After a promising start to the season, things for Hull FC are going downhill fast, and given the latest defeat, the Black and Whites’ third in a row, a 10-42 home loss to St Helens, there’s the cynical feeling that it could get a whole lot uglier yet…
In context three defeats is hardly catastrophic, but there’s a bigger picture to consider and quite frankly, it’s easy to become disillusioned with Hull right now. It’s easy because the holes in this side are apparent every week, and now that the likes of Jake Connor aren’t on the field to paper over the cracks, the mismanagement of the squad is evident to see. Never mind bordering, that mismanagement has gone beyond criminal. It’s criminal that the owner whinges about money every week, yet he insisted on re-signing a bloke with golden teeth on big money who wasn’t needed, who has failed to see that this squad is a forward or two short and who require a new hooker, and who have gone too heavy on their opening seventeen to the point where injuries have crippled their challenge so much that finishing in the play-offs is now anything but a certainty.
It’s criminal to all the fans who fork out their hard-earned, who get sucked in with predictable and tedious sound bites of top four every year and how this one will be different when the real problems at the club fail to be addressed. It’s criminal to the likes of Chris Satae who was nothing short of phenomenal yet again, who is Hull’s only real forward threat at busting the line, it’s criminal that the attack is so clunky without Connor, and it’s criminal that said six figure re-signing made those familiar key blunders that cost his side dearly yet again.
What makes it all the more frustrating is that there is something in Hull, and most of us have bought into what Brett Hodgson is trying to install into this team, but off-field mismanagement is killing them. You can bang this drum all the way to the prawn sandwich rooms in the west stand, because this side really are desperate for at least two more forwards and a hooker who plays with pace. And if Hodgson isn’t allowed to stamp his mark, rid those who he deems surplus to requirement, and sign those who he feels will add to the squad, then what’s the point? What was the point in the club going through all that effort to hire him? Might as well run with Johnny down the road, especially given (if rumours are to be believed) that 95% of the current squad is signed up for next year. Strewth, mate.
Once again standing up in vain in what was another painful home defeat, there’s a core of players at Hull that deserve so much more. Satae being one, and the most notable. He is a wrecking ball. He picked up from where he left off against Leeds and stormed through the middle of the St Helens defence on numerous occasions, who at times just couldn’t handle him. Satae is a freak and is comfortably the best prop in the league right now. It’s not even a contest anymore.
Then there’s Adam Swift – the new cult hero over here for nothing more than the energy and pace he brings to the side. He gave another good account of himself, as did Bureta Faraimo, who is being shown the door at the end of the year because the owner insisted on re-signing said golden toothed liability. You could argue Ligi Sao is in that core too, who is sublime but who’s discipline does hold him back, and of course Carlos Tuimavave, Josh Griffin, Scott Taylor, Andre Savelio, and Connor, when they play at least. The rest need the full complement around them to perform, whilst some like Manu Ma’u, Brad Fash, and Joe Cator base their game on solid graft alone.
Speaking of graft, the effort from the side this year has been unquestionable. Some will say that because Hull leaked 42-points against St Helens that the effort wasn’t there, but that’s a load of bollocks. It was. At times Hull, thanks largely to Satae, did themselves justice and they made a game of it against an opposition who were evidently on a different level.
The end result doesn’t tell the whole story either and the game can be spilt into three parts. The first 25 or so minutes St Helens were clearly on top. They were undoubtedly the better side and built themselves a healthy lead. They were both faster and slicker, which admittedly isn’t a mean feat against Hull at the moment, and it all started from their play of the ball which was outstanding. James Roby. That is all. The middle bit either side of half time saw Hull make a challenge of it, and they got themselves back into the contest at just six points behind. Unfortunately, poor discipline and key errors then ruined that challenge and the final third of the game saw St Helens, with a man advantage for the best part of twenty minutes, run away with it.
That’s it simplified, but obviously you can dive deeper than that. The sin binning of Jordan Johnstone was a crucial decision and it was harsh to say the least. Hull had no chance against the speed of Saints’ outside backs after the yellow card and like all good sides, although helped again with Sao given his marching orders, they took full advantage. Yet, the Johnstone decision killed the game as a contest and ensured referee James Child, who was public enemy number one from minute one, took some massive pelters. Match officials come under scrunity every week and we all know the issues across the league in this department, but Child was under the knife from the opening minute. Some Hull fans were screaming for everything and will no doubt blame the officials for defeat – ironic given that the biggest farce went Hull’s way when Tommy Makinson was deemed to have taken out Swift when competing for the ball and a perfectly good Saints try being chalked off.
It’s easy to focus on referees too when wearing black and white glasses as the last thing we as fans want to do is slag off our team, but it became clear pretty quickly that St Helens were on a different level, despite playing their first game since a covid outbreak and having not trained in two weeks. The benefit of the doubt Hull excuses seen at Huddersfield look a little silly now, don’t they… Again, the speed at which Saints played was too much to handle, and a 16-0 lead was built up without them seeming to break sweat. That lead could have been more too if their execution was better with some errors coming into their game – probably a direct result of the pace they play at. Still the quality was telling and that was without the likes of Theo Fages, Regan Grace, James Bentley et al.
Hull, who’s discipline was shocking throughout, did well to claw themselves back because at that point there was a gulf. Even with a favourable video ref decision, mounting a challenge looked a hopeless aspiration, but that’s what Hull did and they stood up and delivered a gutsy performance in the middle part of the game. Ultimately it wasn’t enough, and it was all in vain once Mahe Fonua, after already been made to look like a turnstile by Kevin Naiqama, lost the ball one on one in good field position at 10-16. and after Johnstone’s sin bin, that, with Hull knowing the cause was lost, was that.
Again though, the end result did flatter St Helens and the late flurry of tries was harsh on Hull, who still have a way to go to get on top of the best teams in this competition. Though whether that gap can close without any adjustments to the positions that need urgent attention is doubtful, and whilst effort, grit and determination has took Hull to some rediscovered heights this year, it won’t be enough to get to that next level. Only better recruitment and squad management will do that. Over to you then, Adam.
Hull Starting XIII: 23. Connor Wynne, 2. Bureta Faraimo, 24. Cameron Scott, 5. Mahe Fonua, 21. Adam Swift, 6. Josh Reynolds, 7. Marc Sneyd, 13. Ligi Sao, 14. Jordan Johnstone, 10. Chris Satae, 16. Jordan Lane, 12. Manu Ma’u, 15. Joe Cator.
Interchange: 17. Brad Fash, 20. Jack Brown, 19. Ben McNamara, 27. Mitieli Vulikijapani.
Hull Tries: Swift, Faraimo. Goals: Sneyd 1/2.
Hull Sin Bins: Johnstone, Sao.
St Helens Starting XIII: 1. Lachlan Coote, 2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Kevin Naiqama, 4. Mark Percival, 18. Jack Welsby, 6. Jonny Lomax, 21. Lewis Dodd, 8. Alex Walmsley, 9. James Roby, 15. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 11. Joel Thompson, 20. Joe Batchelor, 13. Morgan Knowles.
Interchange: 10. Matty Lees, 14. Sione Mata’utai, 16. Kyle Amor, 19. Aaron Smith.
St Helens Tries: Thompson, Makinson, Welsby 3, Amor, Naiqama. Goals: Coote 7/9.
Scoring System: 0-4 (Thompson), 0-8 (Makinson), 0-10, 0-16 (Welsby), 4-16 (Swift), HT, 10-16 (Faraimo), 10-18, 10-24 (Amor), 10-30 (Naiqama), 10-36 (Welsby), 10-42 (Welsby), FT.
Referee: James Child