The last time Hull FC played at Keighley was way back in 2001 – it just happened to be Jason Smith’s Hull FC debut – okay this was just a Reserve game, but there was still a feeling of nostalgia heading to one of rugby league’s old traditional grounds.
It’s been 18 years since the Airlie Birds entered this part of the world, not that the place has changed much. The ground reeks of history – okay it’s run down, but it’s got a soul, tucked into the Yorkshire Moors in its picturesque surroundings. Geographically though it’s without doubt one of most undesirable locations we’ve ever been to – literally a nightmare to get to, battling through Bradford on a Wednesday night really does make you question your life choices, but we got there eventually to witness a dominant 58-4 win.
Of course, all eyes were on winger Fetuli Talanoa, who made his much awaited comeback following a knee injury. The Tongan lasted the full eighty minutes, scored two tries and didn’t do much wrong. That’s what it’s all about, and whilst some will question the point of this fixture, a competitive outing is far better than any training session could provide, especially for a player returning from a spell on the sidelines.
Such a thought process though is also disrespectful to Keighley, who never gave up despite a clear gulf in class of the two sides. Obviously we all desire tougher fixtures, but the occasional blow out occurs in every level of rugby league. Instead we should be applauding clubs like Keighley who can actually be bothered to run a Reserve side whilst the large majority of Super League clubs do not. We want fixtures against the powerhouses. Wigan, Warrington and the like, but it’s also our responsibility to give clubs like our West Yorkshire hosts a go.
Reserve fixtures are a necessity. We’ve been through this so many times we naturally feel like a broken record. We all know the benefits, one of which, whether rightly or wrongly, has seen Scott Taylor make a return from suspension a week earlier than we all thought. It goes deeper than that though and beneficiaries don’t need explaining again.
Both Hull and Keighley fielded local amateur players, although Hull had a lot more professional representation to complement them. The away side opted with Danny Washbrook and Hakim Miloudi in the halves, with the latter bossing the game. The Frenchman was at large in the first half in particular, scoring himself and setting up several others. Perspective of course will be given to the level of opposition he was playing against, but it was still a good performance.
What was most impressive about the Hull team was the way they used their edges. Both centres, Cameron Scott and Kieran Buchanan ran riot, so riot that some even had a hard time distinguishing the pair. This was good to see, with Scott scoring a brace and Buchanan squeezing himself over the line for his own meat pie. Speedster winger Charlie Graham also got himself heavily involved from the wing, with breaks from all three coming on a frequent basis. Hull had no issue breaking through Keighley, but the support play and the way they played so expansively yet so fluently, despite it pissing it down for the majority of the game, was a credit to them. It’s always good to see young players chance their arm, and have that confidence to do so.
We’re not sure Danny Langtree can fall into that young category though at 28-years-old, but a three try display was his best yet for the club. He showed great support play and awareness to score all three, but given his experience that was expected of him. His opportunity to shine in Super League may be a while away yet, but he seems to be ticking all the right boxes in the Reserves and at Doncaster. As far as attitudes go, his is exemplary.
Similarly there was a good run out for many of the fringe players of pre-season. Washbrook got around 50 minutes of playing time, whilst there were good stints from Brad Fash, Jack Brown and Levy Nzoungou. Lewis Bienek also made his first appearance of the season in Black and White colours. To quote the infamous Bobby Bouche, he’s a lean mean athletic machine and few would want to get on the wrong side of him. His physique for a 20-year-old is pretty incredible and we’re probably talking here about a player who may well have featured in early Super League games if not for a foot injury.
As for our amateur contingent, Jack Howdle, who was part of the BARLA Lions that toured Fiji last year, made his Reserves debut. The back rower plays for Beverley under Scott Taylor and showed up well scoring one try. Former Hull Univeristy player Elliot Townsend also got a run out, with Harvey Gotts coming on at hooker.
It was good to see Bobby Downs playing again too, this time alongside his long-term pivot partner Lochlan Fitzgerald. Bobby we understand left the City of Hull Academy on his own terms (we can all guess why) but is now back in the Reserves and showed up well after an impressive performance against Wakefield last month.
Being pedantic though, it would be great to see young lads in the half back roles to try to nurture their potential, instead of Washbrook and a French geezer that will never get a first team gig there – unless a barbaric injury situation occurs with the first team half backs. Literally touching every piece of wood now. Maybe that will come when Liam Harris returns from injury, but we’ll wait and see. It’s hard and maybe barbaric to point fingers at selections when you’ve scored 58-points.
Scoring eleven tries, seven of which came before half-time, was clearly a clinical effort regardless of the quality of the opposition. Keighley were no match for Hull FC, but they still gave it a go. They battled until the end. Maybe they can send the memo on to others, not that they’ll take much notice.
Hull Starting XIII: Connor Wynne, Charlie Graham, Cameron Scott, Kieran Buchanan, Fetuli Talanoa, Danny Washbrook, Hakim Miloudi, Jack Brown, Bobby Downs, Levy Nzoungou, Danny Langtree, Jack Howdle, Brad Fash. Interchange: Lochlan Fitzgerald, Elliot Townsend, Lewis Bienek, Harvey Gotts.
Hull Tries: Miloudi, Talanoa 2, Langtree 3, Graham, Scott 2, Howdle, Buchanan. Goals: Miloudi 7/11
Scoring System: 0-4, 0-8, 0-14, 0-20, 0-26, 0-32, 0-38, 0-44, 4-44, 4-48, 4-54, 4-58