Hull FC and ‘the Wigan club.’ The two beautiful beasts that just keep on delivering…
We’ve shared some absolute belting contests over the years, and whilst it was Wigan who edged this hard fought battle 16-14 on Thursday night, Hull, despite a defeat that sees the unbeaten start to the year come to an end, did their 2021 credentials no harm with another resilient and dogged display.
Even in defeat Hull are just a completely different side this year. Brett Hodgson’s transformation has seen the defensive drum banged from day one, and at Wigan it came to the fore again. Hull this year are prepared to roll their sleeves up and do the hard graft both with and without the ball. Again, their defensive effort was nothing short of outstanding and they fought for every inch going forward too in a contest that was at times brutal and certainly not for the faint hearted.
In a game that had its fair share of controversial moments and another incident that makes everything else seem irrelevant, it’s all about the manner of defeat and Hull gave it absolutely everything just coming up short in a pulsating match that was in the balance from the first minute until the very last.
But despite the controversy, the quality on show and those big moments that shaped the game into what it was, you just can’t sweep Andre Savelio’s acquisition under the carpet, and that’s that Wigan prop Tony Clubb took a racial slur at his Polynesian heritage in the first half. Savelio made his feelings known both to referee James Child and on social media after the match. The incident was placed on report and will be looked into further by the RFL ahead of a weekend where rugby league clubs are joining in on professional sports’ social media boycott. Something not before time itself and something that we back 100%. More on that later.
Still, and despite the seriousness of the allegation, the game played on with Savelio doing the full eighty minutes again in another mammoth performance as he continues his recent career best form. As far as individuals go it was ironically, alongside another vintage Marc Sneyd performance, another Polynesian player who really stood out for us and that’s Chris Satae who was absolutely immense yet again. The big fella has been brilliant this season, and the way Hodgson has used him is just one of many subtle changes and adoptions he’s brought to the side this year. Jordan Lane also stepped up again alongside Joe Cator as did young Brad ‘Mullethead’ Fashenhuyzen. Three young lads who just get it. Throw Ben McNamara in there too who is looking the part, not to mention Danny Houghton who proved again he’s still the top dog here with Jordan Johnstone’s stint not the most crisp you’ll ever see. Hull were much better with their co-captain on the field and along with the two outstanding centres who delivered as always, there’s the makings of a very good side here.
It’s a team game though and Hull under Hodgson have just got their mojo back. They are heading in the right direction alright, competing in every game with a completely different mentality amongst the squad. There are no weak attitudes now and whatever adversity is thrown their way they stick to the task in hand.
Without turning it into a pissing contest, this is a Hull side that has copped a few blows recently too. Already without their marquee man Josh Reynolds in the type of game that was MADE for him, they lost Scott Taylor to a foot injury after twenty minutes and they also had to fight a losing battle with the modern day monstrosity that is the set restart. The game was perfectly poised but sadly for rugby league’s new(ish) innovation, they are just becoming a hindrance to a product that wasn’t even broken in the first place.
Furthermore, some of the penalties given by referee James Child were controversial to say the least. The two points that ultimately won Wigan the game came from Jake Connor being penalised despite Sneyd and co exchanging a bit of niggle at the ruck with Jackson Hastings (another who had a superb game alongside a young half in Harry Smith, yet who gave as good as he got here) for a good few seconds before Connor got involved. It was almost like Child saw the pantomime villain and had to step in. Talk about reputations biting you on the backside.
Unfortunately for Hull, and let’s not kid ourselves that Hastings didn’t know EXACTLY what he was doing, Connor just couldn’t resist himself and it’s a side to his game that remains incredibly frustrating, and even more so following a sin bin in the first half for a careless high shot on opposite number Zak Hardaker. It wasn’t all bad though for Jake the Snake who as always was heavily involved in everything good Hull did too, putting Adam Swift over for his sides first try whilst collecting bombs over his head and making the dark arts of the number one position look easy. He’s just got to learn to bite the bullet, but then again isn’t that what makes him what he is? Rough with the smooth and all that…
Worst of all was the decision from Child not to penalise Wigan with around a couple of minutes to go when they were more offside than Chris Green at the Magic Weekend. Then again if you thought Wigan would get penalised on home turf in that sort of situation then you might as well take a dip in Willy Wonka’s chocolate river. We all know the drill and Hull were hard done by. There’s no getting away from that and it’s easy to get cynical with the officials here, but there’s also areas of Hull’s game where they will look to evolve as the year goes on. They’ve got to be smarter for a start (something that goes hand in hand with Reynolds’ return) and be squeaky clean with their discipline that at times seemed to be punished on John Bateman and Oliver Partington’s terms. Do that and there’s no doubt the improvements will come even more, but so far they have been substantial and Hull now look like a side that can compete at the right end of the table once again.
For Hodgson’s troops it’s about continuing to improve and right now nothing seems to faze them. Hull are fearless and they don’t dwell on mistakes. For instance Mahe Fonua after a key error that resulted in Wigan’s first try for Hastings stepped up and was pretty much faultless for the rest of the game, leaping like a salmon to take a sublime Sneyd kick for a sublime second half try. That put Hull into the lead at the time and they were well worth it.
However, Wigan came roaring back. They are such a tough outfit and they always test their opponent physically but here Hull matched their tenacity. They showed that they’re more than capable of mixing it with the big boys again and here there was nothing in it for large parts of the game. The most encouraging thing is that there is so much more to come this season and hopefully given some positive news in the injury department, Hull can have another crack at Wigan, minus “Ku Klux” Clubb who went missing in the second half and wasn’t seen after full time either, in the cup next week. Expect fireworks and maybe even one or two explosions. Can’t wait.
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, 17. Tony Clubb, 15. Morgan Smithies, 13. John Bateman, 14. Oliver Partington. Interchange: 10. Joe Bullock, 19. Liam Byrne, 21. Ethan Havard, 25. Joe Shorrocks.
Wigan Tries: Hastings, Farrell, Bibby. Goals: Hardaker 2/4
Hull Starting XIII: 1. Jake Connor, 5. Mahe Fonua, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 4. Josh Griffin, 21. Adam Swift, 19. Ben McNamara, 7. Marc Sneyd, 8. Scott Taylor, 9. Danny Houghton, 13. Ligi Sao, 11. Andre Savelio, 16. Jordan Lane, 15. Joe Cator. Interchange: 10. Chris Satae, 17. Brad Fash, 16. Jordan Johnstone, 24. Cameron Scott.
Hull Tries: Swift, Fonua. Goals: Sneyd 3/4
Hull Sin Bin: Connor
Scoring System: 6-0 (Hastings), 6-6 (Swift), 6-8, 10-8 (Farrell), HT, 10-12 (Fonua), 10-14, 14-14 (Bibby), 16-14, FT.
Referee: James Child. Video Referee: Ben Thaler
Attendance: Behind Closed Doors