Hull FC, Super League and 2020 are making all the right noises right now. We’ve had a flurry of huge names enter our competition and it needed something big to start it all off. A sold out double-header at Headingley broadcasted live on Sky Sports was just that, with a thoroughly dominant Airlie Birds performance for the crowd and watching TV audience to cherish. As far as opening day displays go that was excellent. Take a bow, lads.
Recording an impressive end result of 30-4 for a fourth consecutive win over Leeds and the biggest at the clubs least favourite hunting ground in 36-years is a more than satisfactory start, especially when you consider that before August came last season Hull were searching for their first win here in twelve bloody long years. The tide is turning and you just love to see it. Richard Agar’s Whinos were second best all over the place, with the Black and Whites giving a firm indication to the force they should be this year. In fact they never looked like losing on an opening round where Wigan and Warrington played out a cracker, Toronto made their top flight debut, and St Helens put 48 on Salford without getting out of first gear.
Hull’s display was just superb. The first of many. Everything about them was class, from the supremacy of the forward pack to the ability to post points. Pace and power. Physicality. Offloads. The lot. It was all brilliant. It was all expected too. There is loads of hype around Hull at the moment because we all know how good this team can be, there’s far too much quality amongst it to not to create a few dents in the competition, but Hull were also intelligent and managed the game superbly. They adapted when it was necessary; negotiating a dry turf to heavy rain in the second half following a kit swap by the home side after an abundance of pyrotechnics during the half time break. What the hell was all that about? Even Craig Sand-In-My-Crack didn’t pull out that card. Kit clash? Strewth, mate. It didn’t matter though. Hull continued to batter Leeds in every department, the Black and Whites were on top from pretty much the word go in a domineering performance, and didn’t hold back with or without the ball.
A proper combined effort, the togetherness of that team unit was evident and great to see. The new Polynesian brotherhood mixed with a contingent of fresh English talent. It’s just like the start of 2016 with Frank the Tank, Sika Manu and co. Fist pumps. Camaraderie. Standing up for each other and working together to keep that try line in tact. Defence. Pride. There was loads of it and the lads bounced off each other. Hull were just in complete control. With the ball they were conservative when required and mobile when the tails were up. The two met in the middle and when an opportunity arose it was rarely wasted. That was impressive. The offload game was superb, we knew it would be, but the completion rate matched the effort and went a long way towards Hull dictating the game on their terms. Professional. Matured.
Everyone played a part too and there was some proper quality on show, from the Fijian Flyer Ratu Naulago, to a matured Jake Connor half back performance, to a barnstorming stint from Andre Savelio. The latter was an absolute monster when he came on, and ensured there was no let up with his strong running and offload game. Having a hand in two tries, his performance was absolutely no surprise either. Savelio was bang at it in the three pre-season games. A right baller, his form and fitness is the biggest positive of the year so far, and the biggest compliment you can give him is that the intensity of the middle never dropped when he came on. That’s the difference. The starting pack, high on pre-workout and with the ability to make most grown men soil their pants, set the platform and the rest followed on. There was no respite for Leeds and once they fatigued the likes of Jamie Shaul, who probed everywhere and was nothing short of outstanding from full back, finished them off.
At hooker Jordan Johnstone was also brilliant coming in for Danny Houghton. On his club debut too. The Cumbrian mixed his game up well. He was really impressive, marshalling his forwards around the field. On that front Scott Taylor and Ligi Sao started the game superbly, whilst the opening stint from Gareth Ellis was everything you could imagine from a 38-year old legend that still gets a sheer satisfaction in bending an opposition player in half. What a bloke. A proper gent off the field too. Added to Savelio, there were significant contributions off the bench from man mountain Chris Satae and try-scorer Josh Bowden, and on the edges there was further potency in Manu Ma’u and Josh Jones, who both showed glimpses of the tackle breaking machines they’ll be this year. They were everywhere and they caused Leeds tuns of problems – the metres after contact were rampant and all those boys looked mean and lean with the intent and know how to punch some holes in the Leeds defence.
