they were shocking, yet they still had enough about them to lead Hull with four minutes to go. Make of that what you will.
Still despite a questionable set of structures that have been in place long before Last took the helm, Hull’s tries were easy on the eye and in fact the Sneyd/Connor winner was an absolute belter of a play, a right fist pump moment in a season of little to savour, and after surrendering the lead on two occasions to fight back and ensure we are talking about a win after a ballsy and composed swing of the best left boot there is or has ever been, is welcome. There was a bit of character shown to eventually get over the line after a few setbacks and you can’t grumble too much at that.
It should have been easier to see out, but they all count and it’ll do. Obviously there is still a big gulf in class between the top three of Super League and Hull right now, but here at least the latter were better on the night against a poor Castleford team and that, along with Powell’s dummy being spat out yet again, is what matters. It doesn’t count for much, but it’s better than another defeat and ultimately it’s one step closer to finishing the season. Get in.
Castleford Starting XIII: 21. James Clare, 35. Jack Sanderson, 18. Cheyse Blair, 4. Michael Shenton, 25. Greg Eden, 34. Gareth O’Brien, 9. Paul McShane, 16. George Griffin, 13. Adam Milner, 24. Tyla Hepi, 20. Junior Moors, 12. Mark McMeeken, 10. Grant Millington. Interchange: 14. Nathan Massey, 22. Jacques O’Neill, 23. Matt Cook, 27. Lewis Peachey.
Castleford Tries: McMeeken 2, Eden, Millington, Shenton. Goals: O’Brien 4/5
Castleford Sin Bin: Cook
Hull Starting XIII: 26. Kieran Buchanan, 31. Cameron Scott, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 24. Mahe Fonua, 2. Bureta Faraimo, 6. Jake Connor, 7. Marc Sneyd, 8. Scott Taylor, 9. Danny Houghton, 22. Josh Bowden, 23. Andre Savelio, 21. Jordan Lane, 15. Joe Cator. Interchange: 10. Chris Satae, 13. Ligi Sao, 20. Brad Fash, 35. Ben McNamara.
Hull Tries: Scott, Johnstone, Satae, McNamara, Connor. Goals: Sneyd 6/7
Hull 3-2-1 Man of the Match: 3pts Marc Sneyd, 2pts Jake Connor, 1pt Carlos Tuimavave
Scoring System: 0-6 (Scott), 6-6 (McMeeken), 12-6 (Eden), 12-12 (Johnstone), 12-14, HT, 12-20 (Satae), 16-20 (Millington), 16-26 (McNamara), 22-26 (McMeeken), 28-26 (Shenton), 28-32 (Connor).
Attendance: Behind closed doors
Referee: Tom Grant