Well at least Hull FC are in the hat, through to the Challenge Cup quarter-finals after a 38-20 triumph at Championship outfit Featherstone Rovers.
But the consequences that will follow post-match will leave most supporters quivering as they try to come to terms with a second half that many are literally lost for words to describe. The game in this country, as this fanzine has alluded to numerous times already this season, has gone. Rugby League is a joke shop. It’s an absolute shambles. The incompetence from Scott Mikalauskas, who resembles to officiating what Stuart Cummings resembles to punditry, was there to observe. He lost the contest, he had no respect, and from there players took matters into their own hands, which saw six yellow cards and one red as the game boiled over.
Before that Hull were already counting the cost of losing Josh Bowden, Carlos Tuimavave and Fetuli Talanoa to injury. Two of those were in the first half, so for the players left on the field to cruise to victory, especially early on, was admirable. It looked like a professional job was to unfold, but then Misi Taulapapa nearly snapped Jamie Shaul into two pieces in a carbon copy of Bobbie Bouche’s football tackles in the classic Waterboy film. Gatoradeeeeeee. H20. You’re drinking the wrong water. Mikalauskas was, put it that way.
Adam Sandler at his brilliant best right there, and eloquently pointed out as ever by the wits of Lee Radford, who is comedy gold when it comes to post-match interviews. Though wits aside, that moment triggered a retaliation from Hull, who let’s be fair were no angels themselves. But with a referee who allowed Featherstone’s grubs to almost take the heads off a few Hull lads, ironically the young ones kike Jez Litten and not Super League juggernaut Sika Manu, naturally they were going to give it back, and they did. That is a direct result of a match official that has lost control and it’s really no surprise to see why that clown gets berated by both sets of fans every time he steps out onto a field. He’s a complete utter tool that would have a hard time organising a Labour rally in North Hull.
It’s just a sorry state of affairs that once again the focus is on the match official, but after witnessing that second half in particular how can it not be? It was unwatchable. Horrific. Last week against Castleford we had an official who was barely noticeable – the way it should be. Gareth Hewer just got on with it, with no video ref and the game flowed on a gloriously sunny evening. That’s what we all want from rugby league is it not? Fluency, no Thursday’s, and not to go home slagging off that arrogant git Steve Ganson and the clowns (maybe Hewer aside), that work under his stewardship. But that seems a pipe dream right now for as long as the bigoted hierarchy remains the same at Red Hall, or wherever the clown college is based right now.
The Shaul incident was farcical. The ball was closer to Pontrefact Racecourse than in the full-backs hands by the time the Featherstone centre made contact. How the incident evaded a card is beyond most of the supporters in attendance, but it sparked what was to follow, and that was nothing more than half an hour or so of sheer lunacy.
Luckily by that stage the game as a contest had long gone and thanks to five first half tries, Hull were cruising. What transpired though could come at a cost. After two decent tries himself, Bureta Faraimo was sent off for an unnecessary swinging arm and will probably cop a ban and miss the Magic Weekend and beyond. Connor, Washbrook and Shaul all received sin bins too. Shaul’s was stupid. Washbrook’s was in retaliation to something which of course went unpunished and Connor’s was just Connor sticking up for his mate Masi Matongo who had just been dumped on his head. Worth pointing out that the stand in half back absolutely ran the show too but we’ll come onto that later.
Featherstone meanwhile lost Luke Briscoe and John Davies for ten minutes a-piece. Briscoe for holding down and Davies for a head shot on Litten. Ironic isn’t it how these big tough Fev forwards were comfortable smashing Hull’s young lads, but soiled themselves worse than Will McKenzie in his Inbetweeners exam when Sika even looked at them. Gareth Hock’s face when Griffin stood up to him was worth the admission price alone. Grub.
It’s easy to see why they’re a Championship club though. Full of shithousery and pretty much summed up by their coach who said he was ‘proud’ whilst Radford was apologising to the viewers for what unfolded. That, put together with no score-board, no countdown clock, no big screen, and floodlights which had about as much light as the average flat capper has common sense, made Post Office Road and its inhabitants look amateurish indeed. They’re a backwards set of idiots over there, and hopefully Super League continues to evade them. Well done to the Hull lads for not backing down, but again it’s a sorry state of affairs when you have to take matters into your own hands.
