The Dentist’s Diary – 637th

“When I’m good I’m very, very good and when I’m bad I’m awful

Violet Elizabeth – (Just William)

So it is with my team at present and although that second half didn’t exactly make me ‘scream and scream till I’m sick’ it was still hard to watch, although as a game, perhaps it was simply a microcosm of our season to date. I guess I could have headed this edition up with ‘4 seasons in one day’, because in that first half we saw the return of the flowing power rugby of 2016 followed by the gritty determined defence of 2017, whilst in the second we saw the reticence and disinterest of 2018 and the unpredictable, inconsistency of this year. 

Whatever else we are this season, my team, Hull FC, are bloody frustrating at times!!

It was certainly a game of two halves!!! Just as it has been a season of literally watching two mirrored FC teams and it’s the constant worrying about which team will turn up on any given weekend, that’s the really frustrating thing. So, move over ‘Fringe’ and ‘Stranger Things’ because if you really want to know what it’s like to be exposed to an alternate universe, just talk to any committed FC supporter in 2019!

Although that almost schizophrenic demeanour has been our lot all season and indeed something that has frustrated this fan to hell, talking to a younger supporter at the end of the game perhaps, I thought, I worry too much? Perhaps we should all just accept it?  Let’s face it as he sagely pointed out, fans at London, Leeds and Rovers would grab the chance to be so in-consistent that they were two points up in third, clear of relegation with 7 rounds to go and in a Cup semi-final, but somehow when your witnessing it that doesn’t make this ‘upside-down’ season any less frustrating does it? 

We’d been up and down from game to game, but then we won 4 in a row and looked really good taking on Castleford and Catalan away from home, before against the Dobbins and then Saints we were back to being scratchy to say the least. This week we surpassed ourselves and managed to mirror that season long malaise in one game. Shining in the first half and flopping and floundering in the second.

But, you have to be pleased with our overall position for it is something that would have been taken by all of us when we set off with two loses on the trot back in February, but it was tough going last Thursday in that second half.

None the less in the end the record shows that we won, we were thoroughly entertained in the first half and suffered whatever is the opposite to that in the second, but we got two points and we are still third. However, there are much bigger battles ahead and we will have to be a lot better in them!!

The infuriating thing is of course, that we know that is eminently possible when this lot really set their stall out to play for 80 minutes.    

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The Dentist’s Diary – 636th

Out play, out thought and out manoeuvred!!! In fact, on Friday we were simply outclassed!!

Again, just when we needed to see a strong performance to lay down a marker against what is undoubtedly the best team in the competition by a country mile, we came up well short. We were just out muscled and out thought from the first minute and that by a team who had class and ability across the board. Everyone could off load, everyone could make play and as for their defence, well it left ours standing. Three tries including two rather fortuitous efforts in the first 20 minutes, saw us 18-0 down and already without a hope of getting back into it.

Our pack just couldn’t live with theirs and so our halves had no chance, nor had our backs as we were given a lesson on just how good you have to be, if you are ever to be run away leaders of the competition.

So no excuses and no attempts at an explanation, because we were just second best right across the board. We have now to focus on next Thursday and see if we can get two points against the basement dwellers from the capitol, because if we can’t, then with Wigan racing up on the rails, we can probably wave goodbye to a top three finish. Our only hope then is that with all the rest playing each other in the next seven rounds, we can sneak into that top five. However, with our away form so good and our home form so poor, with 5 home games out of the remaining 8 at the KCom, it doesn’t look good does it?

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The Dentist’s Diary – 635th

How can a team that demolished Catalans so convincingly turn around just 5 days later and play like that? Well for me the answer to that one is the 5-day turnaround bit and perhaps little else and believe me, Rovers were lucky to catch us on it!

Lee Radford’s last words on the Derby before kick-off were that, ‘Want and Desire are the key’. We had neither really, but where you surprised? I hate to be the clever bugger and as you know I always back my team against anyone, but in here last week I did fear the worst and in the end it was just a game too far after that match in France with the travel and the heat and the euphoria of that success. Plus, we were perhaps a bit too confident in the build-up!

I hate the place and I’m glad I didn’t go! All that said Thursday was disappointing. Being beaten by the great unwashed always is, but for me it was a scrappy game in which we had to play backs to the wall rugby, were lacking in energy and made far too many silly errors. Getting beaten by that lot is always a bummer and of course predictably, the way some of their fans reacted you would have thought they’d won the cup final. However, I guess that’s just what it was for them, as they have nothing to play for but their survival. Like all tired teams we forced it too much, were too lateral, made too many errors and panicked, to such an extent that a better team would have had us, big style. Looking back on it we are probably lucky that Rovers aren’t a better team!

