Hull FC have showcased both the sublime and the inadequate throughout 2019, and that Jekyll and Hyde approach continued in the most cliche game of two halves imaginable.
But despite a rancid second half that left gloom on what should have been a relieving and comfortable victory, all that matters is the two competition points. For what it’s worth, Hull now have a firm grip on third place for another week at least, thanks to a 35-22 end result that saw the home side coast to a 34-0 half time lead. But as they left their limbs in the changing room, the arthritic cardboard cutout version of Hull came to the fore, and just the one point was added after the break, with plucky London, who benefitted from a slower ruck and tempo, scoring four second half tries.
Before then it was all one way traffic. Hull were like Han Solo and Chewbacca in the first half and Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour MP’s in the second. There was such a contrast between the two halves, just like there’s been a gap wider then the Humber Estuary between Hull’s best and worst throughout the year. There’s no conclusive explanation to why that is either, but some of it has to be down to attitude and other mental components.
Hull thought they had the game won at half time, in reality they did, but that doesn’t excuse a lacklustre second half performance. For all the good in the first, Hull were at times diabolical in the second, effective direct rugby was swapped for an error strewn catalogue of blunders, and an occasion that at one stage looked to be heading for a blow out score, became frustrating. Well that’s an understatement. The drop in intensity wasn’t acceptable.
For all the monstrosities of the second half though, it would be naive to ignore Hull’s potency in the first. The Black and Whites were guilty of being too lateral over the past fortnight, but here there were much more direct. Hull in fact were ruthless. They were clinical and posted six tries from all angels of the pitch from Carlos Tuimavave, Bureta Faraimo, Joe Westerman, Jake Connor, Josh Griffin and Ratu Naulago.
Griffin was right up there as Hull’s best player too. He’s doing it tough right now as well, and was taken off late in the second half. Before then he made metres for fun and found some joy on the left edge, bouncing off tackles and running some good lines. Meanwhile Naulago’s try was the best moment of the match, just to see the Fijian Flyer race away for another full-length try is worth the admission fee alone.
In the forwards Mickey Paea was good too and you noticed his impact over the interchange forwards, but the pick for us was Danny Houghton. The hooker played off a speedy ruck in the first half and some of his scoots were superb, not only that, but he also distributed well and whilst others didn’t, he stood up defensively as he always does.
For all the positives in the first half, the game was a complete contrast in the second. There was no fire after the break. Hull went through the motions and silly errors followed. They then spent a large spell defending and London posted points. It was disappointing after such a domineering opening forty minutes where the completion was bang on.
Credit there has to go to London who never gave up and showed some fighting qualities. They slowed the game right down in the second half. They weren’t stupid. That bordered on the sinister level at times. No-one wants to watch a slow ruck like that. It’s tedious for one thing and made the occasion an absolute bore fest. No shock Scott Mikalauskas didn’t have a clue how to police it either but we won’t get into that. Televised on Sky, it wasn’t a great advert for Super League.
That slow ruck seemed to send Hull to sleep too, who couldn’t buy a completed set at times. London hit a purple patch and were helped by Kieran Dixon who has finally learned how to catch a high bomb. We’ll always have Wembley though. Sadiq Adebiyi scored twice for them and a try each went to Matt Fleming and Jordan Abdull, laterally who bizarrely started from the bench. Hull’s only response was a Marc Sneyd drop-goal, a feat which takes him to just one behind Gary Pearce on the all-time Hull charts. Gloomy. You get the picture.
It’s easy to dwell on the bad parts of Thursday, but despite the hostility of a poor second half the positive outweighs the negative. Why? Because Hull got the two points. They need to be much better in the coming weeks though, and they can’t afford to turn up for half a game. They’ll know that more than most, so now it’s on to L**ds at Headingley on Sunday week, a venue where we haven’t won at in twelve years.
Hull Starting XIII: 1. Jamie Shaul, 33. Ratu Naulago, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 4. Josh Griffin, 2. Bureta Faraimo, 14. Jake Connor, 7. Marc Sneyd, 8. Scott Taylor, 9. Danny Houghton, 23. Mickey Paea, 21. Sika Manu, 12. Mark Minichiello, 13. Joe Westerman. Interchange: 15. Chris Green, 10. Josh Bowden, 20. Brad Fash, 11. Dean Hadley.
Hull Tries: Tuimavave, Faraimo, Westerman, Connor, Griffin, Naulago. Goals: Sneyd 5/6. Drop Goal: Sneyd
Hull 3-2-1 Man of the Match: 3pts Danny Houghton, 2pts Josh Griffin, 1pt Mickey Paea
London Starting XIII: 5. Kieran Dixon, 4. Elliot Kear, 3. Ben Hellewell, 17. Matt Fleming, 2. Rhys Williams. 7. James Cunningham, 14. Matty Fozard, 8. Eddie Battye, 26. Sam Davis, 16. Matty Gee, 12. Jay Pitts, 13. Sadiq Adebiyi, 20. Luke Yates. Interchange: 10. Mark Ioane, 6. Jordan Abdull, 23. Rob Butler, 21. Dan Hindmarsh.
London Tries: Fleming, Abdull, Adebiyi 2. Goals: Dixon 3/4
Scoring System: 6-0, 12-0, 18-0, 24-0, 28-0, 34-0, 34-6, 34-12, 34-16, 35-16, 35-22
Referee: Liam Moore