Pride – that’s the main emotion coming out of the latest Hull FC performance, after our lads heroically went down 25-22 to St Helens in the Challenge Cup quarter-final.
Despite the defeat we’re bursting with pride. Our reign as holders of this competition will soon come to an end, but what a run it’s been, and that display, regardless of the result, exemplified the sort of desire and determination that has seen us achieve back to back wins at the Holy Grail over the past two seasons. It was the sort of display that Lee Radford has engraved into this side, that never say die attitude, the resilience and the character. And then there’s the clubs hardcore supporter base, a contingent of people that have followed this side literally all over the world, from Wollongong, to Wembley, to Perpignan and the rest, whilst remaining as vocal as ever and backing the side wherever they go. Not to blow my own trumpet but that Cup tie was my 170th Hull FC game in a row, and you see the same faces everywhere you go. Proper supporters that back their team, and when you get followings and a performance to match, you can sense that feeling of pride whatever the outcome.
We got that at St Helens. It was emotional and despite the influence of a few ales, one or two tears were definitely shed at full-time. We gave it absolutely everything. Hull FC’s injuries have been well-documented recently and we went into the game missing key players once again. Compound that with losing Dean Hadley after two minutes of play and having three sin bins across the game and we quite easily could have rolled over. That doesn’t happen in this Radford team though and the qualities he has installed over the past four or so years were there to see, which is why every supporter leaving Langtree Park or whatever it’s called now was bursting with pride and undoubtedly will be proud of their club after the display we put in.
Whatever your view on the three sin bins, a fact you can’t take away from Hull is that 13 on 13 the final score was 22-12 in their favour. Saints posted 13 of their points whilst having a numerical advantage. That told. They’re the best team in the country right now with the best player in Ben Barba and we made them look ordinary. Consequently after a brilliant contest, it is a shame that one of the major talking points post-match is those sin bins, but whilst rugby league is under its current predicament this sort of debate will continue. The video ref. You either have it at all games or none at all. We have a right to feel aggregated on that alone. If the games not on tele does Masimbaashe Matongo walk for ten minutes? Probably not. Most of us can concede Danny Washbrook’s use of knees wasn’t easy on the eye, but with additional weight being pushed on him from behind, what is Danny Houghton supposed to do? Danny Richardson puts himself in a vulnerable position and Houghton gets penalised for it. It’s not the first time Richardson has stayed down feigning injury either and it won’t be the last. As the risk of singling him out he’s not on his own either. It’s a disturbing concept that is creeping into our game and one that needs to be eradicated immediately.
It’s easy to say this as a fanzine that ultimately has a bias towards the club we love, but it’s not like it’s a Hull FC lost so let’s blame the referee scenario. Congratulations to St Helens – as I said earlier they’re the best team in the country right now, but those sin bins, especially in the first half, were the difference between the two sides, and if that game isn’t televised, then do all three yellow cards occur? Food for thought. Moving on though. What a game. The best 80 minutes of action I’ve seen in either of our two competitions this season. A contest that restored my faith in rugby league and proved that we still have an unbelievable product we can sell when it’s played the right way. Unfortunately those sort of contests have been too few and far between in 2018, and that’s one of many reasons why certain people, myself included, are disillusioned with the sport. But this one really was brilliant.
Hull FC were sensational in parts. Led superbly by the ever brilliant Scott Taylor we stuck together and competed right until the final whistle. Tag alone was colossal. He exemplifies time and time again what it means to wear that shirt and leaves nothing on the field. Playing through what is becoming more evident is a shoulder problem, he drove the ball in, scored a try full of determination and played big minutes as always in a committed and full-blooded display. Carlos Tuimavave on return was all class too and considering he was supposed to be out with an ankle injury for another two months his display was even more remarkable. Elsewhere in the backs Hakim Miloudi was a right menace on the wing again and scored a fine try, whilst Jack Logan, who had a tough afternoon in defence up against Marc Percival, put in a shift for our cause. Bureta Faraimo ran well too but please make sure he stays away from the tee in the future.
That brain explosion where Faraimo kicked out on the full cost us four points, with Regan Grace adding to an opener from Percival to give Saints a 10-0 lead. Hull FC’s ability to come back from that through the outstanding Albert Kelly then Chris Green was admirable, before the sin bins struck before half time. That cost us. Percival and Grace both completed their braces and Richardson also added a drop goal. Though after the break the only points the home side could register was from a penalty goal. That said a lot about the Black and Whites, who added two further tries themselves through Taylor and Miloudi.
That effort almost brought with it a win, but it wasn’t to be. Aside from the sin bins, and Faraimo’s costly kicking blunder, our last tackle options were poor. Oh to have Marc Sneyd in those situations, as UTC seller Sam Shepherd pointed out about a dozen times during the game. He’s right though. Sneyd is the best game managing half back in the country and his left boot is the difference between winning and losing, as proven twice at Wembley. What might have been with him on the field, who knows? But I’m not tarnishing the effort of any of our boys as they were outstanding. We did it tough, our effort was superb, and we were beaten by a top class side. I can live with that. The challenge now is to pick ourselves up quickly for the demands of Super League. After four weeks on the road, home comforts will be very welcome indeed.
St Helens Starting XIII: 23. Ben Barba, 2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Ryan Morgan, 4. Mark Percival, 19. Regan Grace, 1. Jonny Lomax, 18. Danny Richardson, 17. Luke Thompson, 9. James Roby, 10. Kyle Amor, 17. Dominic Peyroux, 11. Zeb Taia, 12. Jon Wilkin. Interchange: 14. Luke Douglas, 15. Morgan Knowles, 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 6. Theo Fages.
St Helens Tries: Percival 2, Grace 2. Goals: Richardson 4/5. Drop Goal: Richardson
Hull Starting XIII: 1. Jamie Shaul, 2. Bureta Faraimo, 24. Jack Logan, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 28. Hakim Miloudi, 6. Albert Kelly, 14. Jake Connor, 8. Scott Taylor, 9. Danny Houghton, 15. Chris Green, 21. Sika Manu, 12. Mark Minichiello, 11. Dean Hadley. Interchange: 23. Mickey Paea, 29. Masimbaashe Matongo, 17. Danny Washbrook, 20. Brad Fash.
Hull Tries: Kelly, Green, Taylor, Miloudi. Goals: Connor 3/4
Hull Sin Bins: Houghton, Washbrook, Matongo
Hull 3-2-1 Man of the Match: 3pts Scott Taylor, 2pts Jamie Shaul, 1pt Carlos Tuimavave
Scoring System: 6-0, 10-0, 10-6, 10-12, 16-12, 22-12, 23-12, 23-18, 25-18, 25-22
Referee: Ben Thaler
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