So many folks had a go at me last week for my predictions in here. But I sort of knew what was at stake for both sets of players. Getting two points when you are rested up and in danger of losing your job, against two points to get a bit closer to the team in second place and doing it after everything we had been through 5 days earlier in France, always, for me, offered too much of a bias towards the Dobbins.

It’s a set-back but not a major one! We are still third, we still have 24 points and now have 9 games to keep that position in the much coveted top three. That ranking is ours to lose and the battle starts on Friday at The KCom against the Saints, who are far and away the best team in the competition!

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The Dentist’s Diary – 634th

That was Absolutely Sensational!!!

Could you believe some of that rugby … because I couldn’t!!!

For a bloke who is 69 this week, I find that you get to a point when you don’t believe that anything can surprise you anymore. But, in the life of a sports fan there are very occasionally, times when you are just lost for words, when your team is just so good that is hard to believe that (in this case), it’s the same group of players that got absolutely mullered at home by Warrington not so long ago. The fact is I think, that when this team really has their ‘heads on’ and move the ball around they are nothing short of glorious to watch.

Griffin, who was named in the pack, played a traditional wide running second rowers role and was almost unplayable and a real back-row forward for the future. Connor when he injected himself into the game was mesmerising and in Ratu, who we were reminded is eligible for GB, we have a finisher as good as anything you will see in this country. His try, which was recorded as a 105-meter effort, was just amazing. [PA1] 

But on the day it was another real team effort, Sneyd again controlled things and kicked impeccably both from the Tee and in play, while up front we took on and eventually overcame one of the biggest packs in the competition. Taylor, Green, Manu, Paea and the visibly improving Bowden worked so hard down the middle, Houghton provided the service and Griffin, Savelio and Westerman just ground it out!! By the end, the much vaunted and pretty hefty Catalan pack were visibly blowing for a tug!!

It was a game that under the circumstances (the heat, the travel and the opposition smarting from that London reversal last week) was a big ask for the FC, but a great chance to go 4 points clear in third, 6 points clear of 6th and put a massive 12 points between us and the relegation place held by the hapless Dobbins at the bottom. I doubted we could do it, because usually in such situation Hull FC just don’t do it, but we took that big chance, in quite ‘un-Hull like fashion.

I say that because for a team that have been so unpredictable, to the point of being down right inconsistent, we just went out and carried it all on from that second half at Castleford and with the confidence flowing, we at last strung two quite unbelievable halves together, in what was at times a breath taking win.

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The Dentist’s Diary – 633rd

“Kelly scores … and that was Box Office!”

Those were the final words on the Sky end credits, when you watched it back afterwards and there is no doubt that when we are ‘on it’ we can score some amazing tries and really entertain the spectators. 10 points down at half time and looking slightly second best, you should never write this FC team off, as long as, of course, we have our ‘heads on’!!

At that moment I was ecstatic and so was everyone at home and there in Castleford. And I mean everyone, for as you watch it back and see the joy on Lee’s face and the happiness he and Andy Last embraced as Kelly dived in, you realise just how lucky we are to have a set of guys running our team who are as big a fans, as we all are!  

I grumble when we lose and dance when we win, for I’m a fan and its expected of me. But I was proud of our lads on Thursday, as we witnessed a second half renaissance of amazing magnitude. Once again the tries were well engineered, full of individual style and exciting to watch. In games as tight as this one was, true quality is key and Hull FC had marginally more, as we edged past Castleford Tigers and then blew them away. Our right edge was lethal and in Ratu we must have the find of the season!

With 3 assists in the game, Connor was quite amazing and a relieved and still elated Lee Radford afterwards praised him for responding to his pre-game instructions. He was outstanding as was ‘Commander’ Sneyd and ‘Hat trick hero’ Albert Kelly, as our spine sparkled and shone in the second half Castleford gloom. It was again a wonderful effort by all concerned and with Ellis, Manu, Tumavive, Griffin and Bowden missing, all of whom would have a big call on playing if fit, or not suspended, it was a heartening win for the squad as well.

Realism is needed as well, for we are I guess still a bit in and out. Against Cas and Catalan it was our second half display that got us home, whilst against Salford it was that compelling first half blitz that just saw us win. In the other halves of those games we have been bested by the opposition, but as they say, it’s the points in the table that matter at this point of the season, and another two saw us on 22 and sat in third on Thursday night!!

That’ll do for me!!!!  

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The Dentist’s Diary – 632nd

That one was not for the faint hearted!!

