Hull FC Reserves were made to work for a first victory over Featherstone this season, coming out 14-12 winners at a scorching Hullensians on Thursday night.
It may have been A-Team rugby league, but it was a familiar score-line given what happened at Wembley in 1983, but this time the side in Black and White came out on top, with no GPH attempts on the Airlie Birds half backs. As usual against this lot, it was a physical game full of the niggles and verbals were plenty, but there was some skills on show as well to match the big hits and biff, of which there was plenty.
Amongst the thick of it was Connor Wynne, the teenager who shined in Super League earlier this season. Wynne, on this occasion playing in the centre, was brilliant, scoring two of Hull’s three tries, one in each half, before getting himself sent off for his best impersonation of Rocky Balboa late on. The young lad didn’t fail to make a connection, and he was given his marching orders, but despite a red card, it shouldn’t take the shine off a superb performance.
A few right hooks from Wynne was a hot headed reaction to persistent interference and shithousery at the ruck, but it’s a reaction you simply can’t do in the modern-day game. After a presumed bollocking from Radders and co, it’s something he’ll have to learn from but he’s 18-years-old and that maturity will come. What we saw with the ball however was different class. Wynne exhibited a burst of speed to race away for his first try, and then orchestrated a well weighted kick to the in-goal, grounding the ball despite being tugged back by a Featherstone chaser for his second. Given his pace he was a danger every time he touched the ball, with the adaptability pleasing in the centre position.
With these young players you want to be able to chuck them into as many different scenarios as possible, and Kieran Buchanan for one is really getting a taste of that. He’s played on the wing, in the centre, at full-back, and in the back row this season. First team, Reserves, and dual-reg at Doncaster combined he’s played 17 games, scoring 11 times. He’s good value every time you see him. It was an opportunity for Buchanan to show a different range of skill-sets here and he didn’t disappoint. The versatility is pleasing and makes him a genuine first team option if required.
Another youngster to impress was Jack Brown. He’s a class act and really shows it at this level. Of course a try-scoring Super League debut in the South of France was followed with a freak injury, but his form in the Reserves and at Doncaster by all accounts has continued. Brown isn’t the tallest, we all know that, but he’s smart. He’s powerful, has good feet, and can pick a line. One for the future for sure. With all Wynne, Buchanan and Brown their top flight experience tells, that and being in the first team environment day to day at Hull FC is proving beneficial, as is welcome run outs in the second string.
That’s not to suggest that contributions didn’t come elsewhere. Harvey Gotts and Ryan Price again showed they can play at Reserves level, with youngsters Ryan Johnson and Jordan Webster getting through some work. It was a team effort, as cliche as it is, with 1-17 rolling up the sleeves.
Featherstone fielded several of their first team players and were therefore tough opposition. We know what they’re about. They haven’t changed and probably never will, right from their first team to their local amateur lads. They play tough and old school, really pushing the games legalities. They don’t back down either, with the three games Hull have had against the mining town probably the most competitive we’ve seen all year. Featherstone were physical throughout the game and they extend that into the ruck, which can make viewing sinister, that’s if you want to see a quick game. That, and just like in the Challenge Cup tie last season, got under the skin of the Hull side as Wynne demonstrated. Of course Hull tested the laws to the extreme too. It wasn’t a contest for the thin skinned. It was confrontational and as far as a run out goes, exactly what you want at this level.
Hull had the luxury of fielding both Jack Logan and Masimbaashe Matongo, who for contrasting reasons, haven’t played in two months. Matongo, back from compassionate leave, played two big stints with several potent leg drives that put the opposition on the back foot. Logan, with his elbow heavily strapped, played at full-back, and despite a couple of errors, came up with some nice touches. The latter is out of contract at the end of the year, but given yet another long-term injury, it’d be nice to see him get one more year to try and force his way back into the side. Matongo meanwhile will be pushing for first team inclusion once again. It was great to see him back playing.
The game was evenly matched for large periods with Hull knocking on the door continuously in the first half. Brown was held up and winger Josh Atkinson was deemed to be just in touch as he finished airborne in true Wilf Rosenberg style. With his dad back in Hull and proudly watching, it was Ben McNamara who finally opened the scoring, taking the ball right to the line and poking through on the last tackle. McNamara, a running half, scores for fun at this level and is only a teenager. There’s definite promise there, and he linked well with Danny Washbrook.
Featherstone hit back twice in the second half despite a sublime chase down by Wynne. They deserved their own prominent moments, making a contest of it in mafting conditions – ideal for the spectator but rancid for the player. The game was then poised, and it took a piece of magic from the game star to win it.
Hull Reserves Starting XIII: Jack Logan, Charlie Graham, Ryan Johnson, Connor Wynne, Josh Atkinson, Danny Washbrook, Ben McNamara, Masimbaashe Matongo, Jordan Webster, Jack Brown, Ryan Devaney, Kieran Buchanan, Harvey Gotts. Interchange: George Cooke, Jack Bartlett, Ryan Price, Kieran Smith.
Hull Tries: McNamara, Wynne 2. Goals: McNamara 1/3
Scoring System: 6-0, 10-0, 10-6, 10-12, 14-12