It’s about time we stopped putting Hull FC and the top four in the same sentence as this side is a million miles away from sitting amongst the pinnacle of Super League and the latest defeat to Salford, a 22-28 loss at Warrington’s Halliwell Jones Stadium, only confirms that.
All the sinister aspects of Hull came into play again, the clunky attack, the key errors, the lack of leadership, and then the abysmal defence. It’s not good enough and leaves the side with seven defeats from a dozen Super League games and in the bottom four places of the competition once again. Talk about another false down in this basket case of a season which peaked at Headingley on the opening night and has been a downward spiral ever since.
Following the whimper in the cup last week, Hull showed plenty of endeavour and it wasn’t like they threw the towel in like during some of the dross we’ve witnessed this season, but the reality is that for all the effort on Thursday night, this side are a complete contrast to what the owner promised them to be at the start of the year. Whilst there are flashes of what must happen on the training ground every week, most of Hull’s possession is clunky at best. The way this side attack in the opposition twenty is pathetic and undoes all the good yardage before it, and once the errors come into play the heads drop and the defence goes wayward. It’s a pattern that repeats itself time and time again, even when Hull get themselves back into the contest, but then it only seems to get worse and worse. The manner of which the majority of tries are conceded rarely sits well, and most of them come on the back of Hull errors or penalties given away. This Hull side shoot themselves in the foot time and time again and here against Salford it was no different.
However things were actually looking good for Hull early on. They got themselves into a lead, had all the decent ball, all the favourable field position, in fact Salford couldn’t get out of their own twenty at one point, but as soon as the Red Devils got a sniff, that was that. The first time Salford got any favourable territory they came back with points and if that doesn’t expose the soft underbelly within the Hull side these days then nothing will. One try soon became three and after some solid if not spectacular work from Hull early on where the shape at times wasn’t half bad, they had nothing to show for it. Mentally that must have affected them as the ease at which Salford got themselves back into the game was self-explanatory and once they got the lead themselves they were never in serious danger of relinquishing it. In fact Salford’s purple patch of scoring showed Hull’s fragile defence for what it is – soft, particularly on the right edge and on their own goal-line where it borders the embarrassing. There is no leadership on show, players defend as individuals, they go into their shells, and you know what’s coming. That’s the worst thing about it all. Nothing is a surprise now.
Excuses will come into play as always, but excuses are usually told without any thought process to the opposition who also had this bloke out, this one jabbed up and so on. That’s not to mention the fact that this particular opposition don’t spend anywhere near what Hull do on the salary cap either, but that shows what an incredible job Ian Watson does year on year to get results, and also shows some of Hull’s naivety too. Salford, for the third time in the row in this fixture, were far superior and well worth their win. They punch well above their weight, have a squad filled with what some would consider journeymen and misfits compared to Hull’s side of ‘stars’ but they play some great stuff, have done the double over Hull now, and also have a cup semi-final to contend with. What a contrast.
With Marc Sneyd pulling out due to covid symptoms, Hull played the game with two centres in Jake Connor and Carlos Tuimavave as the half backs and despite another defensive shit show from all, the criticism will come to the former for what he did, or more to the point what he didn’t do with the ball. It was a tough night for Tuimavave who gave away a few penalties and rarely seemed comfortable, but there were moments when you think it might be finally clicking for Connor, for instance that brilliant pass to Jordan Lane who raced away to score an excellent try, but then it’s all un-done with that no-look pass that Ligi Sao puts to ground or the kick out on the full late on that leaves us all pulling our hair out again. But that is Connor in a nutshell – rocks and diamonds. He’s just added more pressure on himself this year for his desire to play in the halves, and whilst he isn’t performing to his upmost capability, he’s going to cop it whether he likes it or not.
It’s perhaps hard on Connor given he actually had a hand in three of Hull’s tries, but that kick to the corner, that chip, or that bomb downfield, has to be on a sixpence. It wasn’t just that one kick that went wayward either and it makes the world of difference. It dictates were your opposition start their sets for one and unless your name is Richard Whiting who put the ball under his jersey time and time again to do the hard yards, no-one wants that bastard first carry coming out of devil’s corner. Instead Salford were let off when they should have been put under the cosh and after an encouraging start from the forwards in particular, Hull should have been pounding on the door. Instead of looking at an ominous battle ahead, the ‘away’ side found themselves in the lead at half time and in many ways that sums up Hull’s year. That’s not to pinpoint everything on Connor too who is far from the biggest liability in the side, but as is the norm with Hull halves when things don’t go to plan they get most of the stick.
