Given that this Hull FC side have been out of action for nearly a month, hardly trained in that time either, and who were missing no fewer than 11-players for the trip to West Yorkshire, it perhaps wasn’t a surprise that they served up their worst performance under Brett Hodgson this year, going down to Huddersfield 40-26 on Thursday night.
But still it was disappointing. It was disappointing because the past few weeks were seen as the winning run that Hull needed to go on to prop themselves up the Super League table, but in truth, and despite great days out on the road at Castleford and Leigh, not to mention the rag-tag win against Huddersfield at home, things recently at least could not have gone much worse.
Three games have fell by the wayside due to Covid outbreaks at first the opposition, and then at Hull themselves, with the Derby postponed (twice), either side of home games against Salford and Leigh. Before that, and as many cynics correctly predicted, Hull lost their best player Jake Connor to injury in a farcical England All-Stars match in a game that now looks as pointless as any with the World Cup becoming (thanks to the obligatory self-absorbed wankers running the NRL) nothing more than the latest rugby league circus.
It’s been another horrendous chapter for a sport that shoots itself in the foot more times than Zak Hardaker on a night out. Super League with its weekly fixture cancellations is a farce once again, the international game is virtually non-existent, and we should be worried – very worried. At this rate, we’ll be part time before long, and quite frankly, it’s nothing short of a miracle that we have survived as a professional sport for the better part of 126-years.
The state of the game is shocking, and that’s before you mention new interpretations on head contacts and the rancid set restarts, and whilst Hull’s performance wasn’t as sinister as that kind of superlative, it wasn’t what we have come to expect under the new head coach.
Truth be told, defensively the Black and Whites weren’t good enough. In fact, that’s an understatement. They were soft in the middle with both seasoned veterans and inexperienced youngsters falling off tackles, and they were also exploited out wide as the Fartowners ran in eight tries on a disappointing night.
It was a tough game. We knew the circumstances, and whilst Huddersfield have played three times since they locked horns with Hull last month (two defeats to Wigan and a hammering at the hands of Catalans), they still had an apology list that will have made most of their fan-base quiver in fear. Yet, that recent exposure to Super League told, because Huddersfield, who’s young and fringe players were at a level beyond their opponents, were more energetic and much crisper than Hull, who were rusty to say the least.
Energy is a big word here and Hull, after leading twice early on, struggled to sustain their energy. Whilst one or two meat pies perhaps fell under the controversial tag, Huddersfield boasted plenty more to take the game away from Hull, and if not for four missed conversions, they’d have been knocking on the door of the 50-point mark. The reality is that the defensive side to Hull’s game left a lot to be desired and given the cards thrown at them over the past month, it’s to an extent understanding. However, it still wasn’t good enough and not up to the standards set by Hodgson and this side over the past four months.
The performance in many respects showed where Hull are at. We knew before a ball was placed on the tee that this squad would be tested whenever it was short on a few key players, and we knew that wins would be hard-pressed to find whenever such a scenario occurred. Yet that knowledge doesn’t stop the disappointment of the result, nor the frustration of the current predicament, and given Hull’s commendable attitude and mentality this year, many still would have backed the side in travelling to the edge of the Pennines to pull off a result – even if key players were still out and others had only returned from either injury or the dreaded Covid word without a decent run in training.
Again, that hope was a fools hope in the reverse fixture a month or so ago but Hull scrapped the bottom of the barrel to bring it home. This time, it just wasn’t their night. You can’t question effort or anything like that and there were certainly no blokes throwing the towel in. Sometimes everything can be against you and it just doesn’t happen the way you want it. That’s sport.
This time, Huddersfield were deserved winners and given their own tough situations with injuries and player disruption (things like losing James Gavet and bringing in Nathan Peats as a mid-season signing who has slotted in at dummy half effortlessly), they obviously deserve some credit for a win where young half back Oliver Russell ran the show. Elsewhere, and on just his third appearance in the first team, Will Pryce was a right handful, scoring a superb try in front of dad Leon – doesn’t that make you feel old – and showing great maturity with his kicking game.
Hull were a mixed bag in that department. Marc Sneyd put in two quality chips to the left edge that resulted in tries, and he also kicked a sublime 40/20, but along with Ben McNamara, there were last tackle options that resulted in seven tackle sets for Huddersfield, and they happened too frequently. There was no inbetween, and despite scoring five tries themselves for 26 points, a total that should be enough to win a game of rugby league, Hull struggled to sustain any pressure, and the Giants found it easy with their continuous 20-metre taps to rampage upfield with the help of Hull’s poor discipline – something which really bit them on the backside.
