The Dentist’s Diary – 549th

“It was the ugliest, prettiest result I’ve had in an awful long time”.

Lee Radford is, for anyone who writes about Hull FC, an absolute dream at times. I’ve already written a book on the back of a season of his most exceptional, intuitive and downright quirky quotes and here he is once again, doing what the man does best, because you don’t get much quirkier than that one! But as always, in his own inimitable fashion, how true he was about Friday.

A massive if enforced selection gamble by Lee, a master pocket picking exercise by the team and a great win based on an exceptional spirit, all gained against the much fancied Saints in their own back yard. Top stuff indeed!


That’ll do!!

OK, I agree with you, it was a shocking game to watch, but whilst on occasions a great win is signified by brilliant rugby and a scintillating performance, on many others it is symbolised by the significance of the victory in the context of the season, the team you have out there, who you are playing and even perhaps the weather. Although certainly not scintillating by any means this latest win embraced all of the other four indicators on what was a quite extraordinary night. The referee added to the woes with a stop/start performance that took away completely what bit of flow there was left in the game, however, let’s not forget either that this was St Helens, the pundit’s present favourites and the current darlings of Sky TV. Therefore, all of a sudden, it was as big a game as we will contest in the Super 8’s. Now, with all the top four spots taken by Yorkshire clubs and the Lancashire boys dropping off the pace a bit, no wonder Phil Clarke isn’t happy.

Well done to every FC player involved and to the coaching staff and the owner, for in such games it really doesn’t matter how you win, but rather that you win …..whatever the cost. On Friday, because of all the late withdrawals and with a game plan that was cobbled together on the bus, it was always going to be tough.

Good teams find a way to get over the line and whether they do it as we did at Donny in the semi with sparkling rugby, or in shocking conditions and a war of attrition littered with mistakes, like on Friday, in the end it matters little. This team is special it hasn’t won anything yet and it may not do, but believe me it’s special! That was a showing of great resilience and passion against what were considerable odds and it was a massive tick in the box for building gradually and peaking at the right time.

A win next week will present us with all we need to go forward with momentum into the last four Super 8 games and, who knows, perhaps even a top two finish. So let’s not dwell too long on a hat full of handling errors and mistakes that were mostly down to the conditions. Instead let’s just focus on the points we gained as we move on to a battle against a dangerous Huddersfield team who visit the KCOM on Friday with nothing to lose but their last chance of glory in 2017. There, with a big gate, a send-off to the final and a chance to all but secure our place in the top four, it’s all to play for, but for now at least history would dictate that it still isn’t wise to talk too loudly about Wembley at all, is it?
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The Dentist’s Diary – 548th

Heroes and villains!

It was without doubt a good effort, a bit scratchy at times, but a good effort just the same! We got the job done, saw some great tries, grabbed the two points and witnessed another pretty atrocious refereeing performance! (Get rid of the back line judges, Mr Wood, we now have referee’s with bionic vision!!!) Another week, another game; Welcome to the Super Eights!


Kelly was great again, but there was another hero against Salford!

On Friday it was all about the result rather than the performance, for it was, when you looked at how the fixtures fall, a must win game. Yet, as I walked to the Stadium, I pondered on the fact of how much our success at Donny would influence the outcome on the night. I believed that what we took from that victory, coupled with how a disappointing outcome impacted on Salford’s resolve, would probably decide the game. I don’t care how good a team you are, there is no way that you can completely overcome the physical and mental stress inherent in such games so soon after a semi-final and it was always going to be about who best overcame the ‘hangover’ from the happenings of the previous weekend. In the end some shrewd preparations by Lee Radford, during which the players just rested up and did little else, got us the win and as the results fell, we ended up with three points on the teams in fifth and sixth and six points on those in seventh and eighth.

So, with everyone having to play each other and thus not just gaining points but taking them off their nearest rivals as well, we are on course for the top 4, but with still a bit to do to cement our place. However at least that win gives us some breathing space and allows us to go to Saints with a bit of the pressure off and hopefully a couple of players back. Now we have a slight cushion over 5th and 6th and if we win our other 3 home games, we should be home and dry in the top four with another ‘objectives for the season’ ticked off. So all in all, Friday night was without doubt ‘Job Done’!

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The Dentist’s Diary – 547th

 

What a Wonderful Afternoon!! Does it get any better??

 


One of our own!

If there was one question on the lips of the rejoicing FC Faithful at the end of that fabulous demolition of Leeds, it was probably, “Where the hell did that come from?”

There was so much skill on show, but I’ll tell you where it came from, because first and foremost it came from the heart, it came from the wanting and the passion the team spirit and the belief. Want to see that animated into actions? Then just look for a moment at how long it took us to form the victory huddle at the end of the game. We waited and waited until every player had finished their interviews, then Gareth Ellis told it to them all as it was, the team were together for a moment in absolute solidarity as one and then the celebrations began! But everyone was part of it all!

