There’s been an aura about Brett Hodgson ever since he walked through the Hull FC door. He speaks well, he’s all class, and his side have bought into his methods and philosophies from minute one.
Hodgson’s Hull FC are an absolute pleasure to watch. It’s not always pretty, but they graft their backsides off and they fight for every inch. They knew where they had to improve this year and it’s that defensive drum that has been banged all season and that rediscovered defensive resilience which paved the way for a belting 20-10 win over Wigan in the Challenge Cup quarter-final.
Hull comfortably had the better of a quality opposition and much more than the end result showed. To some extent that’s testament to ‘the Wigan club.’ They’ve shown no class what’s-so-ever this week, but we know what they’re all about. They’re always a tough nut to crack and they never go away, but here at a soaking Headingley ground Hull not only matched their physicality, they got under their skin too. Wigan were rattled and Hull at times despite putting out a patched up team were completely dominant. It was another brilliant display, and led superbly by who else but the Black and Whites’ OUTSTANDING Polynesian prop forward Chris Satae. Tony Clubb, are you watching?
The big Tongan, as he has been all season, was sensational. He is just incredible, an absolute wrecking ball not only smashing his way over for two superb tries that swung the game Hull’s way, but also constantly bending the Wigan line with his thunderous carries and defensive intensity. Wigan just couldn’t handle him.
Satae, probably still adorning a smile as wide as the Humber estuary, perfectly scripts the Hodgson regime. He just loves it out there, he’s bought into everything his coach has implemented, and he runs himself into the ground every week. He’s not alone either. It was knockout rugby league, so obviously Marc Sneyd had an afternoon out with his kicking game, but you can’t ignore the rise of Adam Swift either who was sublime first at fullback and then on the wing, nor Andre Savelio who played the full-eighty minutes yet again following a tough and turbulent week. Savelio is all class and the way he has conducted himself during and after the racist comments from that dickhead in “the heat of the moment” last Thursday night has been a credit to him and the club. Proud as punch that he’s plying his trade in Black and White.
That’s Hodgson’s Hull FC in a nutshell. Everything is about the team unit, whether that’s defending their line together or forming a team huddle during the Rugby Football League’s thirteen second empty gesture stand against racism. That bond is evident. There’s a camaraderie between them, but they also knuckle down together and get the same buzz whether scoring a try or forcing an error from their opposition.
It’s that defensive improvement in Hull (and in no time at all) which just can’t be emphasised enough and it stood up again against a quality opponent. Wigan were pressured and were given no time to play. They were bullied and it’s not often you can say that. Even when a man up after Jack Brown was rightly sin binned for a dangerous third man chop, Wigan didn’t look like scoring. The only sour note there was the lack of consistency given a similar offence by Sam Powell on Josh Griffin that went unpunished, but we all know the dance enough not to be surprised. Hopefully Griffin is alright too after failing a head test in the second half.
The cup tie itself was again brutal, we all knew it would be, but it was an ugly game as well – in fact for a neutral not appreciating the dark arts of rugby league it was no doubt a proper eye-sore – but for those who have endured Hull’s soft underbelly and lack of defensive fight over the past couple of years, it was a great watch.
Alongside their defensive authority, with the ball Hull also pissed all over Wigan. They made metres at complete ease and used Sneyd’s kicking game to effect pinning them in the corners. It wasn’t perfect either, there were daft errors, and Hull’s attack needed a bit more zip about it to post more points on the board, but it’s more boxes ticked and more Google searches from the West Hull area on hotels near and around Wembley. We love getting carried away – but we all know it’s defence that wins trophies and the similarities here with the Lee Radford team of 2016 are there to see. Hodgson’s troops just need to get more crisp with their point scoring, but given that the first choice one, six, and seven have played just one and a half games together so far this year you can give them some slack. It’ll come and there’s no doubt here that this Hull team will get better and better with the ball as the year goes on.
Make no mistake that feeling is back already though – just wait until fans are back in grounds and rugby league’s most famous anthem Old Faithful is belting out on the terraces. Right now Hull are justifying their hype. They were brilliant yet again. They always looked on top of a tough Wigan side and they never looked fazed, not even after Jake Bibby opened the scoring. Soon after Satae crashed over under the sticks and that lead was never relinquished, with Satae (again) and Swift scoring either side of a few penalty goals and a Dominic Manfredi consolation.
Hull just showed a greater desire throughout, from 1-17 and from the first minute. Building on last weeks narrow defeat, Hull’s attitude and mentality were both spot on and they were never intimidated, booking their place in the last four of the cup despite seven out through either injury or bullshit suspensions. Not bad for a skinny squad which saw Connor Wynne come in and never put a foot wrong, nor Cameron Scott on his first start of the season on the left wing. Shout out to Mahe Fonua too who had that spring in his step once again that made him such a cult hero in his first spell at the club, Josh Reynolds who’s presence alone (not to mention his gob) can never be under-appreciated in this Hull side, co-captain Danny Houghton who is much improved and back to his old self this year, and last but not least a boisterous trio of middles in Ligi Sao, Jordan Lane and Joe Cator who between them covered every blade of grass standing up in the absence of Scott Taylor, Josh Bowden, Brad Fashenhuyzen and co.
Again though, it’s all about the team unit and the qualities Hodgson is installing into them. Premature silverware talk is probably still that, but as long as this Hull side continue to graft for one another, remain a complete nuisance to play against, and dare we say improve even further, then giddy up. This Hull side are fearless and we should be too, starting next Monday night with the fans’ KCOM Stadium return. Bring it on.
Hull Starting XIII: 21. Adam Swift, 5. Mahe Fonua, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 4. Josh Griffin, 24. Cameron Scott, 6. Josh Reynolds, 7. Marc Sneyd, 13. Ligi Sao, 9. Danny Houghton, 10. Chris Satae, 11. Andre Savelio, 12. Manu Ma’u, 16. Jordan Lane. Interchange: 15. Joe Cator, 20. Jack Brown, 16. Jordan Johnstone, 23. Connor Wynne.
Hull Tries: Satae 2, Swift. Goals: Sneyd 4/5 (refused the last kick at goal after Swift’s try)
Hull Sin Bin: Brown
Wigan Starting XIII: 3. Zak Hardaker, 22. Jake Bibby, 11. Willie Isa, 12. Liam Farrell, 1. Bevan French, 20. Harry Smith, 31. Jackson Hastings, 8. Brad Singleton, 9. Sam Powell, 19. Liam Byrne, 15. Morgan Smithies, 13. John Bateman, 14. Oliver Partington. Interchange: 10. Joe Bullock, 25. Joe Shorrocks, 21. Ethan Havard, 2. Dominic Manfredi.
Wigan Tries: Bibby, Manfredi. Goals: Hardaker 0/2, Smith 1/1
Scoring System: 0-4 (Bibby), 6-4 (Satae), 8-4, HT, 10-4, 16-4 (Satae), 16-10 (Manfredi), 20-10 (Swift), FT.
Referee: Robert Hicks. Video Referee: James Child
Attendance: Behind Closed Doors