It was a whirlwind of emotions, it had drama and it went right down to the wire, but Hull FC after twelve years finally have a win at Headingley.
Keeping a four point lead over fourth placed Wigan with the Pies next up after the Cup semi, the significance of the two Super League points is absolutely massive. That relief was felt at full-time as L**ds kicked the ball out on the full with Hull winning 26-24 and joy in abundance on the western terrace for the first time since 2007.
Of course you have to go back to two Gareth Raynor tries and a classy performance from Matthew Head the last time Hull won here. The place has changed a bit too, with Headingley’s redevelopment complete with two side stands that rival the very best in the competition. The team that call the place home though are a complete contrast, languishing in tenth place and only off the bottom by points difference. Talk about a fall from grace, they thought they were running the show three years ago and now have about as much relevance as a chocolate tea-pot. Lovely stuff.
Hull here did enough to win and as far as 2019 goes it was a display right amongst the norm. At times the Airlie Birds played some good stuff, and that was testified at the start of both halves, but due to the door still being open the home side came back into it and made life difficult. They are desperate and whilst we could argue that the result could have been more comfortable with a more killer instinct, all that matters is the two points. We got them. We’re third on the table and we’re eighty minutes away from Wembley. Let that sink in. Doing alright aren’t we.
The difference between the two sides was Marc Sneyd’s boot, not just in terms of kicking five goals from the tee, the last of which was a pressure touch-line conversion right next to the south stand to give Hull the lead, a lead we would ultimately hold out and win from, but his restarts, which actually earned Hull the ball back to score the winning try, and his kicks from general play, the best of which saw Bureta Faraimo leap into the air like a salmon to plonk the ball down.
Sneyd is colossal, and whilst it’s a team game and all that, it’s another two points that Hull wouldn’t have won without their mercurial number seven. It’s also all the more sweet too given one Sneyd kick gave them a seven tackle set and then came the ironic Sneeeeeeeeyydd chants, which were soon put to rest after he nailed his last attempt. The jeers were aplenty then and Sneyd was relishing it, hand jesting to the crowd. Pressure doesn’t faze him. He’s the man who always steps up when we need him most.
Whilst Sneyd isn’t the best passer or runner, he’s the best kicker and the best game managing half back on our side of the world. Luckily he does the other two qualities adequately enough and his partnership with Albert Kelly is lethal. The chicken nugget sort will be back for the Cup semi-final, with Jake Connor’s half back auditions in the meantime bordering on average. He’s got the knee strapped up right now which suggests something’s not quite right, but his form before in the centre was so good that at this moment in time it’s his most prominent position for sure. Hopefully we’ll see that against a stuttering Warrington side in Bolton. But that’s to say that Connor didn’t have his moments, assisting one try for Sika Manu and linking up well with the Tongan powerhouse on the right edge, who’s undoubtedly still got it and will bow out as one of the best imports we’ve ever had.
To beat a frequent nemesis required many strong efforts, and once again the graft put in from skipper Danny Houghton was huge. Houghton has been excellent recently, and his performance yet again was out the top draw. Off the interchange Brad Fash also continued his fine form whilst the return of Gareth Ellis was everything we expected it to be. More importantly Scott Taylor is back up to his high standards after a minor blip in form whereas Mickey Paea’s transformation is nothing but a credit to him on his 100th Hull FC appearance.
It was of course a team contribution. The breakaway from Josh Griffin and support from Jamie Shaul to score a crucial try after half time was a massive moment, as was Carlos Tuimavave’s quick thinking, redeeming an earlier interception pass with a late try assist for Ratu Naulago, who is just getting better and better and remains the find of the season.
If we’re nit picking the result for Hull could have been more comfortable at 20-6 early in the second half. There were a few more opportunities to post points and Hull have to be more ruthless against the top teams. It’s easy to point out that this L**ds team is shite but it’s also an opposition we usually go cold against so on that note to get the double over them for the first time in well over a decade is pretty satisfactory.
When Hull got their tails up the side moved the ball well, but once a three score lead was built up there was maybe a hint of complacency. L**ds sensed that and scored three unanswered tries to take the lead and from then on we feared the worst and had to dig deep. Hull can’t afford to drop their intensity like that and must learn to take teams to the cleaners, but on the contrary and for the sake of positivity you could argue it’s all about conserving energy and just doing enough. There’s a confidence in Hull who always seemed like they could go up another gear when needed, and when it was needed Naulago scored the winner. As long as that doesn’t turn into arrogance then it’ll do just fine, but then again we rarely do things the easy way anyway.
This team on its day is up there with the slickest Hull sides we’ve seen, and it has shown it can blow teams off the park, and that it can also grind teams down too. The range of wins bodes well, even if this one played on the old ticker, but to reach Wembley next time out, nothing but Hull FC’s best will do. In the meantime though let’s enjoy that, a win at Headingley at last feels bloody good and the Whinos joint at the foot of the table is even better. Bet Uncle Kath is fuming at that…
Leeds Starting XIII: 1. Jack Walker, 2. Tom Briscoe, 29. Harry Newman, 4. Konrad Hurrell, Ash Handley, 40. Robert Lui, 15. Liam Sutcliffe, 38. Ava Seumanufagai, 39. Shaun Lunt, 10. Brad Singleton, 22. Cameron Smith, 41. Rhyse Martin, 11. Trent Merrin. Interchange: 16. Brett Ferres, 8. Adam Cuthbertson, 14. Brad Dywer, Nathaniel Peteru.
Leeds Tries: Hurrell, Briscoe 2, Handley. Goals: Martin 4/4
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 Minchiello, 13. Joe Westerman. Interchange: 10. Josh Bowden, 34. Gareth Ellis, 20. Brad Fash, 22. Jordan Lane.
Hull Tries: Manu, Faraimo, Shaul, Naulago. Goals: Sneyd 5/5
Hull 3-2-1 Man of the Match: 3pts Marc Sneyd, 2pts Danny Houghton, 1pt Sika Manu
Scoring System: 0-6, 0-12, 6-12, 6-18, 6-20, 12-20, 18-20, 24-20, 24-26
Referee: Marcus Griffiths