For a first run out of 2019 it’s a job well done for Hull FC at a venue that usually feels like a Siberian mountain range at this time of the year. This season though was different. Not quite tropical. But not cold none the less. That reflected in the Airlie Birds’ performance. Thirteen tries, ten conversions with two of the young sorts, Liam Harris and Charlie Graham, getting themselves a hat-trick of four-pointers for a 72-12 victory.
Despite the two three try larkers though, it was a player that didn’t have as much of a glamorous effect on a scoreboard that rarely stopped ticking who impressed this fanzine the most, and that was 2018’s Young Player of the Year Jordan Lane. The back rower was excellent throughout, running some great lines, showing excellent footwork and flashing out the skills with his offloads. As far as any second season syndrome goes, Lane was already finishing the race at least on this evidence, even if the opposition was a third tier part-time team that looked more confused out on the field than Ralph Rimmer at a salad bar. That’s no disrespect to Doncaster either. They’re a side who never stopped trying but found themselves on the end of a hammering by a promising and very-professional young Black and White outfit. With Richard Horne though they are in good hands. We know all about them as a modern day Hull legend in his playing days and former Academy and Reserve coach nurturing the likes of Lane, Jez Litten, and co. Lane here, as he has always been since coming back from a serious knee injury whilst still a teenager, was superb, as was Litten, dictating the pace of the game whilst showing his own emerging talents from dummy half.
Team game though, innit. For Hull FC to score over 70-points is always eye-catching and it’s something we don’t get the beneficiary of celebrating all too often. There was plenty of flair on show, a hefty amount of creativity, and plenty of power too, laterally most exemplified by a full-length dart to the line from props Masimbaashe Matongo and Levy Nzoungou. African punch, but then again we are the most diverse club in rugby league at the minute. That moment was one of many that really exhilarated the watching crowd, who were treated to some final festive season crackers. One of those came from Connor Wynne who impressed at fullback scoring a fine first half try, as did Liam Harris in the halves. The cheeky scrum half is streets better than this level, and whilst he struggled in a struggling Hull team towards the end of last season, there’s promise there, as we saw in Newcastle on his debut. One thing you can never criticise Harris on is his enthusiasm, he plays with energy and due to the fact he was one of the only Rovers academy lads who didn’t bite like a kipper when Leon Pryce skinned Terry ‘No Knees’ Campese at the 2015 Magic Weekend, he’s certainly alright by us. His three tries were well taken and there’s some pace and support play there too – an admirable trait for any half back.
Watching Black and White eyes were naturally on trialists Jordan Cox and in-particular Ratu Naulago, who exhibited a clean pair of heels to race away for his try. The Fijian former rugby union sevens winger got smashed in the first half, but responded well and showed there’s something there to work with – one of many benefits of the resurgent reserve grade that will hopefully be somewhat revived this year. Watching the progress of the likes of Naulago and many others is exactly what that concept is about and it’s criminal that the games governing body resemble Tory-like leadership when it comes to managing it. Imagine running scared at a middle-aged power hungry maniac running a certain West Yorkshire based club.
This contest was all about the Reserves and many of the lads playing at the Keepmoat Stadium will be involved in Gareth Ellis’ side this season, who, despite the fact he himself could probably go another round with the very best of Super League, will be intrigued with what he saw as a coach and not a man sat wearing a tie twiddling a pen in an office. The goal with Hull’s philosophy with recruitment was to thicken the squad out, and they look, at least on first glance, to be able to handle any sort of future injury crisis they may endure. We’ll get better indications to back up that statement or not in the pre-season games to come at top flight clubs, but one can be satisfied with the turn of events in South Yorkshire. In all honesty after a tormenting eleven game losing run to finish 2018 it was just nice to win again. Winning breeds confidence and that’s what Hull need, but the manner of this win is what impressed. There was so much talent on show, even things like young dual code winger Graham bagging himself three tries, and Dean Hadley showing his leadership qualities captaining the side. New signing Danny Langtree made his debut too, and scored a decent try. Pace was everywhere and in a team that perhaps likes a bit of speed that was pleasing.
One of the benefits of pre-season is seeing players that, and especially given a merged academy set up where the average Hull fan would rather watch paint dry then give time and effort to watch, we don’t see that often. One of those is Jack Brown, a feisty prop forward who muscled up to some elder and more physically advanced opponents. Brown is another Hull-born forward tipped for a big future and there’s nothing we’ve seen at least that goes against that. It was nice to see Charlie Patterson-Lund get on the score-sheet too, and of course to see other Academy players that will hopefully stamp their mark in Hull FC colours for the Reserves this season. That’s what it’s all about – or as Rads says ‘putting yourself in the shop window’.
Some players definitely did that. Take Lane and laterally Litten for example, a livewire hooker that needs no introduction but one who as time goes on will be integrated into the team as the long-term solution to Danny Houghton. Litten, along with Lane, really were excellent here. There’s clearly an evolvement in some of the young players and whilst one or two need some more minutes to mend some burned bridges, some certainly excelled. All in all it was a good first run out of the season and it’s good to be back watching Hull FC. Some will say it’s certainly naive to get all too excited after a big win against a League One side in pre-season but… nah fuck it. We’re going to win the league aren’t we. All aboard the Old Trafford train.
Hull Starting XIII: Connor Wynne, Ratu Naulago, Kieran Buchanan, Jack Logan, Hakim Miloudi, Danny Washbrook, Liam Harris, Brad Fash, Jez Litten, Masimbaashe Matongo, Jordan Cox, Danny Langtree, Dean Hadley.
Hull Bench: Josh Atkinson, Jack Bartlett, Jack Brown, Charlie Graham, Jordan Lane, Levy Nzoungou, Charlie Patterson-Lund, Cameron Scott, Jordan Webster.
Hull Tries: Harris 3, Wynne, Langtree, Lane, Naulago, Graham 3, Miloudi, Patterson-Lund, Nzoungou. Goals: Miloudi 10/13
Scoring System: 0-6, 0-10, 6-10, 6-16, 6-22, 6-28, 6-34, 6-40, 6-46, 12-46, 12-50, 12-56, 12-62, 12-68, 12-72