The thing is when that team plays like they did on Saturday they are pretty implacable and as I marveled at what was unfolding in front of me I was so, so proud of the effort they put in and the way they won it for us lot singing ourselves hoarse on the terraces!! Yes, it’s great to be hailed by the media for our performance, yes, it’s great to be back at Wembley and yes, it would be superb to do Wigan and retain the Cup, but for now let’s just savour that moment for all its worth, for such performances and occasions are so rare and so fleeting.

You know, people will have been sat in front of their TV sets in Rochdale, Swinton, Dewsbury and Oldham wishing it was their team that was getting the accolades and plaudits after that performance and that were about to set off on the journey to Wembley Way. They know that although they can dream, it will probably never ever happen, but for us lot its real, its happening and it’s ‘the famous Hull FC that are off to Wembley’ AGAIN and we are, in the context of all those other fans around the game, so, so lucky to have a team like that!!

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The Dentist’s Diary – 546

PHEWWW!!!!!

……that was a close call wasn’t it? We just got home in a dour and at times frustrating game, but those two points were as precious as any we have grabbed this season.

On Friday night we just prevailed by the skin of our teeth, but boy we needed that victory didn’t we? It really didn’t matter how we got it, because we had to move forward to next week on a win and to, if we could, secure a top 4 spot and 4 home games in the play-offs, although in fairness the latter objective relied entirely on other teams slipping up. However, thanks to another desperately brilliant defensive showing in what was a scratchy performance against the Giants and a freak result at Leigh that saw Salford oblige us with a defeat, for now, on the journey that is 2017, its job done.

That of course hides the concerns we all still have about our current form and our perceived inability to score tries, but this game was always going to be a grind because we simply had to contain and frustrate a free scoring Giants outfit who were on a good run of results. So, on a sunny warm evening and to the calypso like accompaniment of a set of Huddersfield supporters who sounded as if they had pinched their mother’s pans and kitchen utensils and brought them along to the game, we just got home! It wasn’t pretty and at times in attack it wasn’t good either, but we still have that special togetherness that brings the will and tenacity that is needed to hang in such games. I would be a lot more worried where we throwing the ball about, losing concentration and collapsing when put under pressure.

As for the match officials, well listening to the observations’ of Chico Jackson on the way home, as he commented on how he didn’t think Mr Kendall got much wrong, then I’ll have to beg to differ on that one, because for me I’m afraid it was Leeds Rhino’s last week all over again! Mr K. had a shocker.

Still it was two points, the top four secured, no major injuries and now just the small matter of that game at Donny to concentrate on. Come on You Hull!!

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The Dentist’s Diary – 545th

Friday’s was a poor performance in a game that we should have won! Yet I guess we never deserved to get the points because we simply weren’t good enough, particularly when it came to retaining possession, being creative and keeping our discipline. AND, in all those failings it’s not only the youngsters that are the culprits either.

You know, I could have cut and paste that introduction from any of the last three Diary’s really couldn’t I? I don’t like to be negative in here but I fear that I’m about to be, because at present we have no right to be in the top four, simply because we don’t deserve to be there. Quite frankly it looks to me now that the Cup is our best, if not our only chance of silverware this term, but more of that gloomy hypothesis later.

At Headingley we were certainly dominant in the first forty minutes, in that we controlled Leeds and kept them contained despite losing possession at regular intervals, but we couldn’t get more than one score on the board and were then nilled in the second half, when just one try would have got us home. Defensively we were great near our line, but shoddy in mid-field as once again we struggled to find anything in attack. There is little doubt too, that for the second week running it was a match that was there for the taking, against a team that were no great shakes themselves.

We know what this team is capable of and yet at present we don’t look like we can deliver at all and a Leeds team disjointed and disrupted by injuries beat us on a night when we could so easily have reversed the ‘Headingley Hoodoo’ to gain a psychological advantage for that semi-final. What a disappointing trip it was for the hordes of FC fans that made the journey to the West Riding and who, on the way back, must have been wondering just what Doncaster holds for us in two weeks’ time!

I might have to eat my words after a few more rounds and I hope that I do, but playing as we have over the last few weeks, I’m finding it hard to contemplate us winning anything at all this year. We are totally devoid of any attacking ideas and as far as discipline is concerned, too many penalties conceded and too much dropped ball is, ever week, our undoing. I have to say as well that as for our prospects going forward in 2017, for now at least, I’m worrying a bit, I really am! But hope springs eternal and a big win over Huddersfield will sort a lot out, however unless we improve significantly it’s getting that win that might prove a little difficult.

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The Dentist’s Diary – 544th

I’m still pretty depressed after Friday!

That was so disappointing wasn’t it? It was all just such sub-standard fare really with several players giving uncharacteristic below par performances. In the rain at St Helens we were simply nowhere near where we should be at this time of the campaign and in hindsight last Friday, we didn’t deserve anything more than we got!

