Hull FC are top of Super League after another Derby win. Scenes. It’s fair to say the heights of Headingley weren’t replicated five days on from the sublime opening day performance, but the result was the same and as cliché as it is, those two competition points are all that matter.
We’ll milk it, but the table right now has about as much relevance as the silver polish stored in the Caravan Park cleaning cupboard. Such polish has probably gone well past it’s expiration date too. Since 1985. They hate it. Singing an adapted version of Old Faithful was fine though, but we ruined that by winning at Wembley. Twice. There’s no love lost here. The City is ours, and we’re also the current pace setters. Premature. Aye. But it’s better to have points on the board than play catch up. Can Hull stay there? Perhaps. But here we were below par and will have to raise our game a lot more than what we saw on Friday night.
You can cut Hull some slack. It was a short turnaround after Headingley and the display suggested a side that had limited time to prepare. You know the cliché with these fixtures too. Form goes out the window and all that. But whatever your view on Derby stereotypes, the bottom line is Hull were miles off the level of the Leeds display and still won 25-16. Moral victories. That’s the level they’re at now. Try not to laugh. Sure they threw the ball around, they were enthused and they tested Hull. Up against a reshuffled but still formidable pack they had no other choice and contributed to a tense occasion in which Hull had to work hard to turn the screw.
It was a proper Derby battle with sparks of quality. You won’t see much better this season than Ben Crooks’ try, that’s for sure. You’ll see a lot more of Jake Connor ghosting through defences though, not to mention his half back partner with the mercurial left boot. As per the norm in big games Marc Sneyd was outstanding, scoring once and assisting three others. He also drilled between the posts four goals and landed a club record equalling drop-goal.
We’re watching greatness here. Time and time again does Sneyd bail this side out. The critics he gets are baffling. ‘He doesn’t take the line on.’ ‘He doesn’t engage defenders.’ What a load of rubbish. Try telling Connor that Sneyd doesn’t take the line on. Or Josh Griffin. That double pump. Delightful. Tell Danny Houghton that Sneyd doesn’t provide him try assists either. What an influence. Assists from both hand and boot, but all he can do is kick right? Ha. It’s all the more impressive too as Hull needed a spark. They needed to go up a gear to rid themselves of a plucky and spirited opposition, as that’s what quality teams do. That spark came from Sneyd as it has so often before.
Like the watching legend Peter Sterling did so many times in his glorious Hull FC career, Sneyd grabbed the game by the scruff of its neck, getting the ball out wide, kicking well, and leading the side to victory. He is the half back this club craved for so many years and the one that has won Hull more games than away fans that left the North Stand after Griffin’s game clinching try. But despite two Lance Todd’s and numerous big game displays, Sneyd is so under-rated. It’s easy to pick on him or highlight his flaws, there’s a cynic in all of us, but he’s absolutely quality and a perfect fit for the Hull regime.
Sneyd had the luxury of playing off a pack that eventually got on top of its opposition too. Talk about grinds isn’t exactly prime rugby league but not every game is served on a velvet pillow. It’s about finding ways to win week in week out and that pack is monstrous. Manu Ma’u got all the fanfare as far as new signings go but again Ligi Sao was really impressive. He’s got a right engine on him. He never stops running the ball in and he defended with energy too. Fellow new addition Josh Jones was also a metre machine and smashed it on his home debut. Meanwhile, Andre Savelio has started this season like a house on fire and once again showed that he’s a player worth a lot more than £85k on the fantasy league. He’s adamant to show that.
In the backs Carlos Tuimavave was Carlos Tuimavave, quietly going about his business with everything he touched turning into gold dust. Tuimavave is becoming like Houghton. He’s so consistently brilliant every week that it’s sort of expected now. The norm. It actually is though. He needs no introduction, especially from us, proud inaugural members of the Toooomavave fan club. It’s his triceps that do it for us. Every lads dream. Additionally the other centre growing into the game after a tough start, cutting them to shreds, and rattling some cages after his try right in front of their fans was bliss. Up the Griff.
On return from a thumb injury Houghton made his 350th Hull FC appearance. A remarkable achievement and very fitting that he got on the score-sheet with a win to take home. There is some justice in the sport after all. It wouldn’t have been right if he lost that one. He deserved the win. The man who runs his blood to water every week for the Hull FC cause. It was interesting to see him spelled with Jordan Johnstone too, having a stint as a ball player in the middle. Don’t under estimate the vocal effect he has on the side either. He might not scream at referees like other captains but he leads by example and sometimes that’s the inspiration you need.
