Super League Round Twenty-Two – Friday 17th July – Rovers 12 Hull 22 – Caravan Park
Hull FC secured their Super League status at the expense of their bitterest of rivals, with a controlled and gutsy performance paving the way for a ten point Hull Derby victory over their hot headed hosts, whose departure to the middle eight now looks anything but a fore long conclusion.
Sparked by two braces from their wingmen, it assures Hull a minimum eighth spot finish, and a chance to gaze up the table, think what might have been or what still could be. Currently sitting just two points off fourth spot, the once again found optimism of late May / early June looks justified after three wins on the bounce – including a season highlight at the home of the eldest of enemies.
Something of a happy hunting ground, Hull’s 22-12 victory makes it three wins from four at Craven Park, or Caravan Park to West ‘Ull folk – but more importantly also secures the bragging rights for the third time in four years. Hull are setting the record straight, as they claw back their Super League aggregate to within two. The tide has turned. The city is Black and White.
The fitness of Rovers’ scrum half Albert Kelly led the pre-match media speculation, with coach Chris Chester opting to start with the former Gold Coast man. It came as a blessing in disguise for Hull, as his usual running game was as ineffective as a chocolate fireguard, with his kicking nor passing much better.
In contrast to Hull’s main man Marc Sneyd who was once again brilliant in another performance of his growing stature, influence and responsibility. Though it was the home side who struck first – despite being second best in the opening ten – as Shaun Lunt took advantage of poor marker play to scoot his way over.
That and a Mantellato try and conversion gave Rovers an early 12-4 advantage, with a pin point Sneyd kick putting Michaels in via the video ref – the first of his two scores for Hull’s brief and only response.
But as the visitors grew into the game their superiority was telling. From the tap twenty, Hull muscled up with commanding drives giving them a shot for a play or two of expansive rugby. A left to right shift then ended up with a familiar Tom Lineham try from a Jordan Rankin pass – arguably Super League’s most prolific combination.
Hull at their potent and attractive best were on fire, but the next score came with an element of fortune, with a wayward miss pass giving the Flying Pig the opportunity to showcase his finishing ability, and one he took with open arms. Sneyd converted both – including a brilliant touch line effort after the hooter for a 16-12 half time lead.
Clawing their way back at a difficult venue to play at – as far as the record books show – Hull never looked in danger of giving up their winning margin, despite losing Leon Pryce (shoulder) and Gareth Ellis (Achilles) to a sickening looking injury.
Starting the second half with a gift presented by Ken Sio – rumoured alleged partner of the Barbie doll – Stevie Michaels was able to ground for his second, thanks to a windy loose carry by the former Eels men. Sneyd once more converted, as the lead was extended to double figures.
Led by the superhuman workforce of vice-captain Danny Houghton, the Black and Whites defence stood firm, with a tested lack of interchange rotations putting them through their paces as Rovers threw every bit of average mediocrity at them.
Like the little hooker, Mark Minichiello was also outstanding on his return from injury, with his running game causing havoc as it has to defences all season. Both were astonishing in eighty minute displays, a feat Houghton has managed for the best part of two months now – some engine.
As the final quarter approached chances kept coming, as empty seats and spaces on the terraces started to appear. Controlled and confident Hull ensured Rovers fed off scraps, as the visitor’s ability to defend their line saw them home – largely thanks to Aussie sensation Jordan Rankin sweeping up all before him. Held up, and brought back for forward passes, the ironic cheers from the North Stand allocation certainly boiled the blood of a few bitter Robins as they headed for the exits.
Hull could and should have won by more, but not that it was to matter. Biff, or a loss of heads by the home players saw a minor scuffle finalise the 226th Hull Derby, with Hull taking the billed up Origin decider for the bragging rights and all that comes with it, and therefore crumbling Rovers hopes of a top eight finish – not that Neil cares though..
Rovers Starting XIII: 1. Kieran Dixon, 4. Josh Mantellato, 19. Kris Welham, 18. Liam Salter, 5. Ken Sio, 6. Maurice Blair, 7. Albert Kelly, 32. Dane Tilse, 31. Shaun Lunt, 34. Tony Puletua, 11. Kevin Larroyer, 12. Graeme Horne, 17. Greg Burke. Interchange: 13. Tyrone McCarthy, 15. James Donaldson, 2. Ben Cockayne, 8. Adam Walker.
Rovers Tries: Lunt, Mantellato. Goals: Mantellato 2/2
Hull Starting XIII: 32. Jordan Rankin, 2. Tom LIneham, 5. Fetuli Talanoa, 24. Jack Logan, 19. Steve Michaels, 6. Leon Pryce, 7. Marc Sneyd, 22. Josh Bowden, 9. Danny Houghton, 10. Liam Watts, 11. Gareth Ellis, 12. Mark Minichiello, 13. Joe Westerman. Interchange: 15. Chris Green, 16. Jordan Thompson, 21. Richard Whiting
Hull Tries: Michaels 2, Lineham 2. Goals: Sneyd ¾
Referee: Richard Silverwood