Super League Round Two – Friday 13th February – Hull 6 Warrington 7 – KC Stadium
It’s ironic how those tipped for so little do tend to make the tipsters eat their words, and if the initial two rounds of Super League are anything to go by then Hull FC are on course to do just that.
A cracking game of rugby league, it was played with severe quality. Wire probably edged it, but Hull certainly put a shift in. It was a gritty, courageous, and spirited display, but ultimately not enough to prevent Lee Radford’s men from suffering their first defeat of 2015.
However despite the setback there is a lot to take from it. After all, a one point loss does little to damage a side’s reputation, and nor should it. Hull played with energy, and their defence was resolute beyond anything seen in recent times. There were numerous positives, non more so than new recruit Mark Minichiello’s performance, a crowd pleaser and in doing so earned his first M.O.M award on his home debut.
Consequently undone in the cruellest of fashion, a knock to home-grown fullback Jamie Shaul proved fatal, and the athletic Daryl Clark was there to capitalise – running through the injured star. It was a harsh score, and a further one pointer by rising half back Gareth O’Brien just before the half time hooter ultimately was the difference.
Billed as an old fashioned rugby league match, the contest brought about the best of the sport. Not an occasion for the faint headed, both sides gave everything, together in their determination to carry the ball forward and never-say-die attitude in defence – which was best emphasised by the scrambling ability of the hosts to preserve their line. An admirable trait throughout the eighty minutes.
Hull battled to the final whistle, but the Wolves stood firm. Marc Sneyd was clicking away all night, and it was his moment of sheer quality from that magical left boot that was the benefactor for Tom Lineham, fuelled on Carlsberg Special Brew, he gathered his scrum half’s perfectly weighted chip for their only score. A brilliant try, but in a defensively orientated contest it wasn’t enough.
Warrington, drilled superbly were a tough nut to crack, they held on at every moment, they slowed the ruck right down. It was tedious and frustrating, but it was effective. The Wire stood firm.
Hull asked the question, but got no answer. Maybe evident at times to needing that extra spark they never-the-less billed up to their strengths of the previous week. Being the match winner in every sense of the word Gareth O’Brien stepped up once more, defying Jordan Thompson for what everyone was sure to be the winner. It was sensational effort, and justified the equation that defence wins matches.
Both middle’s were hard as diamonds, for Warrington the starting front row of Ashton Sims and Chris Hill was fearsome, and few will get on top of them this year. Though to their credit, Hull matched the duo, and a screening of the standard of performance you come to expect now with Dean Hadley ensured all that the Black and Whites DO have that required and much sought after strength in depth.
Though saying that, it’s fair to say Lee Radford was counting the cost of the previous week, with three changes made to his side. However no excuses. Steve Michaels came in on the left wing and gave a good account of himself, but it was the promotion of Richard Whiting to the starting line-up that caught the eye. Stilts both at centre and fullback was heroic, a constant threat in the line it was his link up play that almost snatched victory from defeat.
Managing to put two back-to-back performances of the same calibre together should please all concerned, as it’s a feat rarely seen in years gone by. That’s the challenge for Hull FC though, in RL’s New Era there is little if any room for error, and if Hull live up to this early bidding then the top eight should and will be a minimum requirement.
Hull Starting XIII: 1. Jamie Shaul, 2. Tom Lineham, 21. Richard Whiting, 4. Kirk Yeaman, 19: Steve Michaels, 6. Leon Pryce, 7. Marc Sneyd, 8. Mickey Paea, 9. Danny Houghton, 10. Liam Watts, 17. Dean Hadley, 12. Mark Minichiello, 13. Joe Westerman. Interchange: 15. Chris Green, 22. Josh Bowden, 16. Jordan Thompson, 23. James Cunningham.
Hull Tries: Lineham. Goals: Sneyd 1/1
Warrington Starting XIII: 6. Stefan Ratchford, 2. Rhys Evans, 4. Ryan Atkins, 5. Joel Monaghan, 24. Kevin Penny, 20. Gareth O’Brien, 7. Richie Myler, 8. Chris Hill, 9. Daryl Clark, 10. Ashton Sims, 17. Ben Currie, 18. James Laithwaite, 12. Ben Westwood. Interchange: 14. Mickey Higham, 13. Ben Harrison, 21. Ben Evans, 23. Gary Wheeler.
Warrington Tries: Clark. Goals: O’Brien 1/1 DG: O’Brien
Referee: Phil Bentham