The Dentist’s Diary – 529th

It was the best of times it was the worst of times! But thankfully at the end we were all celebrating, we were all ‘breathing again’ and we were all just so relieved!

It had been a year (bar one day), since our last 22-20 victory which came in equally dramatic circumstances at The Lightstream Stadium on Good Friday. This time we got home again by that score, but the boot this time was on the other foot and it was Hull FC that were hanging on for dear life at the end. But, then again, as far as the really good teams go, how many times have we seen Saints, Leeds and Wigan do just that early in the season and scrape home with the points?

If you weren’t emotionally involved then as for drama, well you’d have certainly got your money’s worth at a cold DW Stadium on Friday night. However, despite the fact that the game was a real gripping affair, in the end I would much rather be reporting on an easy win gained after a fabulous start, than an almost tragic capitulation in the final quarter, when we simply couldn’t keep hold of the ball. I know all about the claims of Wigan beforehand concerning the number of players they had out injured and their coaches whinging afterwards that they would have won had they been on Sky, but that’s the game and that sort of rhetoric doesn’t wash much with me at all. But, I will concede that you have to admire the Lancastrians strength in depth and the way that despite trailing 22–0, in the end, had the game gone on any longer, they would most certainly have won.

That alone could be very worrying indeed, but there were some mitigating circumstances on our side too. There was the team arriving late (like most of the other travellers from the East Coast) which caused a truncated warm up, the loss of Danny Houghton and the disruption that brought and the response from a Wigan crowd that finally woke up and apparently for the first time this season came to life. On the plus side we are, after just 6 games, half way to our first target, the accepted safety point for the top eights split, we scored some amazing tries, we scrapped and scrapped when the tide of the game had turned against us and on Saturday morning we sat top of the league after over a quarter of the regular season had passed.

Points are all that matters these days and we got both to go 5 wins from 6 games and who wouldn’t have taken that a couple of months ago in the pre-season. Once the tide of a game has turned against you in the sort of circumstances we saw the other night you have the devil’s own job to turn it back again, but if we didn’t exactly do that, we at least found a way to stem that tide and there were some real heroes out there at the end.

Last weekend I said that I would take anything from the next two games and we got two precious points in a crazy game that left the players out on their feet and us lot on the terraces out of our minds!

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The Dentist’s Diary – 528th

Another game and another good win, with us firing for about 20 minutes and doing what we had to do in a professional showing that secured the victory and as a couple of the front runners slipped up they were two very useful points indeed. We have only played the lower ranked teams thus far, but they still had to be beaten and we have done what we had to do with some aplomb.

4 wins from 5 games is better than we could have wished for and numerically better than the start of our last epic season. It’s still pretty mundane stuff at times because at this stage of the campaign that’s the nature of the beast really, but at least last Friday we saw more fluidity in our play, some great tries and a performance that included some encouraging showings from several players. Not only are Taylor, Mini, Sneyd, Fonua and Kelly showing some of the class we knew they possessed, but some of the players who had to step up like Bowden, Green and Thompson are showing some good form too. Connor and Michaels stepped into the injury breach well, whilst ‘Laid back Lenny’ just stroked over the goals again from all over the pitch so that well before ten o’clock, it was job done.

That shows I believe that Lee Radford’s squad system is working and that he has the confidence to play his fringe players when necessary, which proves I think that the pressure of last year, when he and many players were under threat if we didn’t perform, is off somewhat this time around.

So it was two more points and a job well done, in a game we simply had to win and now, as we look forward to arguably the two most difficult games of the season, we face them in a reasonably relaxed state! Anything from these two encounters would be a welcome bonus, but we approach them with those 8 precious points in the bag and with a team that now has some confidence, some points and a more relaxed demeanour. So ‘Bring on the Pies’!!

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The Dentist’s Diary – 527th

Another game, another hard fought encounter. Another 80 minutes on the edge of your seat and another win. It’s 6 points from 4 games and who amongst us, back in January, wouldn’t have taken that?

