Some say Sunday rugby league will never catch on, but try telling that to around 2,000 Hull FC fans that made the trip to West Yorkshire. A great backing for the second successive week. The common denominator? Well that’s obvious, and it’s certainly welcome that not too distant away fixtures at London, Salford, Catalans and St Helens all fall on a weekend, and not weekday. It makes a huge difference to the working fan, and it’s about time those with the powers realise it.
Of course, it helps when your side has that winning feeling once again – backing up last weeks win at Wigan with a more than satisfactory 28-8 victory at Huddersfield. Two Sunday away wins in a row, and with that, a Super League table that is starting to take shape with Hull FC in a prominent position.
At times, and as predicted, it was tough, but the Black and Whites showed enough quality, particularly in the second half, to see off their hosts. It didn’t come without its setbacks, it never does these days, with Jake Connor leaving the field on half time due to a knee injury that he will have scans on come Monday. Marc Sneyd, who soldiered on, also copped a bang to his knee but it’s thought not to be anything serious. Sika Manu also took a minor knock. That was comprehended after news of Jamie Shaul not passing a head test, and in all honesty makes the win even more commendable.
Hull FC teams under Lee Radford are generally built of stern stuff, coming through periods of adversity, and here we did that. Losing Connor was a sickener, so to effectively kill off the game at the start of the second half was impressive. Clinical. Scoring during our momentum swings, Hull put daylight between themselves and Huddersfield and never looked back. After a close first half too it was all the more praiseworthy, and that’s without mentioning wet weather conditions that make expansive rugby league all the more undesirable.
It was a professional job from Hull – who had Albert Kelly in the side for the first time, at least competitively, this season. The second half was a masterclass at times and showed that, admittedly against a weaker opposition, that we’ve learned from previous lessons. We may have eventually won at Wigan, but we shouldn’t have needed Golden Point to do so. This occasion however was ruthless. Impressive, with some bang in form players producing the goods, non more so than Joe Westerman on his 300th career appearance – a mean feat for a bloke still in his twenties.
Hull FC’s loose forward was absolutely magnificent, owning the middle of the field, scoring two tries in a domineering performance, his first with an element of fortune and the second a sublime show of strength and power. Sometimes it’s premature to throw these tags out, but there genuinely isn’t a better loose forward on current form in Super League. Westerman is the last of a dying breed, the old number thirteen, both skilful and tough, capable of all the hard yards but with the finesse to complement it. He’s pure quality and is the closest thing out there to the master that is Sean O’Loughlin, with his re-signing for the club the best bit of business the recruitment department did for all of last season. Again it’s maybe premature to talk about these things after the fourth game of 2019, but surely it’s only a matter of time before pen is put to paper on a new deal. Westerman is fully rejuvenated in his second spell at the club. Off the field things seem to be on point in his family life and we’re seeing that on the field. He’s enjoying his rugby and is a massive part of our structure and shape – as is the man with the mercurial left boot Marc Sneyd.
Sneyd was outstanding, even more so when you consider he battled on with that knee injury. Luckily it’s nothing severe, but still our half back played beyond the pain barrier and did enough to steer Hull home, being vocally sound and touching the ball when needed. His kicking was superb, best exemplified by the banana kick to Josh Griffin. What was most impressive with Sneyd was his desire to stay out on the field when he quite easily could have limped off. Even Connor gave it a go. It’s signs of a team that is fully determined in their objectives and will be hellbent on achieving them. UTC’s prediction of fifth may have not been optimistic enough, but hey let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s just great to see that the effort and desire is there. We’ve endured some really tough times recently but we seem to be coming out on the other side now and that’s encouraging at worst. It makes the future exciting – just think how more exciting it would be if we could go a full match without a player coming off to injury.
A few chances were arguably blown in the first half but Hull never really looked like losing. The majority certainly weren’t worried at half time, let’s put it that way. It was a comfortable display. Huddersfield rarely threatened Hull’s line and that’s testament to our defence. At times they scrambled well, with just the one try conceded.
We looked solid in the middle and out wide too. Mickey Paea, again given a starting nod due to the current prop crisis, was good. He’s certainly improved his form over the past two weeks and long may that continue. Danny Houghton did the full eighty again showing a sublime engine. Mark Minichiello and Jordan Thompson again impressed, whilst Griffin put his hand up to play the second half at full-back, scoring two instinct tries – but he won’t be touching the tee anytime soon, missing from virtually under the sticks. Elsewhere Ratu Naulago got himself another try, showing some speed to finish it, and he was never fazed despite Huddersfield’s clear desire to pepper him. Young Jordan Lane also got his biggest stint of the year and enhanced his reputation on the right edge. There a few more solid 20-year-old’s in Super League.
Then of course there’s Gareth Ellis, whose return has clearly impacted the squad in a positive way, but that’s no surprise – they’re playing next to the ultimate pro, respected on both sides of the world for what he’s achieved in the game. It’s going to inspire them. Ellis was the signing that kick-started the Radford-regime, and whilst his comeback out of retirement is probably a situation that the coaching staff never planned for, it’s clearly given everyone a boost. Then again it would when the 37-year-old is still smashing every player that dares to run in his path. His stint, again either side of half-time, was what we’ve come to expect. Domineering – the old war horse is still a class act.
Up and running then, Hull FC are now into a play-off spot. Of course it’s still early days, and they’ll be loads of twists and turns to come, but we’ve got something to build on now. This was a big win – a controlled and professional one too, and no bottles were thrown in the making.
Huddersfield Starting XIII: 21. Scott Grix, 2. Jermaine McGillvary, 4. Jordan Turner, 6. Lee Gaskell, 1. Darnell McIntosh, 23. Oliver Russell, 7. Matt Frawley, 17. Ukuma Ta’ai, 9. Kruise Leeming, 10. Suaia Matagi, 11. Aaron Murphy, 12. Alex Mellor, 13. Michael Lawrence. Interchange: 14. Adam O’Brien, 25. Colton Roche, 19. Matty English, 27. Adam Walne.
Huddersfield Tries: McIntosh. Goals: Russell 2/2
Hull Starting XIII: 14. Jake Connor, 33. Ratu Naulago, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 4. Josh Griffin, 2. Bureta Faraimo, 6. Albert Kelly, 7. Marc Sneyd, 23. Mickey Paea, 9. Danny Houghton, 19. Masimbaashe Matongo, 21. Sika Manu, 12. Mark Minichiello, 13. Joe Westerman. Interchange: 16. Jordan Thompson, 34. Gareth Ellis, 22. Jordan Lane, 11. Dean Hadley.
Hull Tries: Westerman 2, Naulago, Griffin 2. Goals: Sneyd 4/5, Faraimo 0/1, Griffin 0/1
Hull 3-2-1: 3pts Joe Westerman, 2pts Marc Sneyd, 1pt Josh Griffin
Scoring System: 0-6, 6-6, 8-6, 8-12, 8-16, 8-22, 8-24, 8-28
Referee: Scott Mik