Hull FC eased themselves into the Challenge Cup quarter-finals with a 28-12 victory on Friday night.
Here are the Five Things Up the Cream learned.
1.. The pack has its mongrel back
Going into 2019 the biggest concern with Hull FC was the forward pack. Compared to previous years it looked weak, but now it looks more than adequate.
Gareth Ellis coming out of retirement obviously gave everyone a huge lift, added some prime Yorkshire beef, and took pressure off Scott Taylor, who was superb on Friday night.
Also the Airlie Birds can now boast an in-form and significantly improved Mickey Paea, who is clearly playing for a new deal right now, and Chris Green, who’s been solid in recent weeks.
Add that with the work horse Joe Westerman at loose forward and two back rowers in Mark Minichiello and Sika Manu who can still produce on their day, and it could be much worse.
They all had their mongrel about them on Friday night, including Masi Matongo, both in yardage and defence, and set the platform for a comfortable victory.
2.. Jake Connor bounces back
The Snake was poor in defeat to Catalans last week. He knows that better than anyone but he bounced back superbly and you have to credit his character for doing so.
Connor is a rugby league freak – he’s got so much talent at his disposal and most of that was on show in the Cup game. He made his try look easy, and provided a threat in the air all game.
There’s fewer naturally gifted players in the UK. We’re just bloody lucky to have him.
3.. Ratu is a find
Ratu Naulago was a signing that came out of nowhere. Given a trial in pre-season he impressed in the friendly games and once Fetuli Talanoa’s injuries became apparent, he was thrown a first team debut at Wigan.
Yes he’s raw, and yes he has a lot to learn, but he’s strong, quick, elusive, and good in the air. He’s got potential and was impressive against Castleford.
Radford likes what he sees and that’s what matters. Hopefully he can continue to nurture the 27-year-old Fijian into a regular Super League winger.
A word too on the powerhouse on the other wing, Bureta Faraimo. Wow. His try and try assist were out the top draw.
4.. Playing out of second gear
It’s a sign of a good team when you can win matches without reaching your peak. That’s exactly what Hull did against Castleford, despite both sides missing some key players.
The Airlie Birds were helped by two Peter Mata’utai kick offs that were closer to the East Stand than the playing field, but once they got a roll on, they proved difficult to stop.
Hull’s three quick fire tries in the first half left their opposition with a mountain to climb. From there it was comfortable and the result was never in doubt.
5.. The best things in life are free
In his third season at Hull FC, Albert Kelly has been superb recently.
He scored another try against Castleford, and provided a running threat all game. Every time he got hold of the ball he was dangerous, and came through some tough knocks to play on, a sign of his character.
It’s sort of a novelty thing to signify week in week out, as the free transfers form seems to wind up salty people east of the river Hull. On that note, we’ll continue to mention him. Ole ole ole ole.