Intimidating, the pack was a class above and the potency of it was impossible for the home side to handle, but Hull also boast a tremendous back line, with Carlos Tuimavave, who got the opening try after his wingers superb break, and Josh Griffin picking up from where they left off last season. Missing the opener, there’s still Albert Kelly, Danny Houghton, Adam Swift, and Mahe Fonua to come in as well. Madness. This is a proper squad that can be freshened up when desired and there’s no messing about with expectation. Adam Pearson has already come out and said anything less than a Grand Final appearance will be considered failure. Love the ambition. And with names like Naulago that dream could come to fruition. His two tries were well finished, but his defence was on point and his break to set up Tuimavave was absolutely devastating. He’s been a right find, a proper larker who came from absolutely nowhere but who is thriving in this sport alongside his military duties. There’s no substitute for speed, Shaul has it in abundance too and it makes Hull a massive threat. The power of the facial hair. Still a baby-faced assassin though. His cut-out pass assist for Naulago’s second try was out of the top draw, and he scored a much deserved one himself late on after a fine sequence of offloads. Champagne stuff.
On the left flank Griffin was sublime and fully deserves his place right now. He’s full of power, but there’s enough speed in the legs right now to comfortable play in the backs. When that transition to the forwards will come who knows but it’s certainly a conundrum for Lee Radford, who got everything bob on this weekend. Undoubtedly still the Dadders. Griffin assured the left edge with Jones and Faraimo and defensively they were assertive and solid. Tuimavave was Tuimavave. It’s about time he got the credit he deserves. Constantly brilliant every week.
Hull never let up. They bossed the first half with a hat-trick of tries with two more adding the gloss after the break. The scoreboard kept ticking and pressure was always brought on, even if just from a repeat set of six or kicking the ball into the corners. Marc Sneyd really was magic there. His game management is superb and whilst he missed three kicks at goal, he still managed five successes to take him over 500 for the club, and into ninth place on the all time charts after leapfrogging Paul Eastwood. That pressure from Sneyd brought Leeds errors, it must be said (hilariously so) that they looked a shadow of their former selves but they weren’t given an inch. They were clinging on for the majority and were taken to the cleaners once a professional and hardworking Hull side began to flex their muscles.
A proper gulf in class, and we’ve not been able to say that much over the past few years, at least this way around, but although it’s just the one swallow and we need the flock to arrive in the Autumn, we like it and long may it continue. 2020 is up and running, Hull FC are back with a bang, Leeds are put in their place, and the Derby is up next. Bring it on.
Leeds Starting XIII: 1. Jack Walker, 3. Harry Newman, 15. Liam Sutcliffe, 4. Konrad Hurrell, 5. Ash Handley, 6. Robert Lui, 7. Luke Gale, 19. Mikolaj Oledzki, 14. Brad Dwyer, 10. Matt Prior, 12. Rhyse Martin, 13. Stevie Ward, 22. Cameron Smith. Interchange: 16. Richie Myler, 25. James Donaldson, 11. Alex Mellor, 17. Adam Cuthbertson.
Leeds Tries: Handley. Goals: Martin 0/1
Hull Starting XIII: 1. Jamie Shaul, 33. Ratu Naulago, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 4. Josh Griffin, 2. Bureta Faraimo, 6. Jake Connor, 7. Marc Sneyd, 8. Scott Taylor, 16. Jordan Johnstone, 13. Ligi Sao, 12. Manu Ma’u, 11. Josh Jones, 29. Gareth Ellis. Interchange: 10. Chris Satae, 23. Andre Savelio, 22. Josh Bowden, 21. Jordan Lane.
Hull Tries: Tuimavave, Naulago 2, Bowden, Shaul. Goals: Sneyd 5/8
Hull 3-2-1 Man of the Match: 3pts Andre Savelio, 2pts Jamie Shaul, 1pt Ratu Naulago
Scoring System: 0-2, 0-6, 0-10, 0-16, 0-18, 0-20, 0-24, 4-24, 4-30
Referee: Ben Thaler