This Hull FC team has no boundaries. Consistently inconsistent, Jekyll and Hyde, they are the John Terry of Super League, stealing the spotlight with the last orders and probably pulling the bird too. They frustrate the hell out of you one week then make you want to shag them the next.
From being in Super League wilderness just a couple of short months ago, to now being just one game away from a Grand Final on home turf, is nothing short of bat shit crazy and the finish this bonkers season unconditionally deserves, but it shows just how quick things can change, and why all our opinions go from optimistic to pessimistic sometimes on the turn of a sixpence. It is an emotional rollercoaster. It always has been.
That though was the Hull FC we all know and love. Where have they been? God only knows, but that was brilliant, and in a winner takes all situation too, as the Airlie Bird boys in Black and White put in a sensational performance to beat Warrington 27-14 in their own back yard.
Screaming at the tele, that was limbs in the living room – if only we the supporters were there in that away end…Old Faithful will have been belting out until every last hair on the spine stood up. It would have been a night to cherish, one for the ages in the craziest season in living memory. That there is the only sour note, that this is 2020 with games behind closed doors and the rest of the country locked down and combined to the sofa…again. Mental times. Cast your mind away from that though, get the kettle on, and revel in some long overdue glory. Hull, from 1-17, to Marc Sneyd, the man for the big occasion, to Manu Ma’u the Tongan Terminator, to Jake Connor at fullback, to Bureta Faraimo running down the left wing, were phenomenal.
Hull were not even supposed to be in the play-offs, but they absolutely took the piss out of Warrington, who stood out as second best the longer the game went on. That was the best thing about it, that Hull evolved and grew as the night matured. They started well, but once they got a sniff, they reached a level not seen since round one at Headingley way back in February. It was an incredible display, and as far as recent history goes, totally against the script.
Warrington were supposed to have the measure of Hull. They comfortably disposed of the Airlie Birds in both regular round fixtures. They stuffed Hull last season too and the year before that. Thankfully, they also have form for choking, we all know the dance, they spend crazy money and it’s always their year, yet here they are with their tails between their legs and Steve Price once again on a knife edge. They can be a basket case at times, not that it dislodges any credit away from Hull, who played with confidence, desire, and fully deserved their win. Forget form, play-off history goes in Hull’s favour here too. We all remember Joey going home, and those of an elder vintage will recall Arthur Bunting’s side going to Wilderspool and upsetting the apple cart in 1981 as Roy Francis’ 1956 team did before them. That one, the one that featured the Drake twins and Johnny Whiteley, were the first team to win at the Wire’s old ground in seventeen years. Hull and play-off football go pretty well in Warrington.
Thursday night besides being a great result was actually a great game too. It was fast, ferocious, and intense from the start. Hull hit the word go from the off and did not drop their intensity. Usually leakier than Robert Elstone talking about Toronto pre-match, the Black and Whites instead thrived off defending their line, and the enthusiasm and pride were both in abundance. In fact, Hull looked like they would start spitting fire when they forced an error or threw a bloke wearing Primrose and Blue into touch. Long overdue, but totally mesmerising to watch with the accustomed roars and fist pumps getting the adrenaline flowing. As for the attack, well it finally clicked. The forwards rampaged downfield and when the opportunities to post points came, the creative larker’s did not disappoint.
Sneyd, from his tormenting kicks that will be giving Stefan Ratchford nightmares for weeks, to his distribution from first receiver, was majestic. The big game player – these occasions are made for him – and with Connor at the back Hull had the variation with the ball to see off their opposition. There are no two ways about it, the Snake MUST be Hull’s number one next season. Connor has been given a new lease of life in recent weeks. He has freedom instead of pressure. Everything looks natural, slick, and full of quality. It is the Connor that lit up Denver on his England debut and the one that tore the Kiwis’ right edge a new one two short years ago. He was involved in everything.
The foundations for Hull were laid early on by the starting middles who matched their opposition, before going up and beyond them when Ligi Sao and in particular Chris Satae came on. That was probably the latter’s best game in a Hull shirt and the same goes for Manu Ma’u who recently has looked just like the Tongan Terminator he was marketed to be. Satae though ensured the ascendency went with Hull and after tries were scored either side of half-time, you could start to sense the unthinkable.
The comparisons from that opening night at Leeds were in abundance. Hull were professional, hard-working, and full of endeavour. They did not go kamikaze mode and let all hell break loose, but they were not conservative either. There was a fine balance, the little extras were nailed, and it is telling that not one single error was made in the first half. That is nothing short of outstanding, especially given what was at stake and this sides former tendency to treat the ball like a bar of soap in a prison bathroom. A few hiccups came after the break, but Hull remained resolute, not even knocks for flying centres Josh Griffin and Carlos Tuimavave, latterly here at least turned silky stand-off, could dampen the mood though, and Hull soon composed themselves again to put the icing on the cake.
Bureta Faraimo, comfortably Hull’s best winger again after another stormer of a display, and then Joe Cator put Hull ahead, with the former turning his newfound cult hero status into something more. With Warrington in the mix, Satae lifted his arm over the line to get the next one, before Connor put the result beyond doubt late on. Sneyd, with the ice still in his back pocket, kicked all goals from the tee and added a drop-goal to really rub salt into the wound. Another for his collection, although complemented by a quality full-back, he is the sniper in Hull’s arsenal, the bloke you just know will not disappoint in winner take all.
The best night of the most unorthodox year of the summer-era at least, the win sets up a final eliminator against the tough nut that is Wigan next week, and if Hull can go there in similar form, then a few heads might just turn.
Warrington Starting XIII: 1. Stefan Ratchford, 5. Josh Charnley, 3. Anthony Gelling, 4. Toby King, Matty Ashton, 6. Blake Austin, 7. Gareth Widdop, 8. Chris Hill, 9. Daryl Clark, 15. Joe Philbin, 12. Jack Hughes, 11. Ben Currie, 14. Jason Clark. Interchange: 13. Ben Murdoch-Masila, 17. Jake Mamo, 19. Matt Davis, 27. Ellis Robson.
Warrington Tries: Ashton 2, Gelling. Goals: Ratchford 1/3
Hull Starting XIII: 6. Jake Connor, 33. Ratu Naulago, 24. Mahe Fonua, 4. Josh Griffin, 2. Bureta Faraimo, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 7. Marc Sneyd, 8. Scott Taylor, 16. Jordan Johnstone, 22. Josh Bowden, 23. Andre Savelio, 12. Manu Ma’u, 15. Joe Cator. Interchange: 13. Ligi Sao, 10. Chris Satae, 9. Danny Houghton, 20. Brad Fash.
Hull Tries: Faraimo, Cator, Satae, Connor. Goals: Sneyd 5/5. Drop Goal: Sneyd
Scoring System: 0-6 (Faraimo), 4-6, (Ashton), 8-6 (Gelling), 8-12 (Cator), 8-13, HT, 8-19 (Satae), 14-19 (Ashton), 14-21, 14-27 (Connor), FT.
Attendance: Behind Closed Doors
Referee: Liam Moore