Hull FC got their 2020 Super League campaign off to a flyer with a dominant 30-4 win at Leeds.
What Headingley hoodoo, you say?
1.. A statement of intent
Start as you mean to go on. Hull FC laid down a marker at Headingley. Leeds are not the force they once were, and are set for another season of Richard Agar inspired mediocrity. Real shame. Poor Uncle Kath and sidekick. Said no-one ever. That’s not to take anything away from the Black and Whites though. The away side ruined the pyrotechnic party with a clash of kit and sublime offload game. They were professional. They were powerful. They were ruthless. It’s only one game in but this side with their quality will be right up there challenging this season. Tipped for big things by a medley of rugby league people who apparently know what they’re talking about, we can’t wait for it all to unfold. It’s going to be class. Tackle busts. Offloads. More tackle busts. More offloads. Oh baby.
2.. Forward supremacy
The Hull FC pack didn’t dominate last season and changes had to be made. Luckily they were. The new forwards in the Airlie Bird ranks are all big physical blokes who can play too. There’s size, intimidation, and most importantly power.
Andre Savelio was absolutely outstanding but the whole pack battered Leeds down the middle. They couldn’t cope with the offloads and general potency from the likes of Ligi Sao and Chris Satae. They’ll be more to come from Hull FC in that department as well. It’s like the class of 2016 all over again, and they found a lot of joy roughing it up to other teams. This class can be just as good, if not better.
3.. The power of the tache
Jamie Shaul is rocking a tache that makes him look more of a fresh hipster than a baby-faced assassin these days. He can keep the assassin bit though as he was top draw at Headingley.
We all know that Shaul has strong defensive and running games, but it’s his passing game where room for improvement lay. With the standard of distribution amongst Super League’s top number ones, it’s something that he had to work on in the off-season, at least if he wants to be brushed with the best in the comp, and straight away in round one it brought rewards. The quick fire cut out pass to Ratu Naulago was sublime, proper quality.
Despite being scared of Manu Ma’u’s eyebrows, Shaul also probed all over the field, provided a class offload in another try involvement, and was in support to get a well-deserved try himself to finish the scoring. A brilliant display. Don’t shave it off. The tache that is.
4.. Connor shines in halves
One of the biggest debates in pre-season has been how to fit both Jake Connor and Albert Kelly in the same side. They both want to play six, with the former getting the gig for the opener and the latter playing in the Reserves. Interesting.
But apart from one kick that went out on the full, Connor did nothing wrong in his favoured position. He’s got that position for the time being and this was a good start, but it’s pointless unless he backs it up against the Bin Dippers in the Derby next week.
Whether Kelly will play a part from the bench or not, who knows, but it’s a long season and both will be required as we slog through it.
5.. Defence wins matches
A lot was made of Hull FC’s attack last season and whilst it was woeful towards the end, the real problem was in defence.
Far too many points were conceded throughout the year. There was a soft underbelly and when opposition teams with any sort of quality got a bit of momentum they’d quickly find themselves with two or three quick fire scores. Heads then went down and arthritic cardboard cut out defence took over. A rancid pattern.
But this year seems to be different. Hull FC defended well in pre-season and again against Leeds defended tough. The first try scoring opportunity went to Ash Handley. Try time. Nah. Up came the Fijian Flyer and you know how the rest of the story goes. Sit down. Try saver.
Hull marched on and soon got the first try. They never looked back. They never lost that desire to defend either. In fact they thrived off it. Firm. Potent. Scramble. Fist pump. It was all great to watch and long may it continue.