Bit nippy, and bloody windy, but old school proper A-Team rugby league is back, with Hull FC Reserves starting off the 2020 season with a hard-fought 20-18 win over Bradford.
Hard fought it was. The winning try didn’t come until the final minute, as the Black and Whites struggled to maintain possession and mount consistent pressure. Errors were common, and probably expected given the conditions. It was freezing, but both teams battled on to create a competitive environment in a format that should only go from strength to strength.
A proper competition with a league table and that, there’s a lot to play for in the Reserves this year. The aim is to make it the next best thing to playing Super League and Hull didn’t back down on that front, naming both Albert Kelly and Mahe Fonua to play. They were joined by some promising youngsters, an amateur player in Ryan Dearing, and the on trial Eldon Myers.
But despite a try scoring appearance for the impressive Jude Ferreira, an assist off Fonua himself, all eyes were on the senior duo. With dropped ball aplenty completion rates were poor, and it wasn’t a day for an abundance of ball for the edges. Still though Fonua was a threat every time he came into action, but it’s nothing you wouldn’t expect at this level. He’s not bang at it in terms of fitness right now. He’s hardly played over the past several months due to a foot injury. And this is what this level is for. Well one of the reasons. Getting minutes into him is vital, and especially with tough fixtures coming up in Super League, games he could be apart of. On that note the eighty minutes here will have done him the world of good. Proper unit.
The selection of Kelly in the Reserves confirms that Jake Connor will start the season with the second half back gig. Make of that what you will. We’re massive Kelly fans, you all know that, and to not have him at least on the bench for the Super League opener will raise a few eyebrows. But Kelly apparently had a bit of sickness earlier in the week, so he wasn’t risked and instead dropped down a level. He was busy here, he wasn’t absent to error either, but there were some nice touches too when he eventually got the ball.
It wasn’t a flowing game by any stretch of the imagination. Mistakes from both sides came throughout and that’s fine, however underwhelming they may be – this level is about learning from those mistakes and growing as rugby league players. Development. Progress. We’ll hopefully see both components this season. The fact that the ambition to try and play was there bodes well with us. It’s just about knowing when. That comes in time.
After a stale first half performance that saw a deficit of 4-12, to not credit a well-drilled Bradford outfit would be very naive. Hull though improved after the break. Connor Wynne certainly did. His try was sublime, breaking away before weaving in and out of the cover tackles to score. Brilliant stuff. No windmilling either. Other tries came from Charlie Graham, Ferreira and of course the winner from Bienek, who powered over before being mauled by his teammates. Passion. Love it.
Hull really had to work for victory though, but that’s exactly what they want. They need to be tested. Bradford were good value for it and the better team for parts. It’s a part of the world that has always brought through quality rugby league players, and some of these lads on show here will go on to excel in the sport. Make no mistake there. It’s hoped that a few of Hull’s will too.
Big former Laaaandaaan prop Bienek had a dig. He’s on loan at Leigh but can still play for the Black and Whites whenever they feel like playing him. Charlie Patterson-Lund also got through a lot of work and especially when moved to loose forward. Kieran Buchanan played the full game in the back row and made more tackles than we complained about the weather, cramp in the hamstring after walking to Brantingham Park, or of the blisters that stung like a right bastard when soaked in salt water after attempting to thaw up. Get a grip lad. There’s blokes (and a gal) doing the full shift to Cas. Playing with Kelly and Fonua, Buchanan also did well when he got the ball, although that was a rarity as it was dropped more times than not before Hull got the opportunity to go left and right. That meant Myers was quiet on the left flank. Imagine he’ll be sticking around while the fixture list is congested though, despite no word on whether he’s got a deal or not.
A win is a win of course, but the volume of errors means there’s some stuff to work on and improvements to be made. It was tough out there, Bradford made it so, but there’s also a realisation more fluent rugby will come as the regularity follows. February sees to that. It’s Wigan away next week for the Reserves before home games against Widnes and Newcastle. Proper A-Team. Proper old school. It’s about time too.
Hull Reserves Starting XIII: 1. Connor Wynne, 2. Charlie Graham, 3. Eldon Myers, 4. Mahe Fonua, 5. Jude Ferreira, 6. Albert Kelly, 7. Ben McNamara, 8. Jack Brown, 9. Elliot Windley, 10. Lewis Bienek, 11. Charlie Patterson-Lund, 12. Kieran Buchanan, 13. Kai Tyson. Interchange: 14. George Cooke, 15. Jacob Hookem, 16. Ryan Dearing, 17. Will Wallis.
Hull Tries: Ferreira, Wynne, Graham, Bienek. Goals: McNamara 2/4
Bradford Starting XIII : 1. Alix Stephenson, 2. Ryan Leadbeater, 3. Elliott Culling, 4. Sam Smith, 5. Ryan Butterworth, 6. Matthew Race, 7. Billy Jowitt, 8. James McGurk, 9. Cameron Berry, 10. Bradley Ho, 11. Vytas Vaznys, 12. Daniel Waite-Pullan, 13. Dewi Billingham. Interchnage: 14. Luke Littlewood, 15. Kian Oldroyd, 16. Ethan O’Hanlon, 17. Murphy Smith
Scoring System: 0-4, 0-10, 4-10, 4-12, 10-12, 14-12, 14-18, 20-18