It’s cold. It’s raining. It’s hardly inspiring. That’s most pre-season games in a nutshell. This one was one to forget as the younger contingent of Hull FC’s squad were out fought 18-10 by a tough and well-drilled Halifax side.
Forget it we will. Games like this are proper tedious. Occasionally you stuff your biggest rivals by sixty points but more than most friendly match ups are dull but physical affairs. On that note, and whilst it wasn’t the prettiest picture for the crowd, head coach Lee Radford probably got exactly what he wanted.
Last year a similar crop of players stuffed Doncaster and you could argue that they’ll get more out of this narrow defeat than they did during that big win last year. This Hull side turned the ball over too much and had to therefore dig deep and defend their line. Eventually Halifax turned that pressure into points, but they had to work for it. They’re a good side, led by the ultimate dad bod physique of Scott Murrell, and backed by a very vocal set of supporters. Gerrom onside. Come on ref. Bloody hell. You get the picture. You know the cliches. Welcome back to rugby league. Though Jake Connor does hail from these parts. He likes his verbals as well. Moving on.
Thanks to the pluckiness of Halifax, Hull couldn’t get going and found ground tough to come by. They were second best especially with their shape and structure. They had some moments though. Ratu Naulago came to Hull from the army last year and never looked back. The latest armed forces recruit comes from the navy. He’s called Eldon Myers and he put in a shift, playing the full game at left centre and coming up with a few big plays including an eye catching break in the first half. Myers is a big lad, but he’s fit as a fiddle too, and he was right up there with Hull’s best of the day.
Jack Sanderson also caught the eye when he came on at fullback, whilst Brad Fash and Jack Brown, both of whoms chest circumferences are nearly as wide as they are tall, impressed. It was actually Sanderson’s first game in twelve months having injured his shoulder last year. His contract expired at the end of 2019 but he’s been kept on over pre-season and did his chances of a future Reserves deal no harm. His part in Charlie Patterson-Lund’s, another coming back from a long-term injury, try really was superb, showing some pace and a decent passing option to go with it.
The most pleasing aspect of the day though was the minutes into Andre Savelio’s engine. That’s what it’s all about and make no mistake Savelio when fit and in form is quality and we started to see that last year before his foot injury. He played around an hour at Halifax with stints in both the back row and in the middle. He ran some good lines and poked his nose through the defence. It’s great to have him back. Another hour against London next week, then Batley and so on and you have a player that should be making a claim for a place for the Super League opener at Leeds. That’ll be the goal. Savelio was a crafty bit of business and after a torrid run of injuries he deserves some luck. He was decent here too.
Hull also gave run outs to two new signings in Joe Cator and Jordan Johnstone. There was limited opportunity to shine in attack but the Cumbrian hooker was quick out the blocks and looked to play. Be interesting to see how he goes again next week. There was a welcome return to playing for Matty Dawson-Jones after eleven months out, but like Naulago and Charlie Graham after, he didn’t see much of the ball. There were a few cross field shifts but the passing was too slow and the wingers therefore had to cut back inside. Hull looked better when they hit their back rowers. With the ball there was, an Albert Kelly break or two aside, little to no zip but again credit goes to Halifax. They really did make life difficult. They tested Hull both with and without the ball and only some stern defence prevented a bigger score-line.
Picking a predominately inexperienced side, it was a day for the youth. Ben McNamara was given a late cameo, as was half back Jacob Hookem who managed to get himself a debut try late on. Tom Goulding, a prop who is the son of St Helens legend Bobbie Goulding, also featured. It was a very young side and the naivety of youth told at times, with errors and the need for some rugby intelligence notable. Some pessimism could creep in with the cheap turnover and whilst some of it was frustrating and hardly ideal, it was a side that will have learned a thing or two. It’s also pre-season and hardly a time to get the pitchforks out, but that goes without saying.
Respect goes to Halifax. Like the majority of pre-season friendlies there was too much chop and change and it’s hard to get going when that happens. What you can say though is those young Hull lads showed bottle. That was pleasing. Whilst some quality with the ball was lacking some individuals impressed, rolled their sleeves up and dug in defensively. They were just beaten by a few wise heads on old shoulders. They needed some experience alongside them, a bit more you imagine will be given against London next week. If you’re going, bring thermals and bovril. That was a little nippy, it wasn’t great either, but at least the rugby is back.
Halifax Starting XIII: Reece Chapman-Smith, James Saltonstall, James Woodburn-Hall, Ed Barber, Conor McGrath, Scott Murrell, Tom Gilmore, Dan Fleming, Keal Carlile, Elliot Morris, Matt Garside, Paul Brearley, Kevin Larroyer.
Interchange: Curtis Davies, Ben Kavanagh, Jacob Fairbank, Will Calcott, Fraser Stroud, Alfie Copley, Travis Corion.
Halifax Tries: Woodburn-Hall, Brearley, Corion. Goals: Gilmore 1/1, Tyrer 2/2
Hull Starting XIII: Connor Wynne, Matty Dawson-Jones, Eldon Myers, Kieran Buchanan, Ratu Naulago, Albert Kelly, Liam Harris, Masimbaashe Matongo, Joe Cator, Jack Brown, Andre Savelio, Josh Griffin, Brad Fash.
Interchange: Lewis Bienek, Charlie Graham, Tom Goulding, Jordan Johnstone, Jordan Lane, Jacob Hookem, Ben McNamara, Charlie Patterson-Lund, Jack Sanderson, Cameron Scott.
Hull Tries: Patterson-Lund, Hookem. Goals: Harris 1/1, Sanderson 0/1
Scoring System: 6-0, 6-6, 12-6, 18-6, 18-10
A footnote – best wishes to Ben Kavanagh who was stretchered off with a nasty looking hip injury in the first half.