Effort. Great. You can rarely question that from a Hull FC team coached by Lee Radford. Game smarts and management though. That’s a different story and that’s ultimately what cost the side in a 18-34 defeat to runaway leaders St Helens.
The task in hand was already massive. We’ve talked about injuries for what seems an eternity now and with seven already out the last thing Hull needed was Jake Connor to leave the field via a stretcher in the first half. Connor couldn’t even walk and it was certainly perplexing that he was even allowed an attempt to do so. With us just getting Jordan Abdull back from a broken leg too that summed up our fortune this year in a nutshell, a year which as far as injuries go has been catastrophic. Compare that to St Helens who’s only serious casualty all season has been Alex Walmsley and you can see why one side sits top of the table and the other is struggling to make the top four.
That’s maybe a discredit to the Saints though, who it must be said chance their arm all over the field and play some great rugby. They are ruthless and they are led by a world-class talent. No not Ben Barba, but the hooker James Roby. The old-timer is still at the peak of his powers, not that it needs any reminding, but he was unreal here, ripping Hull apart. Yes some of the things Barba does are extraordinary and he therefore gets all of the plaudits, but Roby is the glue, make no mistake there. He tormented Hull and caused mayhem from the play of the ball all evening.
The end result was a shame, and frustrating, as for sixty or so minutes it was a right contest and you could present a strong argument that Hull could and maybe should have won. They should have been out of sight before Saints even got on the board and despite getting an eight point lead in the second half they showed little ambition to extend it, but instead attempt to run the clock down despite there being a quarter of the game to go. Bizarre and certainly negative against a side that will punish you the minute you drop off. Losers mentality, I don’t care what anyone says. That was disappointing.
Was it down to fatigue? Who knows. But it cost Hull, who looked burnt out shortly after Albert Kelly’s try for 18-10 and struggled to get an ascendency again as Saints scored 24 unanswered points. Some of them were gifted to the leaders but some were unlucky. Things like Jack Downs going a whisker away from a try and then the opposition scoring the set after. Tough to take. Maybe in hindsight Hull should have tied the game with a penalty goal at 18-20 but that’s negative in itself and I’d always rather see them chance their arm. They did on this occasion and just came up short.
In a clinical period of five tries, Roby smartly taking advantage of an overlap with Bureta Faraimo down injured also cost us. Fans were disgruntled with referee Liam Moore’s decision to play on, but unless it’s a head injury or the injured player is in direct contact with play you carry on as far as I’m concerned. We’ve seen far too much faking injury and playacting in Super League to stop the game this year and I’m sick of it. Even here Danny Richardson went down more times than Nigel Wood hands himself severance payments. Happened in all three games against Saints this year too. It needs stamping out the game. Just sods law that Saints’ hooker spotted the opportunity, but he’s been doing that for over a decade and that’s why he’s been the Great Britain or England hooker for a large period of that time. An absolutely class act, the same cannot be said though of a section of Saints fans who cheered Connor’s injury. Bellends. Unfortunately every club has them, but a shame as I like Saints and Hull fans usually get on well with them.
The game itself started in blistering fashion for Hull, who scored almost immediately through Bureta Faraimo. He has 17 tries in 19 appearances for the club now and as his debut year here matures he’s just getting better and better, as I said he would if he could actually regain consciousness for an extended period of games. After that Hull should have added further points as a more than fair share of field position and opportunity went to us, but we bombed it, and then got punished. Hull fans weren’t happy with Moore’s performance and a decision to rule Dean Hadley scooping the ball backwards as a knock on didn’t help the mood. From that Tommy Makinson scored. You can sense the mood now, which got worse when poor defence saw Ben Barba coast through for a second Saints try. But we kept going and Faraimo did superbly well to score his second off a cut out over cooked Kelly pass. With Connor off, Hakim Miloudi took over the tee responsibility, but his effort went wide of the posts as half time loomed with Saints 8-10 ahead. Despite the hand we’d been dealt with, and the commendable effort, that still felt like a sucker punch. We should have been ahead.
We came quick out the blocks after the break and scored twice in quick succession. Jansin Turgut was absolutely superb on his return to the side and linked in the line to put Hull ahead, before another tenacious Kelly performance saw him power over close to the sticks. He, along with Carlos Tuimavave, have to be applauded for once again playing through the pain barrier. They’re not fit by any stretch of the imagination but they are still giving everything. For Kelly especially that’s a mean feat considering he apparently goes missing after signing new contracts. He was outstanding, and we got him for free. For Turgut that was a great comeback after so long away from the first team.
Our decision missing after Kelly’s try however wasn’t the best and after a flurry of possession Saints raced ahead. Barba added a second, before Jonny Lomax added his own try brace. Hull showed little threat to come back from that, with tries from Adam Swift and Luke Thompson completing their win. It made the scoreline look a little ugly, but to be fair Hull were right amongst it for large parts. We’ve got to be smarter though against these top teams. The effort was brilliant, but effort alone won’t get us to where we want to be.
Hull Starting XII: 28. Hakim Miloudi, 2. Bureta Faraimo, 14. Jake Connor, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 24. Jack Logan, 6. Albert Kelly, 16. Jordan Abdull, 8. Scott Taylor, 9. Danny Houghton, 15. Chris Green, 25. Jansin Turgut, 12. Mark Minichiello, 11. Dean Hadley. Interchange: 23. Mickey Paea, 29. Masimbaashe Matongo, 26. Jordan Lane, 27. Jack Downs.
Hull Tries: Faraimo 2, Turgut, Kelly. Goals: Connor 0/1, Miloudi 1/3.
Hull 3-2-1 Man of the Match: 3pts Albert Kelly, 2pts Jansin Turgut, 1pt Bureta Faraimo
St Helens Starting XIII: 23. Ben Barba, 2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Ryan Morgan, 4. Mark Percival, 5. Adam Swift, 1. Jonny Lomax, 18. Danny Richardson, 10. Kyle Amor, 9. James Roby, 16. Luke Thompson, 17. Dominic Peyroux, 11. Zeb Taia, 12. Jon Wilkin. Interchange: 6. Theo Fages, 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 14. Luke Douglas, 20. Morgan Knowles.
St Helens Tries: Makinson, Barba 2, Lomax 2, Swift, Thompson. Goals: Richardson 3/7
Referee: Liam Moore