In fact, some said that a wounded Wakefield with a point to prove, a resurgent Huddersfield and a strengthened Saints would all cause us big problems, with perhaps the game against a Catalan team that doesn’t travel well at all, our best chance for early points. Well that’s what I said anyway, but what did I know?

At this time of the year it’s all about accruing the points by grinding out the wins. If you attack is a bit stop-start, but your defence is sound, then you’ll come through and do what you have to, which is to win more than you lose in these early rounds, so that you just keep in touch with the top of the table.

With a miserly 6 tries conceded in 4 games it’s certainly evident that we have our priorities right, while our ability to manage the game so well when we are short-handed or under the cosh is certainly paying dividends. Hull FC were famous for their resilience last year when we came back from a losing situation on 18 occasions to win games and, so far at least that has continued this year as well. With Ellis and Watts out, two youngsters on the bench, Talanoa out at half time and Danny Washbrook drafted into the centre, no wonder Lee Radford, in charge for his one hundredth game at Hull FC, was happy afterwards. Friday was job done, in so many ways.

In Super League, when you peak too early then, as we found out last year, you run out of puff late on when it matters. However, for now at least it’s going well and for me we can ask for little more after our first 4 games.

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The Dentist’s Diary – 526th

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“Garry Schofield …He’s a Banker, he’s a Banker!!”

(Well, I think that’s what the FC fans were chanting at Huddersfield last Thursday!)

It was great that after hearing the thoughts of Mr Schofield in his unprecedented outburst earlier in the week, Marc Sneyd was able to keep his council and let it all wash over him, in fact he even declined to be interviewed directly after the game. Instead our number 7, simply let his actions do the talking. There, in the cold of a pretty bleak Huddersfield night, he gave the most emphatic and succinct reply to the banal taunting of the washed up pundit and did it in the best way possible. Being accused of not being able to pass, run or tackle in a radio interview, Marc answered all those criticisms ‘and then some’, and in addition by the end of the game, Schofield’s ‘bandwagoning’ questioning of the validity of his partnership with ‘Albo’ Kelly, was beginning to look ridiculous too.

It was a good win but that victory wasn’t as easy as many are now making out either. Three years ago under those circumstances, with a wet ball, a poor crowd and a depleted Huddersfield team, complacency could have led us to at best a struggling win and at worse an unexpected defeat. But, this Hull FC squad is a bit different and rather like at Widnes last year, when in the Super 8’s we put them to the sword, our new found mental tenacity came through and we were able to put a wounded team away in clinical fashion.

This victory was of course earlier in the season than that nilling in Cheshire in 2016 and so there were mistakes a plenty, nevertheless it was job done in some style. However, as the dust settles and some are already looking forward to Saints on Friday, it’s always great when a plan comes together and I just want to take some time out to say a big well done to Marc Sneyd, as ‘Laid back Lenny’ made sure that last Thursday his decisive actions, spoke louder than Schofield’s hollow taunts.

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The Dentist’s Diary – 525th

Well that was a predictable outcome I guess, because how often in the past have we got that elusive big gate to the KCOM only to let them down? Last Thursday’s was a game that was perhaps best summed up in one word, because our display in the first home game was for me a decidedly ‘Flat’ one!

It was a game that we should have won but one in which we allowed a poor referee (for both sides) to get to us and we were guilty of permitting the opposition to dictate the speed of the encounter and thus the terms at which it was played. It was only our first home game, it’s not a disaster and its certainly not the shape of things to come …. just yet. Early indications are that it’s going to be a really tight league this year and we should have won what was a pretty undisciplined affair, however on the night the opposition had just a bit more control over what was happening than we did.

The fans did everything they could by getting there in numbers on what was a crap night, and at the Club some people put in hours and hours of work attracting that marvellous crowd and in the end everyone deserved better really. Whether the fans were right or not, the fact is that 13,500 people left the game disappointed and once again in the main, discussing just one subject …the referee.

It’s always easy to be wise after the event or as the Americans say, ‘To play Monday morning Quarter Back’, but after the game I drove home lamenting two points lost and a massive chance spurned, because our inability to find a way to overcome the Catalans spoiling and slowing down tactics meant that we blew a great opportunity to go top of the League. As for the opposition, well, credit to them for whatever you think about the quality of the encounter, they played the conditions, the crowd and the referee perfectly and for long periods they controlled the game.