Remember those Disaster Movies of the 70’s and 80’s where everything is going smoothly before catastrophe strikes and the heroes just get out by the skin of their teeth at the end? Well once again the Towering Inferno had nothing on being an FC fan on Friday night!

“Hardly Convincing was it!!”, seemed to be a universal assessment of what we saw at the KCom and convincing it certainly wasn’t!

That said, I would wholeheartedly agree with Lee Radford that it was all about getting the two points, but again it was tough to watch. From a position where we were in command and almost cruising, Salford just wouldn’t go away. So, in the dying embers of the game as we watched every second tick by on the clock we were saved again, with a minute to go, by a bit of Marc Sneyd’s restart kicking genius.

Fresh for the fight, there is no doubt that Salford had enjoyed a week off to sort out their bumps and bruises. They are a good team who had previously destroyed Catalans in France, won at Warrington at Easter and pushed Saints to the brink a few weeks ago at the Totally Wicked Stadium. Yet, it wasn’t that much of a surprise that on the night one or two of our lot still underestimated them, however, as a rival for the 4th or 5th spot in the League, we have now done the double over them and thus consolidated our place in the top half of the table!

For the casual observer it was a wonderful end to end game of open flowing rugby which held the interest right up to the final hooter. However, for us lot, the long suffering FC pilgrims huddled together on the terraces, it was again by the end excruciating to watch. Playing with just 11 men we almost capitulated in the face of a resurgent Salford outfit that smelt blood and you’d better believe that we’ll have to be so much more switched on at Castleford on Thursday.

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The Dentist’s Diary – 631st

‘Heroes and villains’

Who’d be an FC fan eh?

Don’t ask me to explain that, the Club can’t, the Coach can’t, the Players can’t, so I’ve no chance!!

Instead I’ll pose the question, “Are Hull FC ‘the Forrest Gumps’ of Rugby League???” Well they might well be just that!! Undoubtedly with our team this year, life IS like a box of chocolates because ‘you never quite know what you’re gonna get’. I can’t take credit for that gem, because reader Richard Hall actually text that to the Club, straight after the final hooter and so surreal is this season becoming, no one could really put it any better!

After Huddersfield we were battered, bruised, deflated and despondent and that was just the fans, BUT, as a team we had just 5 days to turn it around. As supporters we wondered if that was ever going to be possible. Catalan on the other hand, as the Cup holders, were the darlings of the media in the build up!  They’d gone four games undefeated including wins in ‘Big’ fixtures in Barcelona and at the Magic Weekend, (where their pack looked awesome), they had rested Mcilorum and Tomkins last week, just for this game, and no doubt Steve McNamara was licking his lips at the chance to get one over his old Club and in so doing get back to Wembley. For the tie the Dragons even stayed over in this country between matches to ensure they had no distractions, they were fully focussed and right on it! They couldn’t lose could they?

No one gave us a hope (if I’m honest you can include me in that too) yet we produced a quite phenomenal display and when Catalan were two tries down in that second half, it was their turn to run out of steam and look as if they were playing in lead boots.  

As performances go it was convincing! We just ran all over them in that second half, but whoever we had been playing in the British game that night, we would probably have beaten them! It might not have been by as many points, but the old adage that we can beat anyone on our day, was never more pertinent than it was at 10-00pm last Thursday night. It would be nice however if someone could tell us (and apparently Lee Radford as well) in advance, exactly when it is going to be our day!

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The Dentist’s Diary – 630th

Pathetic, embarrassing and inept??

Writing this Diary straight after the game what can you really say eh??? I’m fuming after another capitulation against a team that if we had any sort of aspirations as far as the League is concerned, we should have beaten. What’s more it was another real kick in the teeth to all those folks who made the journey to Liverpool and spent their hard earned cash doing it. 

We were simply a shadow of the side that ground out victory at the Halliwell Jones Stadium so brilliantly last week and there are absolutely no excuses whatsoever, for on Saturday the score-line told exactly the story of the game. What’s more, after a week when we were told several times that ‘we had got our Mojo back’ that was the twelfth time since the last Magic Weekend that we have conceived 30 or more points!!!! 

12 times in a year!!!!!!!

I’m not one for Coach and player bashing, you all know that, but few groups of coaches and players in professional sport would survive completely intact such statistics as that! Fact is once again we are back to square one, and left wondering just what the hell is going on. Even after 60 odd years of watching when we have been great at times (and dipped occasionally) and utterly crap at others (but peaked occasionally) I defy anyone to remember a time when we have swung so much, so quickly, so often. 

