The Brett Hodgson era is up and running at Hull FC as his new look side eased past Huddersfield 22-10 on Sunday afternoon.
As far as opening day performances go it was more than job done. There’s plenty to be optimistic about and it didn’t take long for the Australian’s buzzword to come to fruition.
Defence. It’s been hyped up all winter and it was on point here, particularly in a first half where a much fancied Huddersfield side never looked like scoring. Hull were resolute pretty much throughout, their scramble was good and they got numbers into the tackle. There was a desire to defend and they did it with authority, something we’ve not seen enough over the past two years. In fact, Hull were resilient to the point where you were comfortable watching them – a mean feat itself having gone through the rancid fifty point defeats of the past two or so years.
In attack, the improvements were there to see as well. It’s the brand of rugby which has gone up a level, with an innovative Hull side much more easy on the eye having been given the freedom to express themselves. Hull were composed when they needed to be as well and they looked a much more organised unit. They controlled the game as they did in the same fixture last season, yet on this occasion they were more polished when it mattered and only let up when victory was assured. The end result flatters Huddersfield.
The enthusiasm showed 1-17 and it all came off the back of what Hull did without the ball. That mindset installed by Hodgson, Gareth Ellis and co on the training field rubbed off from defending their goal line to forcing repeat sets, with the points coming soon after. To no surprise, the new one, six and seven combo had a hand in them all. Jake Connor at fullback was all class, Marc Sneyd was ice cool and Josh Reynolds was everywhere, covering every blade of grass.
Danny Houghton too was impressive as he looks to resurge himself following a tough year, but it was Reynolds who stole the headlines after a sublime debut. The Aussie half back was a cult hero at Canterbury. Actually, that does him an injustice. The fans absolutely idolised him at Belmore and after just eighty minutes of action in an irregular hooped Black and White jersey it was easy to see why. The intensity Reynolds played the game at was just ridiculous, he gave literally everything on every single play and he was instrumental in everything Hull did.
Getting on the end of a brilliant Sneyd kick to the in goal, Reynolds, who floated around the pitch at his desire, rounded off the Hull try scoring with earlier scores coming from Connor and milestone man Josh Griffin. At that point Hull had just reward for all their hard work and were cruising at 22-0 with two late Huddersfield consolations coming from Ricky Leutele and James Gavet. That was the only sour point, and yes we’re going to nit pick at the fact Hull didn’t nil them. Those two tries were the only thing Huddersfield created all game, the first of which came off the back of going for goal the second time and messing up the short restart. Fuming.
Of course it’s important to be realistic and not get carried away, but that was a decent win in tough windy conditions on a pitch that has been battered by both rain and footfall this weekend. Plenty of individuals impressed too in a fine team performance. In a new look pack, at least in terms of who starts rather than personal, Jordan Lane at loose man was outstanding, getting through a mountain of work. Chris Satae, again getting a start having been used off the bench throughout last season, was also immense. The big Tongan wins the floor more than not and every carry he seemed to put an opposition player on his backside. Watch back the play before Reynolds’ try. Outstanding. The big fella has had a big pre-season and it showed. He played two stints and hopefully more minutes will come as the season progresses.
As for bad days at the office the only one fell to Josh Bowden, who went off with a head knock minutes after coming on and didn’t return. On the two edges Manu Ma’u and Andre Savelio were for the majority solid and Joe Cator picked up from where he left off last season. Adam Swift too had some moments as the one winger at the club with genuine pace. There’s plenty to go at.
Though for all that was good about Hull at Headingley, the biggest challenge now is consistency. We’ve been here before. Round One optimism, it’s great isn’t it? But this Hull side have to stick to their standards week in week out if they want to reach their minimum top four target. The quality is there to do just that, but the acid test is turning up every round and getting the job done. Luckily a few things have changed following the inconsistencies of recent times and the club have a new man at the helm to drive them forward. Brett Hodgson is the ultimate professional and everything he has said so far has been bang on the money.
Huddersfield were a tough looking opponent to start the year with and the game ended up being comfortable. That’s something to go on. Of course, there’s still a lot of work still to be done and there’s a lot of improvement in this Hull side, but we can all enjoy that one and look forward to more of the same against Salford next week.
Hull FC Starting XIII: 1. Jake Connor, 21. Adam Swift, 4. Josh Griffin, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 5. Mahe Fonua, 6. Josh Reynolds, 7. Marc Sneyd, 13. Ligi Sao, 9. Danny Houghton, 10. Chris Satae, 12. Manu Ma’u, 11. Andre Savelio, 16. Jordan Lane. Interchange: 8. Scott Taylor, 22. Josh Bowden, 15. Joe Cator, 24. Cameron Scott.
Hull Tries: Connor, Griffin, Reynolds. Goals: Sneyd 5/5
Huddersfield Starting XIII: 6. Lee Gaskell, 2. Jermaine McGillvary, 21. Leroy Cudjoe, 4. Ricky Leutele, 5. Darnell McIntosh, 16. Jack Cogger, 23. Oliver Russell, 8. Luke Yates, 19. James Cunningham, 22. James Gavet, 20. Oliver Wilson, 11. Kenny Edwards, 14. Matty English, 9. Adam O’Brien.
Huddersfield Tries: Leutele, Gavet. Goals: Russell 1/2
Huddersfield Sin Bin: Edwards
Scoring System: 6-0, 12-0, HT, 14-0, 20-0, 22-0, 22-4, 22-10
Referee: Robert Hicks
Attendance: Behind Closed Doors