Hull FC – they know how to push our buttons don’t they. What to make of Friday nights horror show? Well several pints, a lengthy kip and a day later, we still have no idea. We’re trying to stay positive, but it’s hard not to point the finger and go into meltdown mode – won’t be throwing any bottles though.
In such a short space of time, the large majority of this Hull FC team has experienced both the high and low, from wins at Wembley, to record defeats, with another, a 12-63 home loss at the hands of Warrington, the latest embarrassment for this supposed proud club.
It was Warrington who of course humiliated Hull FC by an all-time record defeat of 80-10 last season, and now several months later, it’s an all-time record home defeat as the Wire put eleven tries on an undeniably injury-hit outfit. That itself is a statement that will be ignored by those who consistently swing that hammer at Hull FC, but it’s relevant. Obviously it’s not 63-points worth of excuses, but the several key players missing, most notably Jamie Shaul, Jake Connor and long term absentees Josh Bowden and Chris Green, account for something. You can throw Gareth Ellis in there too, and in form Ratu Naulago, alongside youngsters Liam Harris and Cameron Scott, the latter of whom if fit would have been a better option that the left edge Warrington tore apart. There were mumourings too that Albert Kelly, Marc Sneyd and Joe Westerman were carrying knocks, and Andre Savelio had to make his debut sooner than planned. That makes a difference of course, but a Hull side should never lose by such a margin.
Injuries aside though you can’t cut corners here or hide from reality. That display, as good as Warrington were, was horrendously embarrassing. Hull FC were absolutely rancid. Mentally you have to question them, the attitude of many stank, and unfortunately it’s happening too frequently – think the two 50-point home defeats in 2017 and what happened in the Super 8s last season. Everyone knew to get two competition points here would be an almighty task, and it seems the side went into the contest with that mentality. There was little evidence in their application to show that they believed they could get anything from the game. Hull just rolled over, with the main benefactor of that being Blake Austin – the four-try marquee man that is probably the best player in Super League right now.
Amongst Hull’s flaws, Warrington, the most forward thinking club in the competition, were outstanding. They identified Hull’s weaknesses and exploited them from the off, with Stefan Ratchford, Daryl Clark and the like running riot. The two wingers, Josh Charnley and former Hull flying pig Tom Lineham, were excellent, and showed their speed to finish off their tries. Everything Warrington did was full of pace. They moved the ball with a purpose and had a hooker in Clark who delievered a masterclass in how to get out the blocks from dummy half. Hull couldn’t deal with that pace.
Putting Jordan Thompson at Centre shows how injuries have derailed the side, as tedious as the word has become, it plays its part, with the latest casualties forcing Lee Radford to select Hakim Miloudi at fullback. If anything, his performance shows how important Shaul is to our side, not just in terms of how reliable he is defensively and for the gain he gives us in attack, but for the things we don’t necessarily see, like marshalling the numbers either side of the ruck and getting his defensive line in shape. Miloudi, who was full of mistakes and actually got an ironic cheer from the crowd when he caught one high bomb, was tormented throughout. Warrington went under, over and around Hull. There was no understanding and the absence of Shaul was a big reason for that, not that the Frenchmen is to blame for all the monstrosities on the night.
You’re clutching at straws to find anyone who can come out without a rinsing. Carlos Toooooomavave was probably one of those, and Kelly was a threat whilst also error prone, but after that it’s a lottery. Usual crowd pleasers for instance like Scott Taylor were dominated by their opposite numbers. There was no threat from any of the forwards, not until young Jordan Lane came on anyway and showed his peers how to pick a line and come onto the ball. That there is the biggest problem with Hull right now. The pack isn’t as formidable as it once was, and whilst other areas of the side have arguably improved, it remains a dilemma with the style of rugby league Radford likes to implement. We don’t dominate up front anymore. Our pack here was beaten with ease, and the hot and cold nature of players like Mark Minichiello is a reflection on their age. It’s again unfortunate that sentimental contracts are going to tarnish the reputations of players that have previously excelled for the club. Just check out the Facebook forums.
What is really concerning right now is that our current predicament stinks of post-2007. Before then Hull had a Cup win and a Grand Final appearance behind them, but soon stagnated, as we have done every time we’ve won something. Right now you could question some of the motives, from an owner who seems more bothered about a sports bar in North Hull and making friends with the enemy, than for-filing promises and putting together a proper roster. If you’re going to open your mouth and act like billy big bollocks, then at least have the balls to see it through. Unfortunately those words echoed post-Warrington away last season have done him no favours, and have lost some of his likability, especially when you hear tales of cost cutting and a reluctance to spend – something which Radford is now getting the backdrop of.
That’s not to suggest that everything is cancerous. When Hull are at full-tilt, and we’ve yet to see that this season, there’s enough quality amongst the ranks to target a fifth placed finish. What is important is not to knee-jerk so suddenly – although saying that there’s a realisation that this result needs to be rectified quickly, not to mention the notable gulf in quality between St Helens, Warrington and the rest of the competition. That’s what saves Hull’s blushes. Baring the two juggernauts from over the Pennines, the rest of the league is wide open.
For Hull FC to have any aspirations of being a play-off contender though things need to change. The attitude of the team on Friday night pissed us all off massively, but the quality of Warrington was also admirable. As frustrating as such a performance was, and given we’re at the end of March and not at the seasons breaking point, we’ll pass our judgements later on in the year – although hope and maybe blind optimism is the only thing springing us on right now. On to Salford next week then, for another Sunday away day.
Hull Starting XIII: 27. Hakim Miloudi, 2. Bureta Faraimo, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 16. Jordan Thompson, 4. Josh Griffin, 6. Albert Kelly, 7. Marc Sneyd, 8. Scott Taylor, 9. Danny Houghton, 23. Mickey Paea, 21. Sika Manu, 12. Mark Minichiello, 13. Joe Westerman. Interchange: 19. Masimbaashe Matongo, 35. Andre Savelio, 11. Dean Hadley, 22. Jordan Lane.
Hull Tries: Kelly, Lane. Goals: Sneyd 2/2
Hull 3-2-1 Man of the Match: Clutching at straws here but 3pts Carlos Tuimavave, 2pts Jordan Lane, 1pt Josh Griffin
Warrington Starting XIII: 1. Stefan Ratchford, 2. Tom Lineham, 18. Toby King, 22. Jake Mamo, 5. Josh Charnley, 6. Blake Austin, 15. Dec Patton, 8. Chris Hill, 9. Daryl Clark. 10. Mike Cooper, 11. Ben Currie, 12. Jack Hughes, 17. Joe Philbin. Interchange: 13. Ben Murdoch-Masila, 14. Jason Clark, 16. Lama Tasi, 20. Harvey Livett.
Warrington Tries: Austin 4, Clark, Charnley 3, Murdoch-Masila, Lineham 2. Goals: Ratchford 9/11. Drop Goal: Austin
Scoring System: 0-6, 0-12, 0-18, 0-22, 0-28, 0-34, 6-34, 6-40, 6-46, 6-50, 6-56, 12-56, 12-62, 12-63
Referee: Robert Hicks