If pre-season is about executing plays from the training ground, showing up well in defence, and getting minutes into those that need them, then Hull FC got exactly what they wanted against London.
The end result of 20-6 in the grand scheme of things is irrelevant, but there’s definitely a relevance to some of the attacking shape and offloads that we saw in the first half, and then the stern defence from the youngsters in the second. The latter is nothing new as we saw a real desire to defend at Halifax last week, but this week what Hull did with the ball was miles better (at least in the first half), and that ultimately ties in with the personnel that were playing. Lee Radford opted to start with a strong team with three new signings taking the field. Two of them, Chris Satae and Mahe Fonua we know of, but it was the relatively unknown quantity Ligi Sao that really impressed.
The forward pack for this season is embedded in potency and we saw some tendencies here that will become frequent throughout the year. Offloads for a start. Sao, playing at prop, was full of them, providing some second phase attack, as well as some punch that brought him a deserved debut try. Satae was good too. He showed signs in his four game cameo last season, and he carried that on here.
Fonua, who looks like an old school WWE fighter with his crazy mullet and bulky body, played around thirty minutes in his favoured centre position. Alongside Bureta Faraimo (who was on the field much longer), the duo were full of power, enthusiasm and metre making as they combined on the right edge. On the other side Carlos Tuimavave and Ratu Naulago got a run out together, with the latter finishing two tries to stake his claim. As far as the three-quarter conundrum goes it remains a nightmare. Absolutely full of quality and there’s still Adam Swift and Jake Connor to come yet. What a position to be in.
All in all it was an encouraging performance. Sure it’s a pre-season friendly but it gives an indication of how Hull are going to play. This team will be a much better attacking side this year. Of course there were a few errors and not everything came off, but what did looked crisp and direct. Hull should be great to watch this year. That’s not all necessarily based on what we saw here either as it’s naive to jump to conclusions on a January afternoon, but more the evaluation of the squad Radford has assembled and the quality amongst it.
The whole pack had a desire to promote the ball even in a stop start game full of penalties. Feeding off that, Marc Sneyd, Albert Kelly and Jamie Shaul linked in with some nice touches and utilised the threats from all over the field. There’s power and pace in abundance. A lot of that comes in the form of Josh Griffin alone who continued to make yards for fun in his new back row position. How long he’ll continue to play there is anyone’s guess but like many others it was certainly promising. The same can be said of Jack Brown who always looks the part.
It’s such a competitive squad in 2020 with many selection dilemmas, but if we’re talking about places for Headingley in three weeks time then Joe Cator put himself in the shop window. The 21-year-old played the majority of the game at hooker and also had one stint in the middle. They’ll be scepticism of course to a forward playing at nine after the Washbrook/Hadley experiments but that was a decent audition. It’ll be interesting to see if it can be replicated against top flight opposition, should Danny Houghton not make the opener.
Amongst a mobile pack last weeks biggest positive Andre Savelio too looked fresh and when stood next to Satae you realise how big and intimidating he is in his own right. Savelio drove the ball in strongly, and passed when required, playing a hefty amounts of minutes for the second week running. It’s exactly what he needs and hopefully now all those injury troubles are firmly behind him. Somewhat the forgotten man that quality has always been there and was the main reason Hull threw a three year deal his way to sign from Brisbane last year. What we’ve seen so far is certainly promising.
Eldon Myers got Hull’s fourth and final try just before half time. The trialist has done little wrong so far and at this rate looks likely for a stint in the reserves. That was it for point-scoring too. As always in friendlies the interchanges came frequently and in the second half Hull started to field a lot of their youngsters. For the promise the first half team showed with the ball it was the defence of those young men after the break that was a real highlight. Just like at Halifax some possession was cheaply coughed up, but the resilience they showed to dig in and keep their line intact after was impressive.
Hull repelled London’s attack on numerous occasions and it’s worth pointing out too that they are no mugs who will be right up there challenging for a quick return to Super League. London seemed to go left to right a lot too and Cameron Scott and Kieran Buchanan in particular dealt with everything thrown at them. It was rough at times and there were on occasion some shots that went beyond the games legalities, but none of those young lads backed down.
From a Hull perspective there was a lot to be positive about on a heavy pitch that tore up as the game went on. Coming through with a clean bill of heath too is great news, with just the one game to go at Batley before the proper stuff starts. Manu Ma’u time? Let’s hope so.
Hull Starting XIII: Jamie Shaul, Bureta Faraimo, Mahe Fonua, Carlos Tuimavave, Ratu Naulago, Albert Kelly, Marc Sneyd, Chris Satae, Joe Cator, Ligi Sao, Josh Griffin, Jordan Lane, Andre Savelio.
Interchange: Masimbaashe Matongo, Brad Fash, Kieran Buchanan, Jack Brown, Jack Sanderson, Charlie Patterson-Lund, Eldon Myers, Ben McNamara, Elliot Windley, Jacob Hookem.
Hull Tries: Naulago 2, Sao, Myers. Goals: Sneyd 2/4
London Starting XIII: Olly Ashall-Bolt, Touyo Egodo, Jacob Ogden, Will Lovell, Kieran Dixon; James Meadows, Cory Aston; Eddie Battye, Matty Fozard, Greg Richards; Rhys Curran, Josh Walters; Dan Hindmarsh.
Interchange: Morgan Smith, Robert Butler, Sadiq Adebiyi, Olsi Krasniqi, Dan Norman, Sam Davis, Rian Horsman, Josh Hodson.
Scoring System: 4-0, 4-6, 8-6, 14-6, 20-6