I’m just going to say it, then. The last five weeks have been the best as a Hull FC fan since 2006. Completing the league double over Catalans, a rare and professional win at the DW, yet another beating of the East Hull let-downs, and two wins over St Helens – one a routine league success, the more important one an “absolute battering” to reach the quarter finals of the cup.
Along the way we’ve seen Danny Houghton emerge as a genuine Man of Steel contender, the front row step up to draw calls for international selection, Jamie Shaul rain on the overblown parade for Sam Tomkins’ return, and FC’s odds for success in League and Cup slashed.
The press has gone into overdrive tipping us for silverware – in part this is probably giddiness after years of Leeds dominance that someone else will win the title, and with us, Warrington and Catalans joining Wigan in the current top four, there’s an understandable appetite for a new name on the trophy from the media. In absolute dreamland, aren’t we?
Some reflection on the month’s action and key performances, where every game was an occasion, a banana-skin, a must-win to underline credentials. Every week the pack has stood up to whatever the opposition has thrown at it, won the collision and floor and punched holes in defensive lines. The quality and variety in the forwards has been the key factor in our success, with each player bringing unique qualities to the table.
Scott Taylor, all heart-on-sleeve rough aggression and power playing the perfect foil to Liam Watts’ cool, relentless, offloading forward drive. Gareth Ellis utterly talismanic, leading tirelessly from the front and running perfect lines. Unsung hero Sika Manu grafting and challenging tiring defences.
Possibly the most effective of all in the last three games has been Minichiello, bending and dragging the opposition around to create space for others, and himself, to get over the line. They say forwards decide who wins the game and backs by how many; 11 from 12 tells its own story. Whilst it’s a bit early for Christmas lists long-term deals for Watts, Houghton and Taylor would be first on mine. Let’s build a team around them.
With seven games to go, then, the league appears to have split into three equal tiers. The aforementioned Top 4 have created a cushion to Wakey, Cas, Saints and Widnes. But the most intriguing aspect of the current set up has to be the bottom four, who all look likely to be playing Championship sides over the last part of the season.
Salford, of course, may yet escape this group if their appeal against points deduction is successful, but an improving Huddersfield, and Leeds with star players to return, must fancy their chances of avoiding the million pound game. Cause for anxiety at Hull KR? A difficult run-in and lack of defensive steel thus far seem to be setting alarm bells ringing and set up a fascinating Middle 8s scenario. We’ll be watching with interest…
Round Up Player of the Month
I’ve already mentioned Mark Minichiello whose last three matches have been little short of stunning, and Danny Houghton has been sublime at hooker, taking St Helens apart with a near perfect display in the cup. But Scott Taylor with five tries in five games has been outstanding and wins this month’s award. The pride in the badge is almost tangible and less than half a season in makes him a firm favourite with supporters already. Few things lift the spirits more than seeing him re-enter the fray for the last quarter to join Ellis in closing a game out. Fabulous.