Never mind game to game, bipolar Hull FC are now half to half, following a resurgent and at times brilliant second half comeback to avenge a stale first in a well-deserved 31-18 win at Castleford.
Mathematically that’s a huge Super League victory too, opening a four point gap between the two sides, and in the process putting Hull into third, six places higher than certain pundits tipped at the start of the year. On that front someone needs to pass Phil his medicine and take pity on those elsewhere who based their opinions on seven dead rubber fixtures at the end of last season. We’re doing alright, absolutely in the mix and with the knowledge that we’ve won five of the last six games despite little continuity in the seventeens we’ve named each week.
Luckily despite those absentees, the three maestros of the side, Marc Sneyd, Albert Kelly and Jake Connor, are providing the management, craft and class to earn Hull FC results. They’re bang in form too, and when on song there’s few that can handle their potency in this competition. That was proved at Wheldon Road, a venue which time, like Danny Washbrook’s hairline, certainly does no favours to.
Connor was world-class. He needs no introduction. Just ask the Kiwis who couldn’t handle him whilst he was playing for England last year. The Snake provided assists for four of Hull’s five tries, and was a general nuisance all night, winding up the Castleford misfits to the point where they literally spat their dummies out. That’s the type of bloke our Jake is. A proper bellend but one you absolutely adore when he’s wearing your colours.
In the halves the combination of Sneyd and Kelly clicked into gear after the break. In the first half Hull ran with little aggression. There was little go-forward nor movement of the ball. That changed in fifteen minutes and credit therefore goes to the man at the helm Lee Radford, the king of Hull FC, who’s about as likely to depart our club as Greg Eden is to catch a pass from his centre. Billy who. That along with Greg Minikin’s backfired attempt of shithousing a penalty were two of the best moments in the match.
Playing with a much more positive outlook after a cagey opening forty minutes, Hull’s half backs got the ball rolling, along with Joe Westerman who grew into the game as the sides shape improved. Danny Houghton too deserves tremendous credit, if not for his defensive heroics to shut out Paul McShane and Liam Watts alone. But with one bagging himself a hat-trick of tries and the other reaching a massive milestone, you can’t look beyond the six and seven.
In the imminent post-Cooke years, Hull had to put up with some right inadequacy and that makes the brilliance of these two all the more appreciative. Sneyd continually has games in his back pocket whilst Kelly has the explosive genius to rip you apart. It’s a partnership with more chemistry than Han Solo and Chewbecca. Kelly’s three tries saw Hull home, whilst Sneyd ticked himself over the 1000 point mark for the club and had a hand in everything good the side did. They are the perfect match, if it was Tinder they’d have superliked years ago.
Puns aside that was impressive and the win is massive to the context of the season. It seems that Hull have woken up to the importance of consistent results, even if the actual gameday performance is still a little Jekyll and Hyde. They went from playing conservative to running like all hell had broke loose, a bit like the old doctor and his alter ego himself. You can therefore argue there’s room for further improvement but to not credit Castleford for their first half showing would be unfair. They played well but Hull blitzed them in the second. They couldn’t live with the pace, as 27 points exemplified.
One player to look to play on the front foot was Mark Minichiello, who was superb on the night, as was new-found cult hero Ratu Naulago, adding another two tries to his growing reputation. The right edge of Kelly, Connor and Naulago is lethal. They all produced carnage on this occasion and Castleford were hopeless to prevent it. Elsewhere at fullback Jamie Shaul was solid, whilst the youth of Kieran Buchanan impressed after a nervy start. Brad Fash too provided plenty of energy off the bench, whilst Mickey Paea maintained his recent form.
But as good as the result was, there was some frustration from the game, most notably a handful of video refereeing decisions that combined must have gone over the ten minute mark in replays. As fans we’re not there to watch James Child make a complete utter muppet of himself asking for the same angle seven times, and the 2739619 looks at an incident that seemed nothing out the ordinary were just unnecessary, especially when the end decision was baffling to say the least. Solution? Just get rid. Yes. Abolish the video referees and auction the big screens on Gumtree. They’re not wanted and arguably cause more hindrance than reward to the game.
And whilst it took a while to get going, that wasn’t, largely thanks to Sneyd, Kelly and Connor, some bad Thursday night entertainment, more so from an Airlie Birds perspective. It’s just a shame when you have things that are on average present for around a third of the games influencing proceedings. The monstrosities of technology. Luckily for Hull it didn’t effect the result, and unlike at L**ds last year, there can be none of the tedious sour grape malarkey thrown at us.
When you take into consideration that there was no Gareth Ellis, Sika Manu, Josh Bowden, Carlos Tuimavave, Jordan Lane, amongst others, victory is all the more impressive. It didn’t start well though, with Minikin being the latest beneficiary of Hull’s weaker left edge. Luckily the side tightened up after that, and only a fortuitous kick and overlap brought further home reward. It was all about the away side after that.
Satisfactory stuff. Hull FC at present comfortably sit inside the top five play-off spots. There’s a sense too that the side are getting stronger by the week, despite playing like a set of basket cases one minute and the Harlem Globetrotters the next. 2019? It’s nothing short of bat shit crazy, but it’s never dull is it? Next stop: Perpignan. Bring it on.
Castleford Starting XIII: 1. Peter Mata’utai, 2. James Clare, 3. Greg Minikin, 35. Cheyse Blair, 5. Greg Eden, 6. Jake Trueman, 32. Jordan Rankin, 8. Liam Watts, 9. Paul McShane, 34. Daniel Smith, 15. Jesse Sene-Lefao, 12. Mike McMeeken, 14. Nathan Massey. Interchange: 10. Grant Millington, 13. Adam Milner, 16. Junior Moors, 18. Matt Cook.
Castleford Tries: Minikin, Moors, Eden. Goals: Mata’utai 3/5
Hull Starting XIII: 1. Jamie Shaul, 33. Ratu Naulago, 14. Jake Connor, 38. Kieran Buchanan, 2. Bureta Faraimo, 6. Albert Kelly, 7. Marc Sneyd, 15. Chris Green, 9. Danny Houghton, 23. Mickey Paea, 11. Dean Hadley, 12. Mark Minichiello, 13. Joe Westerman. Interchange: 8. Scott Taylor, 35. Andre Savelio, 20. Brad Fash, 30. Danny Washbrook.
Hull Tries: Naulago 2, Kelly 3. Goals: Sneyd 5/6. Drop Goal: Sneyd
Hull 3-2-1 Man of the Match: 3pts Jake Connor, 2pts Albert Kelly, 1pt Marc Sneyd
Scoring System: 4-0, 4-4, 6-4, 8-4, 14-4, 14-10, 14-16, 14-18, 18-18, 18-24, 18-30, 18-31
Referee: Robert Hicks. Video Referee: James Child