Though moving on, Hull’s performance on the whole was satisfactory. We got off to a great start and that was largely thanks to the exploits of Jake the Snake, who received the Sky Man of the Match award and pretty much had a hand in everything decent Hull did.
Connor was outstanding and led the team superbly. His passing, whether the delicate short ball, or looping long ball, was excellent and his kicking was just as good, but for us the star man was Joe Westerman. In just his second outing since returning to the club Westerman was instrumental in the sides shape and structure. He expanded Hull’s play and drove the ball in like every good middle man should. He’s a baller. A proper old school loose forward that still has the potential to reach previous heights in his career. Early days, but hopefully the club will already be thinking about a new contract for 2019 and beyond. He should never have left Hull in the first place and both the player and coach know that, but what’s done is done. We can’t dwell on the past but instead look to the future which does look promising, and even more so when you complement his talents with a near as full strength squad.
With the shape Westerman provided Hull raced ahead into a 30-10 half time lead. Connor scored a classy brace, and that was followed by tries for Manu, Griffin and Shaul. A record equalling 17th consecutive try-scoring appearance for Luke Briscoe, and a try for Anthony Thackeray were the response in what was actually an entertaining first half.
Rugby League fans like biff, and UTC is no different, but there’s a line, and unfortunately the home side didn’t have the spirit of the game in their interests once the teams came back out the sheds, but it’s a harsh reality that we didn’t conduct ourselves perfectly either. Players aren’t perfect, but you can appreciate why frustration occurs when you get officiating like that. No wonder there were fisticuffs – you could see it coming, such was the bad-tempered nature of the Cup tie.
It’s actually worth pointing out that amongst the chaos, Featherstone were capable of playing some decent stuff too, so why they resorted to shithousery is a mystery – just a backwards set of people, Richard Whiting a-side of course. They scored again through Briscoe, and later through Hock, before a Faraimo brace, and a flurry of cards in particular, soured the contest.
But whatever your stance, there were just some moments during the game that you can’t defend. The thuggery from Featherstone in the second half was ridiculous, but what stood out more was the official’s inability to deal with it – similar to the sinister blow that Kevin Harkin copped to the head in the 1983 Wembley final. Like that sorry day, it’s a Challenge Cup encounter remembered for all the wrong reasons, but one that the late great Charlie Stone would have probably relished playing in. Bring on the quarters, that’s if there’s any blokes left…
Featherstone Starting XIII: 7. Anthony Thackeray, 2. Shaun Robinson, 4. Misi Taulapapa, 19. Josh Hardcastle, 5. Luke Briscoe, 6. Martyn Ridyard, 18. Tom Holmes, 8. Scott Wheeldon, 9. Keal Carlisle, 21. Brad Knowles, 11. Connor Farrrell, 12. John Davies, 13. James Lockwood. Interchange: Matty Wildie, 15. Gareth Hock, Luke Cooper, Sam Brooks.
Featherstone Tries: Thackeray, Briscoe 2, Hock. Goals: Ridyard 2/4
Hull Starting XIII: 1. Jamie Shaul, 2. Bureta Faraimo, 4. Josh Griffin, 11. Dean Hadley, 5. Fetuli Talanoa, 14. Jake Connor, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 15. Chris Green, 9. Danny Houghton, 13. Josh Bowden, 21. Sika Manu, 12. Mark Minichiello, 33. Joe Westerman. Interchange: 22. Jez Litten, 26. Jordan Lane, 29. Masimbaashe Matongo, 17. Danny Washbrook.
Hull Tries: Connor 2, Manu, Shaul, Griffin, Faraimo 2. Goals: Connor 5/7
Hull 3-2-1 Man of the Match: 3pts Joe Westerman, 2pts Jake Connor, 1pt Sika Manu
Scoring System: 0-6, 0-12, 0-18, 4-18, 4-24, 4-30, 10-30, 16-30, 16-34, 16-38, 20-38
Referee: Scott Miklauskas
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