The performances are there – that’s the positive thing for Hull FC right now, despite going down to a second defeat of 2019 as Castleford ran out 26-18 winners at the KCOM Stadium.
As the losing run continues, headlines right now don’t make for great reading, but thankfully this isn’t the side who capitulated so pathetically last season, and whilst the doom and gloom merchants continue to embed social media with their misery, rest assured that things will definitely get better over time.
Head coach Lee Radford has earned that time and the opportunity to get things right at Hull FC once again. He needs to be backed, from the supporters to the chairmen, and any calls for his head, or the re-appearances of old bed sheets adorned with permanent markers would be more ludicrous than the Super League Stobart deal. If anything, let’s wait until our back-to-back Challenge Cup winning coach has his full pack of cards to utilise before passing judgement.
When that royal flush hand comes out we know we’ll be okay, but like this fanzine has stated numerous times both online and in-print, we need to manage our expectations. After such a dramatic turn in fortunes it’s a building process again, and once we get a win, we can then focus on our immediate goals, which in-house seem to be a play-off finish. To do that though our fortunes need to change sooner rather than later and right now we are definitely down on our luck, with the home opener having a very similar feel to the Derby last week. It’s another missed opportunity in a game that quite easily could have swung the other way. We’re talking very fine margins here, say for instance a dubiously disallowed video referee decision to Castleford scoring one minute later, and with more luck and perseverance, we could have been looking at two wins rather than two defeats. That shows us that we’re not far off, and with key players still to come back, it shows that we’ve got something to build on.
In an entertaining contest that picked up were Super League left off last week, Hull had enough chances to win the game, and despite playing some attractive stuff at times, ultimately we weren’t clinical enough to do so. We need to learn that ruthless cutting edge to complement the, at times, off-the-cuff brilliance of our attack. We had moments of genuine quality from our top three performers on the night, Joe Westerman, Jake Connor and most impressively Jamie Shaul. All three caused Castleford problems, who in turn had another stellar performance from Paul McShane, as well as young half back Jake Trueman.
After a disappointing start, going down to early Michael Shenton and Jesse Sene-Lefao tries, the Airlie Birds did well to whether the storm, change the momentum and take the lead. That took character and skill, and was exemplified with an effort level that wasn’t there when the injuries became catastrophic last year. Instigated with meat pies from Westerman then Connor we showed fight and we need to keep that belief going forward.
We know we will be better when we get our full side out. Even with key blokes returning we still had to negotiate the contest without several players not to mention fresh injury concerns, and that’s not a cop out, but more a reminder of our recent rancid luck in this department. We’ve got a realisation that there’s some fellas still getting back up to full fitness, and there’s some that are still in rehab with precaution the main thought process. Castleford though could argue they’ve been dealt the shittest hand with regards to Luke Gale, but then again he hasn’t been seen since bottling the World Cup final. In truth the injury card is tedious but it’s relevant whilst we’ve got the forward shortage we’re currently under.
We still had quality out on that field though and they didn’t disappoint. Westerman was busy at loose forward, adding so much to our attacking shape, whilst Connor provided his obligatory highlight reel. Dare we risk saying he’s too good for Super League, but he’s a home-bird, so we can say it anyway hopefully without consequence. The pick of the bunch though was Shaul who just got better and better as the game went on. The tough little sod battled through the pain barrier and was a nightmare to handle, fully deserving of the Sky Man of the Match award. Effort wise he is bang on every week and there’s fewer that seem to cherish playing for Hull FC than the former bricklayer does. Shaul didn’t deserve to be on the losing side but there has to be a winner and Castleford warranted it. The Globetrotters turned it on at times and tried to be fluent. They scored five tries to three, with the others coming from Junior Moors, James Clare and a second for Shenton, to seal it.
On the scoreboard Hull’s only response in the second half was through an outstanding team try finished off by Jordan Lane. The home side continued to knock on the door though. Connor’s disallowed try showed a reward for a bad defensive read if anything and Chris Kendall came under fire throughout the evening, some of it was justified with the lottery when the ball comes out of the tackle striking gold here. They literally make it up as they go along don’t they? That brought frustration into the crowd but it would be farcical to blame Kendall for the loss.
What undid Hull was their panic late on. Chasing the game but very much still in it, the last fifteen or so minutes became scrappy. We didn’t manage it to be the best of our capability and that allowed Castleford to coast home a little. It wasn’t through the lack of trying though, as shown by Bureta Faraimo and young duo Jez Litten and Lane, who both enhanced their growing reputations. The realisation is that as legendary as Danny Houghton has been, he can’t go on forever and this young hooker is full of promise. Houghton actually looked decent in his ball playing role again and it just offers us something different, which is refreshing.
The cause for concern lies with the interchange, and what the likes of Mickey Paea are offering. He’s not on his own though. Jordan Thompson and Masimbaashe Matongo need to get their mitts on the ball more too. That’s where Castleford beat us. Liam Watts, along with Grant Millington and the two Islanders were superb. But not to finish on a whimper there’s certainly encouragement in what we saw and if we can add to our performance here by becoming more clinical in the imminent future, then we’ll be better for it.
Hull Starting XIII: 1. Jamie Shaul, 27. Hakim Miloudi, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 4. Josh Griffin, 2. Bureta Faraimo, 14. Jake Connor, 7. Marc Sneyd, 8. Scott Taylor, 9. Danny Houghton, 19. Masimbaashe Matongo, 21. Sika Manu, 12. Mark Minichiello, 13. Joe Westerman. Interchange: 23. Mickey Paea, 16. Jordan Thompson, 22. Jordan Lane, 28. Jez Litten.
Hull Tries: Westerman, Connor, Lane. Goals: Sneyd 3/3
Hull 3-2-1 Man of the Match: 3pts Jamie Shaul, 2pts Jake Connor, 1pt Joe Westerman
Castleford Starting XIII: 1. Peter Mata’utia, 2. James Clare, 3. Greg Minikin, 4. Michael Shenton, 5. Greg Eden, 6. Jake Trueman, 32. Jordan Rankin, 8. Liam Watts, 9. Paul McShane, 10. Grant Millington, 15. Jesse Sene-Lefao, 17. Alex Foster, 14. Nathan Massey. Interchange: 13. Adam Milner, 16. Junior Moors, 19. Ben Roberts, 21. Mitch Clark.
Castleford Tries: Shenton 2, Sene-Lefao, Clare, Moors. Goals: McShane 2/5, Rankin 1/1
Scoring System: 0-6, 0-10, 6-10, 12-10, 12-14, 12-18, 12-24, 18-24, 18-26
Referee: Chris Kendall