My old pal Tom has often been quoted in here for his constant mantra that “Goal Kicks Win You Games”, but they do and as so often happens on such dour wet nights, in such tight matches played early in the season, one team went for goal every chance they got and won and the other went for glory a time or two even when the kicking T was already on its way onto the field and didn’t!

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The Dentist’s Diary – 524th

Well, firstly well done to both Wigan and Warrington for flying the flag for the British game and sticking it up the Aussies; they won’t like that at all!

I’m not convinced that the NRL sides took it at all seriously enough, but they don’t like losing at anything and I just wonder if that’s the last time we’ll see this particular crown competed for. Still, it’s great to have the World Club Champions playing in Super League and I guess Wigan won’t let us hear the end of that one either!! However, although there hasn’t been much to talk about this week FC wise, there’s been plenty going on in the game and off the field it’s hardly been ‘Good News Week’ in Rugby League!

Thanks to an enforced hiatus in our fixtures, we’ve all had a pretty unwelcome break, but the good stuff saw our Club posting some very encouraging accounts for last year and breaking records with the advanced Catalans ticket sales. However farther afield there has been more mixed messages. For a start, in the domestic competition it’s been a crazy few days. This weekend some Super League teams played league games and others didn’t, while all teams were told that they could lose up to 3 players for two matches mid-season to allow for an international trial and then our game was ranked 27th in the country as far as public participation is concerned. Plus, to add a level of levity, Featherstone introduced their new mascot Percy the Pit Pony (yep you heard that right, and a quick look at him leads me to believe that he won’t be available during the pantomime season). It might only be week two of the competition, but already there’s certainly a deal of controversy, most of it thankfully not directly concerning us.

Those instances and a couple of others are I feel a symptom of a bigger malaise that the British game seems to find itself slipping into at present and for me that’s a bit of a worry.

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The Dentist’s Diary – 523rd

Hello and welcome to the latest edition of the Dentists Diary.

Before a season starts there are always more questions than answers. The main two unanswered ones on an atrocious afternoon at Wakefield were, could we improve on our late season discipline and would the never say die spirit of 2016 still be there, for it was always going to be a pretty brutal affair. Towards the end of last season stupid penalties cost us points and yet throughout the campaign it was our grit and determination to grind out wins that just got us home so many times. So the big debate in the pubs and Clubs this past week was about the start of the season and whether the history made in 2016 was about to repeat itself in glorious fashion, or whether 2017 would be the equivalent of ‘that difficult second album’?

Thankfully by quarter to five the answer to that question was a positive one and it was another massive fighting effort, capped by a last minute game saver by Talanoa that saw us protect a flimsy lead and get our first two points on the board. At this time of year, that’s all you want isn’t it?

Furthermore, although not proving much of a pointer so early in the season, the game at Wakey was always destined to set the scene for two weeks of deliberation and discussion from the FC fans. I concur with the owner and a lot of the ‘keyboard warriors’ who feel we are perhaps a prop short up front, but yesterday we battled really well, took our chances, kept it tight and with Bowden on the road to recovery for the next game and no further injuries up front, yesterday was all about getting one over a team that are notoriously good starters at home and who had invested heavily in their pack in the closed season. Two points, job done and so we move on!

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The Dentist’s Diary – 521st

On these guys we place our hopes for 2017!!!

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So after such an auspicious and quite spectacular start to ‘2017 The Year of Culture’ in the City of Kingston upon Hull, Hull FC yesterday did their bit towards carrying that forward and made their own bit of history as the first Club to host a game against the first truly Trans-Atlantic sports team.

To quote the rather irritating practice of local and national newspapers of late, here are the five things I learned from yesterday afternoons run out against the Toronto Wolfpack.

