Can Hull FC play Wigan every week? Seriously. Games against the Pies are always the best. We don’t get stuffed anymore and it’s proper old school rugby league. It’s always physical, it’s intense, and recently at least, the results have been tighter than a Scotsman’s wallet.
Games between these two sides have everything. They’re always competitive – the away fixture back in February was epic, and then you think back to the classic Wembley final two years ago. This one was a cracking contest and the desire and will from both sides to defend their line was excellent. Wigan especially absorbed tuns of pressure and then posted just enough points to edge a 15-14 victory. They deserved the win, even if for an eight point try which, along with a couple of tackles that probably bordered on the game’s legalities, got a few people spitting their dummies out.
You see if that was Hull we’d be loving it. We’ve cried out for such physicality and such intensity all year. To some extent we’ve got it now. Scott Taylor was excellent again, and he was followed by Brad Fash, who one key error aside, had a dig. He ran tough all night, as did young Jordan Lane. Josh Griffin was good and Masimbaashe Matongo too had a crack. We missed the likes of Mickey Paea and Sika Manu for one, but we still took it to Wigan, who are relentless, and fight for every inch. The Warriors just had a little bit more. They are so old school, they play on the border, but there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s rugby league, not tiddlywinks, as the saying goes.
There’s a reason why nine times out of ten, Wigan are right in the mix, it’s in their DNA, they never give up. That’s the level Hull are trying to get to. A few months ago and a Thursday game after an emotional and absorbing Challenge Cup semi-final would have probably brought with it one of those big defeats, but we’ve evolving. The effort was outstanding yet again and under fatigue we had a right dig, but we’ve got to be smarter if any ambitions of Old Trafford are going to come to fruition. Against Wigan we just didn’t have enough, but you’re talking thin margins again. It’s not a catastrophe. We’re nearly there. Wigan are the masters at this stuff and we matched them for large parts. But we’ve got to be smarter, more ruthless, and come up with more options than a penalty goal.
Hull needed that extra bit of zip in attack, but saying that the Wigan defence was outstanding. We had spells where we absolutely peppered their line, but they held firm. That’s testament to them. It was all Hull early on, but we only had two goals to show for it. Could we have gone for broke? Maybe. But we played it safe. Ultimately it wasn’t enough and we’ve got to find that killer touch. On that front our half backs didn’t do enough. Albert Kelly had one of those nights but he isn’t 100% fit and his display told that. Marc Sneyd too didn’t ask enough questions, but he was up against a side that smartly got in his face all night. Jake Connor was benched again which is nothing short of madness. He must start at right centre every week – it’s only a few weeks ago where the Snake was causing complete and utter mayhem out there alongside Kelly and Ratu Naulago. Yes, it’s tough for Radford, but we’re talking here about one of the top five most talented players in the whole competition. He must start and start in his best position.
Hull lost, so of course there’s a premature reaction full of anger on social media – it’s a rancid place at times, but it’s not justified and the majority of Hull fans get the situation. We’ve no divine right to win anything and we’re still in the mix. We’re still third. We’re likely to be in the play-offs and we’re competing. We know where we must improve but as long as we maintain this effort level then we won’t be far away. The bar is set with our captain Danny Houghton, who once again was magnificent. Hooker in the modern day game is such a pivotal position, but right now Houghton is bang in form. His consistency is probably to his detriment at times, as he goes under the radar as we know what we get every week, but recently wow. Mr Hull FC isn’t he. He’s been outstanding and in our humble opinion he was the best out there again. Scooting to effect, he ran his blood to water and came up with the usual defensive contribution. He leads and others follow, similar to Gareth Ellis.
Wigan edged us here, but it was no disgrace, it’s frustrating of course as is any defeat but it’s not catastrophic. Their eight point try got them ahead in the first half and it was touch and go, but it certainty highlights the video ref conundrum. Bureta Faraimo was taken in the air at L**ds just a fortnight ago and nothing was made of it. If Marc Sneyd missed that last conversion, then those two points become massive don’t they? It’s got to be at all games or none.
Wigan extended their lead with their own penalty goal and then scored again after half-time again through Liam Marshall. The fightback from Hull after that was admirable. Taylor did what Taylor does best in powering over the line and after Sneyd hit another penalty goal, it was all level. Cue a tense final few minutes. Hull weren’t at their smartest in this period, and there was a lot of dropped ball here and before, but credit must go to Wigan and Oliver Gildart. If he didn’t get that ball out in the tackle, then his side don’t get the field position to land the winning drop-goal through Zak Hardaker. Before then Hull had our own opportunities, but when it’s nip and tuck like that you have to take them. That’s two weeks running where it’s been a harsh lesson. Third time lucky? We’ll find out at Wakefield on Sunday week.
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, 15. Chris Green, 22. Jordan Lane, 12. Mark Minichiello, 13. Joe Westerman. Interchange: 34. Gareth Ellis, 19. Masimbaashe Matongo, 20. Brad Fash, 14. Jake Connor.
Hull Tries: Taylor. Goals: Sneyd 5/5
Hull 3-2-1 Man of the Match: 3pts Danny Houghton, 2pts Scott Taylor, 1pt Josh Griffin
Wigan Starting XIII: 20. Zak Hardaker, 17. Liam Marshall, 3. Dan Sarginson, 4. Oliver Gildart, 5. Joe Burgess, 6. George Williams, 7. Thomas Leuluai, 14. Romain Navarrete, 9. Sam Powell, 24. Oliver Partington, 15. Willie Isa, 12. Liam Farrell, 38. Morgan Smithies. Interchange: 36. Liam Bryne, 8. Tony Clubb, 13. Sean O’Loughlin, 37. Jarrod Sammut (not used).
Wigan Tries: Marshall 2. Goals: Hardaker 3/4. Drop Goal: Hardaker
Scoring System: 2-0, 4-0, 4-8, 4-10, 6-10, 6-14, 12-14, 14-14, 14-15
Referee: Ben Thaler