My good friend Kevin Deighton incredibly watched his 1,350th consecutive Hull FC match against Catalans.
That run stretches back a staggering forty years and that commitment as a supporter is probably unmatched by any. The fact that he comes back every single week and has done throughout that time span says everything, because it’s bloody tough watching this club sometimes and even now six and a half years into my own run that stretched over 200 consecutive games after last months Derby match, I’m questioning how much longer I can go on. In the grand scheme of things that’s probably a bit dramatic, but sometimes when you put a fanzine together and then sit down to put something online after another game that got away, it can sure feel like a chore. Again that’s where you appreciate your Wilf’s of this world who have been writing about our club since the Stone Age. But don’t worry, my obsession is going nowhere just yet, and not after a third consecutive Super League defeat with Catalans edging a thriller 29-34 on Sunday afternoon.
Lets stop there as the game was a genuine thriller. Proper Super League and proper drama, despite some suspect defences. Catalans deserved it, they were slick as out in that final quarter, but from an Airlie Bird point of view it’s one that got away, and we get the sinister emotions of those that walked out the KCOM Stadium after yet another home defeat. It’s the manner of it that’s so disappointing. Twice the game was won and twice Hull lost it. The frustration is there to see but lucky for us all time is on our side and there’s plenty of opportunity to do something about the current predicament. Perspective right now though is hard to find as that’s a really tough one to take.
Regardless of how good the opposition were, when you’re EIGHTEEN points up you’ve got to see the game out, and then when you face a restart after edging yourself ahead again, you’ve got to switch on. Hull didn’t. A club record-breaking Marc Sneyd drop-goal was in vain, with James Maloney grabbing the winner in the final minute. Sickening, but it sums up perfectly what it’s like to follow this club. Those lapses in concentration have been rampant as far as I can remember and you could see the athleticism of Israel Folau claiming that restart a mile off. Like a punch in the stomach. Before then Hull produced two moments of genuine quality to get themselves into a comfortable looking 28-10 lead, but then the wheels fell off. It was party atmosphere then though and you can certainly argue complacency from the Hull players crept in, who as per switched off and thought the game was won when they should have put it to bed. Catalans got a sniff and never looked back.
Throughout the game Hull with the ball were okay but without it disappointing. Whilst the attack is at times clunky and far from a fluent eye-catching brand of rugby league, Hull scored 29 points off the usual pieces of individual brilliance and that should have been enough to get the game won. The concerning issue is what this side do without the ball. For all the potency Catalans showed late on, defensively Hull have been sub-standard for ages and when it gets tough the side get rolled over far too easily. How many times do teams go bang, bang, bang and get three or four quick fire tries against us? It happens far too regularly. Last season it was every other week. This year St Helens did it. Then Wigan did it. Now Catalans have done it. Momentum is a massive thing in rugby league of course but Hull have got to find solutions to get a foothold of games when they’re under the cosh. The way we roll over is at times schoolboy stuff and some of those defensive efforts were poor, but to not credit Catalans as well would also be ludicrous. What a side they are. They ripped Hull apart late on and looked crisp in doing so.
Catalans have put together a quality roster. Sure Maloney got the winner and Folau got the ball back to do so in the first place, but it was last years acquisition Sam Tomkins that was so instrumental. Tomkins, who was lethal in the final twenty minutes after avoiding Manu Ma’u and eventually finding his nut sack, is back to his brilliant best this season and right now there’s no stopping him. It was ironic too that after a cringeworthy media frenzy about what kind of reception the bloke with the number four on his back would get, it was the old Wigan foe who copped the most stick from the Hull crowd. But didn’t he soon shut us up.
Frustrating. That is probably the right word for it too. Anger? Well it’s just turned March and we are five rounds in. Again irony plays its part as we’re in exactly the same position as we were in 2016 with two wins and three defeats, and with Super League set out the way it is, there’s no need for panic yet. But that result was so disappointing and the frustration right now is apparent. You could see it coming too. Improvement is needed, particularly defensively but also as a collective unit and that goes in attack too. Lee Radford teams are supposed to be built of stern stuff and he’s got to sort this rolling over stuff out. The final quarter was anything but stern.
With chop and change rampant, Hull welcomed back players into the side, but lost Josh Jones to illness, Adam Swift in the warm up, and then during the game were dealt the obligatory kick in the knackers with Jake Connor limping off with a knee injury. Connor for the first time this season was deployed in the centre position too and he was brilliant, setting up two early tries for Mahe Fonua who finished them well. That meant Albert Kelly got a first run out and it was great to see that running threat from stand-off with the nugget sensation having a hand or two in most of Hull’s point scoring.
As for individuals the Tongan Terminator was immense considering that was his home debut and just his second Hull appearance. The venom in his carries punched some holes and got him a deserved try, and when he tackled the opposition player sure knew about it. Ma’u was genuinely outstanding – he’s going to be such a weapon for Hull this year. The way he powered over for his try was brilliant. Chris Satae on return from suspension was also immense and carried strongly throughout, whereas Jordan Lane held his own for the full match. Elsewhere Jamie Shaul scored another outstanding try with Tuimavave again breaking through tackles to score. Water is wet and all that. Kieran Buchanan also did really well coming into the side so late and not putting a foot wrong.
With the ball Hull were adequate enough and they should have seen the game out, but in defence ordinary is putting it kind. Catalans got a roll on and the full side were helpless to prevent it. That’s a team thing. When the going gets tough and when possession goes against us this side have got to find ways of dealing with it. There’s a bit of a soft underbelly and that needs fixing up quick. The way we get spanked in such a short space of time can’t be accepted or allowed to continue. It doesn’t happen to a Wigan or a St Helens and that is the benchmark.
On the contrary the way Hull hit their purple patch in the second half is just as complimentary, but as always its short-lived and when the brakes are applied it’s like watching three or four different sides throughout the course of the eighty minutes. That’s where mentality comes into question and you would be forgiven for thinking Hull had the game won. Given what was served up during the last twenty minutes the players clearly did too.
Hull Starting XIII: 1. Jamie Shaul, 24. Mahe Fonua, 6. Jake Connor, 4. Josh Griffin, 26. Kieran Buchanan, 14. Albert Kelly, 7. Marc Sneyd, 8. Scott Taylor, 9. Danny Houghton, 13. Ligi Sao, 12. Manu Ma’u, 21. Jordan Lane, 29. Gareth Ellis. Interchange: 10. Chris Satae, 22. Josh Bowden, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 20. Brad Fash.
Hull Tries: Fonua 2, Tuimavave, Shaul, Ma’u. Goals: Sneyd 4/5. Drop Goal: Sneyd
Hull 3-2-1 Man of the Match: 3pts Manu Ma’u, 2pts Chris Satae, 1pt Albert Kelly
Catalans Starting XIII: 29. Sam Tomkins, 5. Fouad Yaha, 4. Israel Folau, 3. Samisoni Langi, 2. Lewis Tierney, 6. James Maloney, 7. Josh Drinkwater, 14. Julian Bousquet, 9. Michael McIllorum, 8. Remi Casty, 17. Benjamin Jullien, 11. Matt Whitley, 13. Benjamin Garcia. Interchange: 21. Paul Seguier, 23. Antoni Maria, 24. Jason Baitieri, 28. Sam Kasiano.
Catalans Tries: Jullien 2, Yaha, Drinkwater, Langi, Maloney. Goals: Maloney 4/5
Scoring System: 4-0, 4-4, 4-10, 10-10, 16-10, 22-10, 28-10, 28-16, 28-22, 28-28, 29-28, 29-34
Referee: Gareth Hewer