Contenders. You bet’cha. Hull FC on this form look like they’ll be heading for a top five finish, and with that a crack at Super League’s biggest prize. Their latest audition – a 34-10 hammering of struggling Leeds to make it three wins in a row.
Big words, but it’s no coincidence the results have picked up as influential players return. It’s nothing new either. Those that stuck with the club throughout last season knew (despite a couple of meltdowns after those two big defeats), that when this side could get something of its best out on the field, then they’d be okay. As far as it stands, that’s exactly how it’s panned out.
You can also look at it from a more pessimistic point of view and say Hull FC have only beaten the as it stands, bottom three sides in Super League, but that’s an injustice to the Airlie Birds’ recent form. To go to one of the toughest places in the comp on the back of a thirteen game losing run and win is commendable, as is to back it up and not make it a flash in the pan. If anything, it’s just hilarious that two of those three struggling sides are Leeds and Wigan – the latter of which might be in a better predicament if they spent the same on a quality roster as they do on lawyers.
It’s all premature right now though and we’re certainly no fools us Hull FC fans. We know we’re only in March with a hell of a lot of rugby still to be played. As cliché as it is, we’ll take it one game at a time and build, knowing that things aren’t catastrophic if the odd setback occurs. We’ll continue to chip away whilst no-one outside of West Hull will take a second look. That’s how we like it anyway. We’re not as fashionable as the so-called big boys and we don’t mind going under the radar.
But we can enjoy this one. Leeds are only marginally more bearable than our little neighbours and whilst those little neighbours were battling in the sports second tier for the ten years prior to their initial promotion, THE game for the FC was against the Whinos. That rivalry is still there. Maybe it has to do with the fact they’ve historically poached our best players or that they’ve recently had the measure over us, but both reasons probably contribute to why it feels so sweet when we eventually manage to get one over them.
This one felt sweet because we absolutely battered them. We came away from that knowing we were the best team on the park by a country mile. Leeds are in crisis after all and it’s bloody marvellous, but we don’t want to take credit away from Hull FC either.
Some would have feared a sense of de-ja-vu early on, but no heads went at 0-10 down and instead Hull grew into the contest. Voices from the playing camp have spoken about making those purple patches in games longer and being more clinical during those patches. Well talk about two buses coming at once. During the domineering seasons of 2016 and 2017, Hull on many occasions needed just the twenty minutes to see off an opponent. Now in 2019 that ruthlessness was there again.
That feelings back now. Five tries came in a blistering first half spell that completely blew Leeds away. Some of the rugby Lee Radford’s side played during that spell was outstanding – not bad for a boring team it must be said. Leeds had no answer, and it was a clear development of the side already this season. Hull with the ball were magnificent, whilst in the second half they were defensively resilient and kept their line in tack, although they were helped with the Myler/Lolohea partnership that would have a hard time organising a Labour rally in North Hull.
It’s all the more hilarious too after the media blew up following the signings of Leeds’ import trio, who all look like they could do with a month or two on the Slimfast diet. Value for money? Right. Someone’s had a mare, especially when you consider what Hull gave have got out of their overseas recruitment in the past two to three years – Talanoa, Faraimo, Fonua and Tuimavave come to mind.
One of those unmentioned overseas fellas is Sika Manu – the 32-year-old juggernaut that the average bloke is still petrified of. He’s still a class act and proved that being the best player on the park against Leeds. His workload was superb but the quality of it was even more so. You could watch the flick passes all day long, just so skilful for a back rower that’s been terrific for our club.
It’s the man with the left boot though that controlled things. Marc Sneyd ran the game like an armed forces general, showing the composure and calmness we’ve lacked in the position for so many years. In the centres Carlos Tuimavave ensured he’ll return home with his wallet, keys, phone and Konrad Hurrell, who’s current whereabouts are still unknown, in his back pocket.
Puns aside, it’s criminal how under-rated Tuimavave is whilst people like Kallum Watkins and Ryan Atkins continuously get smoke blown up their arse. Honourable mentions then to Masimbaashe Matongo who’s really coming on now in the first team, and Albert Kelly, back to his best after a cautious return to action at Huddersfield last week. Ratu Naulago too made it four tries in there appearances after a try on his home debut.
Here though there wasn’t a bad Hull FC player on the pitch and you quite easily could pick several out. That’s a good sign and it was a domineering performance against a struggling side, but the manner of it was also pleasing.
Speaking of those tough sides, it’s Wakefield up next – probably the biggest challenge of the winning run to date. Win that and we are right in the mix, lose and nothing much changes. There’s no in-between this season, you don’t become a bad side overnight, and we’re right up there in 2019, with key players still to come into the side after injury.
There’s certainly a cause for optimism as Hull FC get their mojo back.
Hull Starting XIII: 1. Jamie Shaul, 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: 8. Scott Taylor, 34. Gareth Ellis, 16. Jordan Thompson, 11. Dean Hadley.
Hull Tries: Naulago, Matongo, Sneyd, Shaul, Kelly, Hadley. Goals: Sneyd 5/6
Hull 3-2-1 Man of the Match: 3pts Sika Manu, 2pts Marc Sneyd, 1pt Carlos Tuimavave
Leeds Starting XIII: 1. Jack Walker, 2. Tom Briscoe, 29. Harry Newman, 4. Konrad Hurrell, 5. Ash Handley, 6. Tui Lolohea, 7. Richard Myler, 18. Nate Peteru, 9. Matt Parcell, 19. Mikilaj Oledzki, 16. Brett Ferres, 15. Liam Sutcliffe, 11. Trent Merrin. Interchange: 8. Adam Cuthbertson, 10. Brad Singleton, 25. James Donaldson, 14. Brad Dwyer.
Leeds Tries: Newman, Briscoe. Goals: Lolohea 1/2
Scoring System: 0-6, 0-10, 6-10, 12-10, 18-10, 24-10, 30-10, 34-10
Referee: Ben Thaler