Firstly, we all found out I think that the RL, (in their rush to appease Bradford by re-instating the Bulls into the Championship with a team that’s still in disarray and with less than two weeks to go to the season starting) really have missed a trick. This Toronto side, with their devil may care approach, would be a real force in the Championship and would have brought a bit of real razzamatazz and a great competitive spirit to the competition. Secondly we also had it confirmed that Albert Kelly is, (providing that he keeps his ‘nose clean’), going to be a real FC star and his signing could well prove to be the best bit of business in Super League this year. Yesterday he finished brilliantly as good a try as we’ll see all season.

Thirdly, the youngsters showed in the last quarter that despite what we thought we learned about them at Castleford and against Rovers, they can tackle and for the final 22 or so minutes they defended magnificently and force the opposition to chance their arm and lose possession a time or two. Fourthly, if the Canadians wanted a run out in conditions akin to those of their country of origin, then they couldn’t have picked a better day; it was bloody perishing! However, they still played some lovely expansive rugby in that first half. And fifthly I think our attacking combinations looked really promising and if we can get them the ball early, our backs are going to be absolutely deadly this coming season.

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The Dentist’s Diary – 520th

Welcome back to the Dentists Diary, a Happy New Year to all Hull FC Supporters and here’s to an exciting and successful 2017! If its half as good as 2016 I’ll be very happy indeed!

It’s a funny old time to be writing this weekly diatribe and one that has me a bit lost when it comes to what to make of things. I say that not because I won’t be totally immersed in Hull FC once the proper 2017 season begins, because I certainly will, I always am! However, it’s more a case for me that unlike last season when we played at Donny, took on Rovers, had a 12 day build up period and then were throw headlong into the new season and a big home clash with Salford, this year, with the first trial game being played 48 days before the first match of the season the whole pre-season process seems to be going on and on and on.

I guess however I should be grateful that is all I have to grumble about and that everything at Hull FC seems a bit mundane at times because the reality is that with relegation, departures, retirements and injuries in training at Hull KR and the absolute debacle that is Hull City at present, the state of our Club compared with the rest of those in the City of Culture 2017 is boringly stable. For us FC fans that certainly makes a change and long may it continue!

Even our coach resisted the pressure of wringing every last pound of passion out of the local Derby game by playing it down as just another trial match against Championship opposition and by fielding a team of mainly fringe players in an effort to protect our starting 13 from what will be as long and as gruelling a season as any Club has experienced in the Super League era. For me the Club have now to decide whether to stick with this fixture and take it seriously as far as putting out a competitive team is concerned in future or scrap it. The fact remains that no one likes losing to Rovers at any time, so some were a tad disgruntle last night.

I’m trying just to see the pre-season games as a means to an end, furthermore I’m doing my best to understand why it all seems to be so drawn out, but with still 35 days to go to our first game its hard! Our Club is doing well and continuing to evolve and although after two years of turmoil followed by a wonderful 2016 season things are at present progressing smoothly on the playing side. However, the administration arm of the Club continues to adjust and re-invent itself in the face of changing circumstances within the sport, as they recognise the need to capitalise on our recent success and the impact it had on the fans.

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The Dentist’s Diary – 419th

It’s:
The most wonderful time of the year.
The one day in a Year when you and all your friend are happy!
The one day that peace and joy is everywhere!
And, the one day that its brilliant to just be there with the whole of the family!

 

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OH, AND ITS CHRISTMAS AS WELL!!!!! 

You know the further in time I get away from that glorious day in August, the more I marvel at just how good it was. What a memory eh? I just have to look at that lot and I’m enjoying it all over again!!

For once at Hull FC everything seems to be going really well and the Club is thriving. Everywhere the players and officials go the Challenge Cup goes with them and what better Christmas present could we all have than the fact that the amazing Trophy that we craved for so long, is with our club for another 8 months….at least?

The cash is flowing in and everyone is really up for the forthcoming campaign. In fact, everyone seems quite content with our current status, both at the Club and on the terraces. That won’t last long of course, because at Hull FC it’s never plain sailing, but if any indication of our demeanour of late is required, then look no further than the fact that with days going by on the RL fans message-board without anyone posting an at all, it’s just so quiet, even as far as the grumblers are concerned!

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