Defence starts with attack, and Hull’s attack certainly had its limitations. They put themselves under pressure with the end to their sets and their defence couldn’t pitch in and cover. Hull were soft, and the resilience and grit that we’ve seen so much of this year just wasn’t there.
Of course, Hull weren’t helped losing Ligi Sao to a sin bin in a key period of the second half for what was a dubious decision to say the least, yet sadly a sign in which the game is rapidly going. Huddersfield capitalised on the numerical advantage with former England and now Combined Nations All-Stars winger Jermaine McGillvary (try say that with a straight face) scoring his fourth try after moving from the right to the left wing. Whether that was to combat the aerial threat from Mitieli Vulikijapani with the much taller Innes Senior, or to exploit a weakness on Hull’s left edge, who knows, but it worked. Up against Cameron Scott who, and not to go on an individual crusade when other and more senior blokes saw their impact stifled, did struggle, McGillvary, who himself made a couple of uncharacteristic errors early on having almost pulled out the game to a warm up injury, pounced for three of his four tries. Added to scores for Luke Yates, Leory Cudjoe, Peats, and young Pryce, that gave Hull a mountain to climb.
Vulikijapani got himself over for two tries with meat pies following for Carlos Tuimavave, Chris Satae, and Jordan Lane, but it wasn’t enough. A combination of some free-flowing Huddersfield attack and questionable Hull defence saw to that.
With a Hull defeat a formality, the game boiled over in the final minute following a coming together between Andre Savelio and Josh Jones, who were both sent off for their involvement. From our vantage point, things were pretty calm until Jones entered the fray where some subtle choice of words – workshy, lazy, piss-taking bastard, et al – would no doubt have been used. There was then another coming together off the pitch where, and not to go into Arsene Wenger mode, Savelio apparently landed a couple of shots on Jones. Ian Watson, already on song to be the games biggest bellend this year, has already fuelled the fire to the disciplinary lot, so they could have a field day there, but Hull will just have to cop whatever comes out and pat Savelio on the back for landing one (allegedly) on a bloke who took the absolute piss out of the Hull club last year.
So after three consecutive wins, it’s defeat for Hodgson’s Hull, their fifth one of the year in both competitions, but now it’s about how they react. Defensively Hull have to be a lot better, and that starts right from their attack, to their discipline, and finally to their contacts and energy without the ball. Of course, differential circumstances dictated some of what unfolded, but the display at Huddersfield was poor, and given recent history at Hull, you can forgive us for worrying about the future, and feeling a little pessimistic. Oh, here we go again.
Huddersfield Starting XIII: 1. Ashton Golding, 2. Jermaine McGillvary, 21. Leroy Cudjoe, 3. Jake Wardle, 24. Innes Senior, 23. Oliver Russell, 32. Will Pryce, 20. Oliver Wilson, 35. Nathan Peats, 8. Luke Yates, 17. Chris McQueen, 13. Josh Jones, 25. Owen Trout.
Interchange: 27. Sam Wood, 26. Sam Hewitt, 34. Nathaniel Peteru, 33. Robson Stevens.
Huddersfield Tries: McGillvary 4, Peats, Yates, Pryce, Cudjoe. Goals: Russell 4/8. Sent Off: Jones
Hull Starting XIII: 21. Adam Swift, 24. Cameron Scott, 5. Mahe Fonua, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 27. Mitieli Vulikijapani, 19. Ben McNamara, 7. Marc Sneyd, 13. Ligi Sao, 9. Danny Houghton, 10. Chris Satae, 11. Andre Savelio, 16. Jordan Lane, 17. Brad Fash.
Interchange: 20. Jack Brown, 22. Josh Bowden, 14. Jordan Johnstone, 31. Aidan Burrell (not used).
Hull Tries: Tuimavave, Vulikijapani 2, Lane, Satae. Goals: Sneyd 3/5. Sin Bin: Sao. Sent Off: Savelio
Scoring System: 0-6 (Tuimavave), 4-6 (McGillvary), 10-6 (Peats), 10-12 (Vulikijapani), 10-16 (Lane), 14-16 (Yates), 18-16 (Pryce), 22-16 (McGillvary), HT, 28-16 (McGillvary), 28-20 (Vulikijapani), 34-20 (McGillvary), 40-20 (Cudjoe), 40-26 (Satae), FT.
Referee: Chris Kendall