We all know how strong Hull are this year and it must be great for the milestone man to play off another barn storming pack. Chris Satae added some right punch to the side when he came on. He’s an absolute unit, another Polynesian that’s respectful and calmly spoken off the field but who’s intimidating and physical whilst on it. Satae’s impact was telling. He bailed the side out with his metres, as did local lad Scott Taylor who always relishes these occasions.
However, for all those individual plaudits Hull struggled as a collective unit to distance themselves from Rovers. We absolutely despise the bastards but they played well here and can take credit for that. Although it does sum up the two clubs’ ambitions that they’re content with a dig and nine-point defeat against an under-strength, under-prepared and on the night under-performing side. Aye, they had a threat and on another day could have nicked it, but you always felt like something was to come for Hull with territory. Getting that territory was the problem though. The old enemy got some mileage into the ball and dictated a lot where the game was played. They don’t don’t like relegation fodder, sadly.
It was also weird seeing two of our own in Dean Hadley and Jez Litten back in enemy colours. They were both excellent. Harvey Livett too had some moments, although it’s dubious if he got the ball down for the first try of the game. In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter, but it opens up a can of worms with the video ref. If you’re not sure then how can you give it and there’s no way on earth that Robert Hicks saw him put the ball down to send it up as a try. Why referees in both of rugby league’s premier competitions have to send decisions up as try or no try is completely baffling anyway. The whole reason the video ref comes into play is due to the uncertainly of the on field ref, so why do they have to make a call when nine times out of ten they haven’t got a clue? A proper flaw in our game. Always good to highlight these things when you win too, otherwise you just get labelled sour grapes and the point is overlooked.
Not perfect but still the same outcome, Friday’s win was Hull’s 20th Derby triumph in the Super League era. Gritty stuff. Defensively we had to stand up late on and ultimately we did enough. We weren’t at our best, yet it’s a sign of a very good team when you can pick up Super League victories whilst not playing well. They’ll be a lot of point scoring on missing players too across the forums and both sides had a fair share out. It’s all irrelevant. That’s why you have a squad.
Bureta Faraimo’s absence though brought a club debut to Adam Swift. He was okay but he didn’t catch the limelight during his first run out. It sort of makes you appreciate just how good Faraimo is too. He gets a lot of stick and a lot of it is unfair. It’s his place to lose in our humble opinion. His form in pre-season has earned him that, even with Mahe Fonua back in the first team fold after a ten minute cameo. Swift though will only get better. It’s his former club up next on Sunday week too. The Champions. Let’s hope for another big crowd, and hopefully another marker laid down.
Hull Starting XIII: 1. Jamie Shaul, 33. Ratu Naulago, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 4. Josh Griffin, 5. Adam Swift, 6. Jake Connor, 7. Marc Sneyd, 8. Scott Taylor, 9. Danny Houghton, 13. Ligi Sao, 21. Jordan Lane, 11. Josh Jones, 23. Andre Savelio. Interchange: 10. Chris Satae, 22. Josh Bowden, 16. Jordan Johnstone, 24. Mahe Fonua.
Hull Tries: Connor, Houghton, Sneyd, Griffin. Goals: Sneyd 4/4. Drop Goal: Sneyd.
Hull 3-2-1 Man of the Match: 3pts Marc Sneyd, 2pts Ligi Sao, 1pt Josh Griffin
Rovers Starting XIII: 1. Adam Quinlan, 2. Ben Crooks, 4. Kane Linnett, 3. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 5. Greg Minikin, 31. Ryan Brierley, 30. Jamie Ellis, 8. Robbie Mulhern, 18. Jez Litten. 28. Matthew Storton, 12. Harvey Livett, 15. George Lawler, 16. Dan Murray. Interchange: 27. Elliot Minchella, 26. Will Maher, 17. Kyle Trout, 13. Dean Hadley.
Rovers Tries: Livett, Quinlan, Crooks. Goals: Ellis 2/4.
Scoring System: 0-4, 6-4, 6-10, 12-10, HT, 12-16, 18-16, 24-16, 25-16
Referee: Robert Hicks