On the contrary Tui Lolohea and Kevin Brown were both brilliant for Salford. That shows itself what a good attacking structure can do to the performances of your halves and this is where Hull’s structures show for what they are – hopeless. Connor doesn’t have the same beneficiary and yet whilst his displays are prone to error, they are nothing compared to the out of form Mahe Fonua who has the distinction of being that biggest liability and doesn’t the truth hurt. A cult hero in his first spell at Hull yet Fonua has been anything but since returning from Wests Tigers. He’s got a lot to prove given the cap situation and his presumed hefty wage bill, but for whatever reason it just isn’t happening for him, every game you just know the errors will come, and even in his favoured centre position with actual centre Cameron Scott on the wing outside him, that was the story again.
It all gets under your skin but despite another defeat where the overall performance and result wasn’t good enough, they were a handful of individual displays that are worthy of avoiding the pitchforks. Josh Griffin continues to run through brick walls, Bureta Faraimo was a wrecking ball on the left wing and Ligi Sao impressed in the middle. Lane deserves another mention just for that try alone – it was absolutely brilliant and that’s the sort of line he runs at least half a dozen times a game. Never mind his lack of size (Liam Farrell anyone?), Lane carries the ball well and never lets Hull down. The speed he showed too creates some optimism if his half fancies sliding him through a gap like that again. Whilst speaking about meat pies Jamie Shaul also got his 99th and 100th Hull tries in vain. Both were easy on the eye and it’s a great achievement despite the hindrance of another head knock. Andre Savelio was back amongst the action too and got over for a well worked try, but those brighter moments didn’t come often enough and were spoiled by ineffective ends to sets and especially as the game matured.
Despite a promising start where the forwards got on top, positives again are few and far between, and after moaning about individuals, weak defence and another poor showing were the wheels fall off, we’re at the stage where we’ve been for the last few weeks, and that’s longing for the season to end after another failed attempt to rescue a result. 2020 has been a chore for the most part and it’s not been made easier watching on tele which just isn’t the same as being there. In fact it’s been another false pretence from Hull FC, a solid return to mediocrity after one round of promise, and with corona still lurking about to the point where it’s pushed AP’s toys out of the pram again, you’d be forgiven for thinking the worst is yet to come. Better make it a double.
Hull Starting XIII: 1. Jamie Shaul, 31. Cameron Scott, 24. Mahe Fonua, 4. Josh Griffin, 2. Bureta Faraimo, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 6. Jake Connor, 10. Chris Satae, 9. Danny Houghton, 22. Josh Bowden, 12. Manu Ma’u, 21. Jordan Lane, 13. Ligi Sao. Interchange: 15. Joe Cator, 20. Brad Fash, 23. Andre Savelio, 30. Jack Brown.
Hull Tries: Shaul 2, Savelio, Lane. Goals: Connor 3/4
Hull 3-2-1 Man of the Match: 3pts Josh Griffin, 2pts Jordan Lane, 1pt Ligi Sao
Salford: 4. Dan Sarginson, 5. Krisnan Inu, 3. Kris Welham, 32. Kallum Watkins, 22. Rhys Williams, 6. Tui Lolohea, 7. Kevin Brown, 10. Gil Dudson, 9. Joey Lussick, 17. Luke Yates, 29. Oliver Roberts, 26. Jack Ormondroyd, 19. Mark Flanagan. Interchange: 12. Pauli Pauli, 14. Sebastine Ikahihifo, 16. Greg Burke, 30. Andy Ackers.
Salford Tries: Inu 2, Lussick, Williams, Ackers. Goals: Inu 4/5
Salford Sin Bin: Sarginson – direct contact to the head
Scoring System: 6-0, 6-6, 12-6, 12-12, 12-18, 12-22, 16-22, 16-28, 22-28
Attendance: Behind Closed Doors
Referee: Chris Kendall