Hull FC did enough to get the better of the world beating entertainers on Saturday afternoon, with a Marc Sneyd drop-goal, his 36th for the club, proving to be the difference against Rovers in a pulsating game of rugby league.
For both sets of fans and the neutral, that was probably the best game in Super League so far this year. It was fast paced, competitive, high on drama, and it had its moments of quality in front of an electric atmosphere that of course went up a few decimals when the words Since and 1985 came out. It went right down to the wire too, with Jordan Lane coming up with a Swain-like charge down in the final thirty seconds to finally put the result at 23-22 beyond doubt. Get in you beauty.
In context of Hull’s season, that is a massive win too, putting them back into the play-off positions after four consecutive defeats and with just five scheduled games to go. It’s one Brett Hodgson’s side just had to win, and luckily the returning Hull spine did enough to ensure that was the case.
With limited opportunities to score points thanks to unfavourable territory and some errors coming out of yardage, Hull had to be clinical when they got down to the Rovers end, and fortunately they were just that. Returning to the fullback position after missing the last five games, Jake Connor picked up from where he left off. The Snake’s influence was apparent pretty much from the word go, with his crisp pass to Adam Swift getting the ball rolling. Again though, what is completely mesmerising about Connor is just how easy he makes this game look. He is box office. A big moment player who is never fazed and who’s execution is nothing short of outstanding. He even nailed the blowing of kisses and got the unwashed and the dim rattled in that North Stand. Sort.
Together with Marc Sneyd, Josh Reynolds and Danny Houghton, Hull’s spine clicked enough to get the job done. They ultimately proved to be the difference between the two sides, with Connor again having a big influence in both of Bureta Faraimo’s tries with the latter going 9, 7, 6, 1, bang. It was pretty satisfying and it’s that creative spark that has severely been lacking in recent weeks, but it’s one that was back when Hull needed it most. It’s no secret too that those who have continued to bang the drum for Hull whilst Connor and co have been out were much better alongside the Snake’s presence, and after giving Houghton some stick in defeats to Leeds and St Helens, he deserves his praises here. His reaction at full time said a lot too. It means everything to him.
In all honesty though, Hull weren’t that great overall as persistent and frustrating mistakes coming out of yardage threatened to undo all their strong defensive work. The fact that Rovers had five back to back sets on Hull’s line and only scored through one of those freakish one handed diving finishes from Jimmy Keinhorst spoke volumes – well that and all that pressure coming to nothing with Rowan Milnes missing a drop-goal attempt from under the posts. These are the entertainers of Super League remember – hard not to have a little chuckle – and Hull dealt with most of what they threw at them.
To their credit, Hull absorbed the pressure and miraculously took the lead going into half time. It’s those gritty traits, rediscovered under Hodgson, that have been evident this year – and especially before the covid outbreak. The fact that Hull just rolled their sleeves up after losing Reynolds (knee) and then Joe Cator (Achilles) to injury is testament to their character and resilience. That, along with Connor’s class, won them the game.
Despite having much more ball and the better field position, the 238th Derby threatened to get away from Rovers on plenty of occasions but they, with their lively hookers Matt Parcell and Jez Litten who were both full of energy, dug in and made it a right contest. They are definitely better than the dross they’ve served out in recent years, yet they were helped massively with two video ref calls in the first half that were dubious to say the least – although for balance there looked to be a knock on in the build up to Hull’s first try as well.
As for the video ref though, just shake your head, as this is the sort of stuff that pushes fans away from the sport and the poor attendances since the UK restrictions ended, although covid and a lack of members across the league is also a factor, speak volumes. For all money Adam Swift looked to have batted the ball down backwards to Cam Scott and if the second is obstruction then we might as well all go home now. Reynolds was in support of the ball carrier, he can’t just disappear, and Shaun Kenny-Dowall knew exactly what he was doing, ensuring he crashed into the Grub without making a play towards Carlos Tuimavave, who it must be said was sensational as always and showed his sheer class for his one try that didn’t get chalked off. Dynamite. That footwork. The goat.
Elsewhere, and putting in a monumental shift once again, Manu Ma’u, the hardest bastard on the planet, was incredible. In fact, and despite the flashy stuff from Connor putting the points on the board, the Tongan Terminator was arguably the best on the field. His power was too much to handle and he found himself breaking the line on a few occasions, particularly in the second half. Hull have been getting a solid shift from Ma’u for weeks on end but here he was brilliant and got the crowd on their feet.
Jamie Shaul entering the field in the second half did that too. Hull’s new interchange hooker got a superb reception after ten months out injured with a ruptured ACL, and he put himself about immediately after coming on, cutting in half a prop in Will Maher twice his size, darting out the ruck to great effect and bringing some energy to the side.
That spark saw Hull home late on, but not before Sneyd’s one-pointer and Lane’s chargedown made it certain, the Tom Briscoe moment of 2021 that keeps Hull alive and kicking, and the one that puts the old enemy in their place once again. The city is ours. As you were.
Hull Starting XIII: 1. Jake Connor, 2. Bureta Faraimo, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 24. Cameron Scott, 21. Adam Swift, 6. Josh Reynolds, 7. Marc Sneyd, 13. Ligi Sao, 9. Danny Houghton, 10. Chris Satae, 11. Andre Savelio, 12. Manu Ma’u, 16. Jordan Lane.
Interchange: 8. Scott Taylor, 15. Joe Cator, 20. Jack Brown, 29. Jamie Shaul.
Hull Tries: Swift, Faraimo 2, Tuimavave. Goals: Sneyd 3/5. Drop Goal: Sneyd
Rovers Starting XIII: 2. Ben Crooks, 33. Jimmy Keinhorst, 3. Greg Minikin, 4. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 5. Ryan Hall, 11. Brad Takairangi, 25. Rowan Milnes, 8. Albert Vete, 9. Matt Parcell, 16. George King, 12. Kane Linnett, 27. Luis Johnson, 15. George Lawler.
Interchange: 10. Korbin Sims, 14. Jez Litten, 18. Matty Storton, 26. Will Maher.
Rovers Tries: Keinhorst, Milnes, Crooks, Vete. Goals: Crooks 3/4
Scoring System: 6-0 (Swift), 6-4 (Keinhorst) 6-10 (Milnes), 12-10 (Faraimo), 18-10 (Tuimavave), HT, 18-16 (Crooks), 20-16 (Faraimo), 22-16, 23-16, 23-22 (Vete), FT.
Referee: Liam Moore