Hull FC Reserves got their fifth win of 2019 with a 32-8 victory over Bradford Bulls on Wednesday night – although all eyes were on returning prop Josh Bowden.
The 27-year-old had been sidelined with injury for a whopping 363 days, having done his ACL and seen his season end at Featherstone in May last year, but here he made his playing comeback at the home of amateur side Bradford Dudley Hill, who produced now NRL star John Bateman a few years ago.
Bowden got through two stints in the front row, looking solid and getting some much needed match action under his belt. He looked lean and strong, he’s been in full training for weeks and it showed with some potent carries on display in West Yorkshire.
As far as a Super League return goes, there’s a conundrum for head coach Lee Radford now – there’s obviously that desire or apprehension (depending on how you view it) to throw Bowden in at Warrington on Saturday week, with the other option waiting until the Magic Weekend, or even further beyond. You’d imagine the club would be playing on the side of caution, though considering this was Bowden’s first game in almost a year, he got through some respectable minutes – around 40-45 and didn’t disappoint. Getting on top of a youthful opposition was no issue.
We all know Josh is a class act and was a huge part in two Cup winning campaigns, and now it’s about getting a feel for things once again. By all accounts he has smashed his rehab and conducted himself superbly, and now there’s that anticipation to see him playing back in the first team. He will add more steel to our front row in the coming weeks, so obviously there’s that longing to see him out there.
Elsewhere little half back Liam Harris got only his third run out of the year after recovering from a hamstring problem – adding to one friendly and one appearance for Doncaster on Good Friday. Harris was involved in everything good Hull did and kept himself busy throughout the match.
At full back teenager Connor Wynne got more vital minutes into his locker, and provided two try assists, with Levy Nzoungou and Jordan Thompson also featuring. Lewis Bienek also played some hefty minutes after scoring two tries for Batley last Sunday, and you’d imagine the more continuity he gets the better his first team prospects are.
As for Bradford – well they provided stern opposition on a miserable night in West Yorkshire, and as always you have to commend their desire to play Reserve rugby league whilst others wait for that kick up the arse. They had some moments and continued to test the Hull defence, which was pretty good on the night.
Boasting additional quality, first half tries came for Lochlan Fitzgerald and Josh Atkinson, although ball retention expectedly proved difficult on a wet and soggy evening. Summer rugby. You know the puns. But heavy rain all day throughout the country did little to wet the appetite on both sides for some Harlem Globetrotter stuff.
Hull did what they needed to and managed the game the best they could. The away side got better as the game progressed, and with Harris probing, scored points at an ease. After the break Harvey Gotts, a regular for the Reserves this season, barged himself over for a try, before Thompson got himself a brace. The game was out of the home sides reach once Charlie Graham added a sixth try, and from there the second string Airlie Birds coasted home.
Bradford scored a consolation try through Isaac Coleman which added to a first half effort for William Adams but it was all in vein. A good test for Hull none the less and a useful workout for many players, but despite some exploits from younger members of the squad, all eyes are on Josh Bowden, and a much welcome return.
Bradford Starting XIII: 1. Alix Stephenson, 2. Joshua Rickett, 3. Elliot Culling, 4. James Fieldhouse, 5. William Adams, 6. Brandon Pickersgill, 7. Cobi Green, 8. Callum Bustin, 9. Luke Littlewood, 10. Trae O’Sullivan, 11. Conor Appleyard, 12. Matthew Garside, 13. Evan Hodgson. Interchange: 14. Alexander Handol, 15. Luke Whittaker, 16. Jake Lightowler, 17. Cieran Dickinson, 18. Layton Heywood, 19. Isaac Coleman.
Bradford Tries: Adams, Coleman. Goals: 0/2
Hull Reserves Starting XIII: 1. Connor Wynne, 2. Charlie Graham, 3. Jack Bartlett, 4. Josh Atkinson, 5. Lochlan Fitzgerald, 6. Kieran Smith, 7. Liam Harris, 8. Josh Bowden, 9. Jordan Webster, 10. Levy Nzoungou, 11. Elliot Townsend, 12. Ryan Langton, 13. Jordan Thompson. Interchange: 14. Lewis Bienek, 15. George Cooke, 16. Harvey Gotts, 17. Robert Howdle, 18. Ryan Price.
Hull Tries: Fitzgerald, Atkinson, Gotts, Thompson 2, Graham. Goals: Harris 4/6
Scoring System: 0-6, 0-10, 4-10, 4-16, 4-20, 4-26, 4-32, 8-32
Referee: Billy Pearson