Winning ugly is a pretty good habit and especially right now where we’ll take any Hull FC win on offer.
The 26-23 triumph over Wakefield on Thursday night may have been clunky and predominately an eye sore with completion rates to set the rugby league perfectionists hair on fire, but it is a win and as bad as cliches go they all count. Hull’s performance was far from perfect though and against an opposition that also ran the changes fielding a side missing an abundance of key players, it was at times tough to watch. There were 27 handling errors between the two outfits with Hull completing at just 62% and Wakefield at 55%.
The end result is tasty enough despite a late Wakefield comeback but in fact the contest was full of the basic unforced mistakes we’ve come to expect from this Hull side. It was painful, particularly in the first half, and just like the reverse fixture back in March, Hull almost threw it away – not that two score leads count for much in rugby league these days. Still despite an attack that was clunky at best, and a defence that is leaky to say the least, it’s a win and a step in the right direction – although we have no clue to what it does to the league table in this absolute basket case of a year. Just nine more games to go plus the cup, not that we’re counting or longing for November and the end of the season.
Of course credit can go to Hull for building up a lead in each half but they also surrendered it once and almost did so again. After edging themselves in front at half time Hull extended that to 26-13 soon after and a comfortable looking win was unfolding, but to let the opposition back in the contest through not making touch from a penalty is about as sinister as it gets. It’s a killer that one. Wakefield scored off the next set and if a Joe Westerman offload had stuck late on they’d be another post-mortem with the pitchfork’s firmly stuck in Hull’s backside.
Papering over the cracks then? Well you can say so to an extent. Plenty will go down the road of saying this bloke was missing as was this one but Wakefield’s predicament was exactly the same and they don’t spend anything near what Hull do. It’s the same errors that are hindering this side, the same lack of know-how to build pressure, and the same lack of grit without the ball that sees Hull numerically at least having the worst defence in the competition. The problems are no secret and on this platform at least have been well-documented in recent weeks.
Not to sound all doom and gloom (although a sense of reality is needed here), there were some aspects of the Hull display that were pleasing. To win any game is always worthy of a few praises and generally to win you always get a performance or two that raises an eyebrow.
Recently there’s been the realisation that there’s a medley of senior players that are getting outshined by those on a far less chunk of the salary cap and that’s how it panned out again. Hull’s spark came from the younger contingent of players, particularly the energy beacon that is Joe Cator who was very good again whether through his hit ups, his promotion of the ball, or for his defensive workload. A boyhood Hull fan, Cator has been a breath of fresh air, as has Boothferry’s finest Jordan Lane who scored a try in each half and hasn’t really looked back since making his debut at Headingley two years ago. The Lane Train knows how to pick a line and is one of ten players who played against Wakefield who hail from the city of Hull – always pleasing for those involved in local junior development.
Elsewhere there were first appearances of the season for Cameron Scott and Connor Wynne and whilst the former struggled at times up against Reece Lyne, the latter popped up everywhere and had a hand in points. He’s got a lot about him has Wynne and he brings a lot of energy to the side. However his sin bin was a tough one – you’re allowed some wrestle after each tackle and you don’t have to jump straight off… But that’s opening a dangerous can of worms itself as Hull were definitely the biggest beneficiary of decisions from the officials – particularly those from the video referee who could have watched an entire highlights reel from Wembley 2015 (still chuckling) in the time it took to make a call. Benefitting from the on field decision, Adam Swift’s first try was dubious as was Andre Savelio’s overturned effort. Savelio himself had another eventful night. Taken off with a bang to the nose after just six minutes he had claret coming out on more than one occasion but he battled on. He owed the club that and hopefully this will be the start of an overdue sequence of games in Black and White.
The highlight of pre-season before injury, Savelio is still to make a dozen appearances and he’s been here eighteen months now. He showed some really smart touches here though, as did many others including Kieran Buchanan who is a great squad player and should never have been allowed to leave at the end of the year. In fact there were times when Hull’s shape looked a real threat, but it was hindered by a stupid error, the sort that seems embedded into us and the sort that Jake Connor seems to cop all the blame for. Don’t get us wrong Connor struggled in the halves again with wayward passes to ground, to touch, or ones knocked on by team-mates. It’s a position he’s played in dozens of times now and it’s easy to throw the book at him and say he’s not a half, but it wasn’t so long ago when he came on as a ball player in Denver and ripped the New Zealand test side apart. Is it the way Hull play? It makes you wonder as our attack isn’t exactly full of expansion nor adventure. There’s a talented player there for sure and it has to all click eventually – quick literally as our biggest ray of sunshine Albert Kelly is going back home to Australia at the end of the year. We’d bet Connor, who has a lot of weight on his shoulders, would instantly look better in St Helens’ side or even at Catalans. He can’t take all the onus here, there has to be some on the way Hull set up offensively. Everyone knows the attack needs work. Hull need work.
Andy Last admitted that after the game. He’s no mug. He knows there is plenty of improvement in Hull. Of course they showed some character to eventually see out their fifth win of the year but they’ll know more than anyone of the need to be better. Quality was certainly lacking in parts and given it was a contest between two sides in the bottom four of Super League it was no surprise. Not one that will linger in the memory bank, but a job half done at least. Next up? Knock out rugby league in the Challenge Cup and the second part of an ‘Easter’ weekend. Can’t wait, mate.
Hull Starting XIII: 25. Connor Wynne, 5. Adam Swift, 24. Mahe Fonua, 31. Cameron Scott, 2. Bureta Faraimo, 14. Albert Kelly, 6. Jake Connor, 22. Josh Bowden, 9. Danny Houghton, 20. Brad Fash, 23. Andre Savelio, 21. Jordan Lane, 15. Joe Cator. Interchange: 10. Chris Satae, 19. Masimbaashe Matongo, 30. Jack Brown, 26. Kieran Buchanan.
Hull Tries: Lane 2, Swift 2, Savelio. Goals: Connor 3/5.
Hull 3-2-1 Man of the Match: 3pts Joe Cator, 2pts Jordan Lane, 1pt Connor Wynne
Wakefield Starting XIII: 21. Max Jowitt, 5. Ben Jones-Bishop, 3. Bill Tupou, 4. Reece Lyne, 40. Innes Senior, 31. Connor Bailey, 29. Ryan Hampshire, 15. Craig Kopczak, 19. Jordan Crowther, 22. George King, 14. Jay Pitts, 36. Kelepi Tanginoa, 13. Joe Westerman. Interchange: 17. Chris Green, 23. Josh Wood, 26. Titus Gwaze, 30. Yusuf Aydin.
Wakefield Tries: Jowitt 2, Tanginoa 2. Goals: Hampshire 3/4. Drop Goal: Hampshire
Scoring System: 6-0 (Lane), 10-0 (Swift), 10-6 (Jowitt), 10-12 (Jowitt), 14-12 (Swift), 14-13, HT, 20-13 (Savelio), 26-13 (Lane), 26-19 (Tanginoa), 26-23 (Tanginoa).
Attendance: Behind closed doors (rancid, innit)
Referee: Marcus Griffiths