That for many just points to one thing and that is that the players only play when they want to (apparently in the Cup, when they are heavily criticised or when someone winds them up on social media) in other words they do as they like. That might not be the reason at all and there might be some deep sporting psychological explanation we are all missing, but in the perception of FC fans that is how it looks. None the less Lee himself doesn’t, by his own admission, even know what FC team will turn up each week once the players are left to their own devises on game-day, so what chance do we have?

So is the tail really wagging the dog? Well to many who have got in touch since Saturday it looks like it might be, because the Coaches and administration seem to have absolutely no control over which FC pitches up on any given weekend.They are according to what Lee has seen, World beaters at County Road and by what we’ve seen at times, egg beaters on the field. Our Coach in fact just says it happens, ‘Because it’s the sort of team we are’ and perhaps that is the real worry. 

Its heart-breaking stuff, but however bad we all feel there are always more important things out there and even that performance paled into insignificance this week when the situation concerning Jansin Turgot eclipsed anything that was to happen on or off the field. We have to get things in prospective because the tragic circumstances surrounding that news put everything else in the shade, as our heart-felt thoughts went out to our ex-player (and his family) who had earlier in the week, been fighting for his life. We all certainly send our love to Jansin! 

You know someone once said, that there’s more to life than rugby and ironically after Saturday, as far as some Hull FC fans are concerned, it seems that’s something that a lot of fans are contemplating finding more about.

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The Dentist’s Diary – 629th

Boy I enjoyed that one!!!

What an amazing victory against all the odds that was!!

If ever there was a time when the FC fans travelled ‘More in hope than expectation’, this was it!! But as my pal Sarah said straight after the final hooter, ‘On this occasion, hope overcame expectation”. 

I’m in danger of being over the top again here, but why not? That was for every true FC fan a most unexpected victory and after the announcement of the team before-hand, it was one that exceeded everyone’s expectations.

The Coach and players had been quiet all week, whilst the social media from Warrington was, I thought, a bit arrogant yet I guess that’s understandable from a team that are starting to become the self-styled ‘Billy Big Heads’ of the game. We all hoped that it would get a response and I suspected that  something was stirring down at County Road!!!

You must have felt it too and so it was that with around 9 players missing, our resolve was unyielding and Lee’s game plan spot on. We followed it to the letter, battled for each other to grind it out until every one of the players was out on their feet; yet always believing that they could do it! As the much fancied opposition got more and more frustrated some of the backs to the wall defending in that second half, particularly inches from the line, was nothing short of super human. In fact, some of their massive pack were shaking their heads as they got up from being hit by some of the smaller FC lads.

Smaller guys maybe, bigger hearts definitely.

Pretty it wasn’t, but well done to the team, to Lee and to all those who went. This will once again (and this time for all the right reasons), be a display that will be hard to do justice to in here, but it’s going to be fun having a go

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The Dentist’s Diary – 628th

That old Cup Magic is Back again!!!!!

You’ve got to be in it to win it and we’re in the hat for the quarter finals, two games away from Wembley and what’s more, our passion and wanting is back (although what’s still pretty baffling now is how it went away altogether last week only to return in abundance 7 days later!)

In the end, it was the old scrapping, cup fighting FC that saw us unbeatable in the glorious 2016 and 2017 Cup campaigns that suddenly manifest itself once more on Friday. Despite blowing them away in the first quarter, it wasn’t our best ever performance, nor was it that cultured and at times it certainly wasn’t flowing, but that special, ‘all in it together’ fighting spirit was back and it was great for every FC fan to witness.

We came out energised and buzzing just as we have against so many teams in the cup in the past. Our forwards hit the ground like a steam train and rolled right over the much fancied Castleford pack. That saw the Tigers rocking and panicked into mistakes, which thankfully we capitalised on, just as we had done against Rovers. 

However, then, when the tries dried up, we found the strength the passion and a Plan B that we always seem to find in Cup games. That attitude, so different from last week, saw us keep our shape, defend like hell and tough it out. It wasn’t a good Castleford performance by any means, in fact you had to feel for their fans when at times in the first half they looked like us last week!!

However, we had a plan to unsettle them and it worked and what’s more, unlike last week, in the end we had the wanting and grit to both out smart and out muscled them.

Paea and Taylor targeted their big front row and rolled right over them, whilst they both bottled up Watts perfectly, Houghton then buzzed and goaded them around acting half, our wingers were so much stronger and tougher than theirs and in Sneyd we had the consummate game manager, as he led us around the field ably assisted by his generals, Albert Kelly and Jake Connor.

In the end it was so good to get a win, but after last week it’s even better to report on the return of the desire and passion that we so obviously missed against Catalan, how long it will stick around is anyone’s guess, but battered and bruised it was job done and we could look forward to 8 days off and the Quarter Finals!!

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