That was much better, but still the attacking flaws in Hull FC were exhibited to all, going down 6-22 to runaway leaders St Helens in Mark Minichiello’s farewell.
The result gives final confirmation that Hull will miss out on this year’s Super League play-offs, finishing sixth, and given there was a chance to go outright second just a few short weeks ago, it’s a disappointment.
During recent defeats both effort and endeavour were both in question, but here they were on point. It’s the minimal expectation of your rugby league club, but Hull showed some fight against Saints. It’s with the ball that was the problem. Hull though had a dig and the fans responded, who knew? After all the recent gibberish about home support and the supporter v fan nonsense, that was refreshing. It’s like a chain reaction. Fans see the energy is there and they get behind the team. It’s not a fan base that deserves just a five win from fourteen games return at home. Hull have got some wonderful supporters that back the club all over the world – quite literally over the past two seasons. They should be cherished, even the ones who do criticise and don’t throw haribo, but who will still be there next time out.
St Helens are a class side and they showed how slick they can be with the ball with Tommy Makinson grabbing a first half hat-trick. His finishing was sublime, but defensively Hull’s left edge didn’t cover themselves in glory. Bureta Faraimo is a big culprit there, but unfortunately the whole edge has been exposed time and time again including the clubs triple POTY Josh Griffin, and it’s something Josh Jones in particular is really going to have to fix up next season.
There were times when Hull scrambled well. The Airlie Birds were in the game and if they had the ability to master some points it could have been a different story. Things like Marc Sneyd dropping the ball over the try line at 6-10 and then Saints scoring on the next set really hurt Hull. That was a ten point swing. Sneyd also missed touch from a penalty too which is a huge sin in this sport but having been made to play at hooker after Danny Houghton went off, admittedly after a Brad Fash cameo in the role, shades of the Paul King experiment *shudders*, he had a crack. They all did. It was admirable but also frustrating as if the same level of endeavour had been for filled in recent home games then Hull would have a game next week. But then again not finishing in the five could save a further embarrassment. It’s been that sort of season.
Once again showing how criminally under-rated he is, the best player on the pitch was Carlos Tuimavave. The Kiwi centre is pure class. He’s an outstanding player, probably as good as centre (Yeamo aside) as Hull have had since James Leuluai. He makes all his ground himself. He scoots and runs the ball on an angel that expertly engages defenders. He then has the agility to beat them and find more space. He does it time and time again and did so against St Helens. He was sublime. The only flaw in Tuimavave’s game is that he maybe looks for contact a bit too much, but he’s a pleasure to watch.
The fact Hull didn’t finish the season finale with a whimper means you can look for positives. Whilst there’s clear work to be done with the attack for 2020, especially when on the oppositions red zone, the contributions from some players were good. One of those was Tevita Satae. He’s an absolute wrecking ball of a prop forward. He makes metres for fun, tackles hard but even simple things like the play of the ball are mastered to perfection. That’s the thing about these players from Australian sides. It’s all about perfection. The basics. The little things that go unnoticed. Satae will be a revelation next season. There’s no doubt here about that, and it’ll be some pack if his best mate Ligi Sao matches his reputation, along with the Tongan Terminator Manu Ma’u, Josh Jones, and the current Hull-born props on offer. There’s potential for sure.
Of course though it’s all a pointless exercise if Hull don’t address their flaws. Defensively the side have conceded 768 points this season. A big chunk of that figure is down to attitude and those big defeats, but there’s also a realisation that defensive patterns must change. In attack, well we can all see it. Hull need help. It’s not all a travesty though. We know that when Hull get their most creative players all in their correct position with some continuity then they will cause teams some problems. But when the grain goes against this side the heads go down and it all goes to pot. That’s the issue.
The frustration though is apparent. Jake Connor, who looked something of his old self, was penalised for dissent and late on Albert Kelly was sin binned for the same offence. Love to know what they said. Referee bashing is about as popular as Stuart Cummings’ punditry these days, but Liam Moore is so far out of his depth he resembles Simpsons tragic Ralph Wiggum in a tethered swimming pool. It’s the same every time you see him. You could see Saints players getting frustrated too. The only difference was they held their tongue.
For all their effort, Hull had so many opportunities to post points against St Helens, enough to probably snatch the game. The passing though wasn’t crisp and last tackle options were poor, but it’s those errors that proper get under your skin. Those first tackle knock-ons, not building pressure. It’s frustrating, but it sort of summed up the season. Genuinely though Hull could have beaten St Helens with a bit more poise, a side that has only lost three league games all season. It would have been such a fitting end to the career of Minichiello too, playing his last game in a Hull FC shirt.
Minichiello has been immense for this club, whilst his form has stuttered over the past couple of seasons, before that he was one of the best back rowers in the competition. He’ll always be remembered as one of the Wembley winning team, with his direct line running and impeccable professionalism. Whilst these occasions can make you sentimental, his final display did show why he’s now hanging the boots up. Effort unquestionable. Runs his blood to water. The errors though noticeable. Still, what a signing, one of many gems unearthed by Lee Radford, which is why he gets the benefit of the doubt with what is arriving for next year.
The same thoughts go out to Sika Manu. It’s a cruel game at times. Manu had a tough time at Castleford last week and he’ll be the first to admit his body is shot. Due to injury he didn’t play against St Helens. He’s had a magnificent career, winning the NRL, the RL World Cup, and two Challenge Cups with Hull. Another tremendous signing.
Post-match Hull paraded all the players that are leaving the club this year, Joe Westerman, Danny Washbrook, Mickey Paea, Jack Logan and Levy Nzoungou. It was emotional, but it’s a new era now. The biggest recruitment drive since 2016, we all know how that turned out, but the side need to earn a bit of trust back before we start talking about dizzy height territory.
Whilst on the pitch the ending to 2019 will rightly frustrate many, off the field the club got it bang on. Junior takeover a few weeks back, now remembering Steve Prescott and those departing. They know how to engage, to swing us back in, but it’s in the blood isn’t it. We’ll be back. Time for a break, a winter fanzine special, then to get excited for 2020. Come on you Ull.
Hull Starting XIII: 1. Jamie Shaul, 33. Ratu Naulago, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 4. Josh Griffin, 2. Bureta Faraimo, 6. Albert Kelly, 7. Marc Sneyd, 8. Scott Taylor, 9. Danny Houghton, 39. Tevita Satae, 12. Mark Minichiello, 22. Jordan Lane, 34. Gareth Ellis. Interchange: 10. Josh Bowden, 14. Jake Connor, 20. Brad Fash, 19. Masimbaashe Matongo.
Hull Tries: Taylor. Goals: Sneyd 1/1
Hull 3-2-1 Man of the Match: 3pts Carlos Tuimavave, 2pts Tevita Satae, 1pt Gareth Ellis
St Helens Starting XIII: 23. Lachlan Coote, 2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Kevin Naiqama, 4. Mark Percival, 5. Regan Grace, 6. Theo Fages, 1. Jonny Lomax, 8. Alex Walmsley, 9. James Roby, 10. Luke Thompson, 11. Zen Taia, 17. Dominic Peyroux, 15. Morgan Knowles. Interchange: 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 16. Kyle Amor, 20. Jack Ashworth, 22. James Bentley.
St Helens Tries: Makinson 3, Percival, Grace. Goals: Coote 1/5
Scoring System: 0-4, 0-10, 6-10, 6-14, 6-18, 6-22
Referee: Liam Moore