St Helens is never an easy place to go, but you can’t dress a pretty woeful performance up as anything other than baffling, at a time when we should be starting to build towards the end of the season and that big Cup match. We all know too that you have to be right on your game, wherever and whoever you play in Super League, otherwise the opposition will have you and on Friday night there could be no excuses, we were dissapointing. In fact, in a listless disjointed performance Hull FC were pretty unrecognisable as the team we have grown to almost count on in the last 18 months. Despite that defeat at Castleford, we had all taken some heart and had even felt positive because we just needed some of the same stuff we saw in the last quarter there, to get us home at a wet Langtree Park, against what was in anybody’s book, a pretty average St Helens team.

However, instead of building on that last quarter the previous week, we went the other way and it was a worrying development at a time when as a Club we should be looking to step up in preparation for the fights ahead. Instead with 9 games left to the top 4 play offs, we took a big step backwards. Thankfully we hold our 4th place spot because Wakey lost, but as the top eight starts to tighten up, that really is scant consolation.

Over the last few weeks we appear to have drifted from being the form team of the top half of the table, to looking worryingly flat and downright inept at times. The pundits in the printed media in general still rate us, but rugby is played on grass and not on paper and after a dire three-quarters of a game against Wakey, the same at Castleford and an awful 80-minute showing on Friday (throughout the whole match), my team are really struggling to impress me much at all at present.

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The Dentist’s Diary – 543rd

You can’t win ‘em all. You want to, but you can’t and on Friday night we didn’t, but in the end we went so close!! We handed Cas all their points, didn’t fire at all for 60 minutes and yet came within a whisker of winning the game. Disappointed? A bit! Downhearted, no way!

Saints will be a big ask on Friday but it’s doable and while I’m on about the weekend, perhaps you’ve already realised that there just might be a new book out this Saturday in the Club shops and here, EXCLUSIVELY for Dentists Diary readers, is a preview of the cover!

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The Dentist’s Diary – 542nd

Wow what a relief it was in the end, but I didn’t see that revival coming did you?

Five days on from a quite amazing performance in that Cup Quarter Final, for 50 odd minutes on Friday night we produced a real after the ‘Lord Mayors Show’ effort and trailing by 8 points in the second half, I was resigned to the fact that perhaps it had all been a bit much for those heroes of the previous weekend. Deep down I’d accepted that fact at half-time and although disappointed I consoled myself with the thought that I knew which of the two games I would have rather won if we couldn’t have them both showing a W in the games played column!

The thing is of course I don’t care who you are, as a team you can’t play like we did in that Cup game last week, every week!! It just doesn’t happen like that and whether it is down to complacency, injuries, fatigue or mental exhaustion, experience of years of watching rugby in general and Hull FC in particular, only goes to prove that every game is different. The thing is, in adversity, you have to try and find a way to win and to somehow get those two precious points particularly when you’re at home.

On Friday for long periods we were decidedly off it and it wasn’t just physical fatigue either because there were a few mental lapses in there too, particularly when we dropped the ball and forced passes near our line, so we were without doubt psychologically drained as well. From the kick off our overall demeanour was suspect and a couple of years ago that would have spelt disaster, but this team of 2017 is proving to be a bit better than that. At the end my pal Kathy jokingly exclaimed, “Never in doubt” although I freely admit as I said, that I had resigned myself to a defeat to a good and very sharp Wakefield outfit before that amazing last quarter. In many ways I guess we got out of jail. But in the end as I always say, who the hell cares!

Rugby League is a game of fine, fine margins and many in the aftermath of the victory attribute our come-back to Connors fortuitous intercept, which is a great example of those very same blurred boundaries that separate disaster and success. We get it and score and then roll on to win, but miss it and they go the length of the field and it’s ‘Goodnight Vienna’.

Yet On such twists of fate are matches and indeed seasons decided! It’s a funny old game isn’t it?

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The Dentist’s Diary – 541st

What a blooming great game that was!!!

This week’s offering is a bit hurried and a bit emotional but on a hot and sunny Sunday afternoon we certainly showed a national TV audience just what heart, tenacity and the will to win in a sports team is all about!

The best performance since Wembley? Well for me it was, without doubt! I absolutely loved it…. well I did when it was all over, but whilst it was going on it was a tortuous affair to watch from the terraces and when the final hooter went I was physically and emotionally wrung out. Knock out rugby eh? Don’t you just love it?

The Cup favourites were in town, backed by a huge travelling army, but that trophy was ours and we certainly weren’t going to let it go without a fight!

To boss a team that has averaged 35 points a game this season and keep them to 24 on a hot and humid day like that, took a gargantuan effort by every one of the lads. We were just too physically strong for them and in the end we ran out deserving winners.

Arthur Bunting will have been looking down on that game and be remembering other such great ‘wars’ that he oversaw in the late 70’s and early 80’s; he would have been so proud of that performance. What more can you say really, because the whole afternoon oozed emotion and passion from start to finish.

I kept it together quite well at the end, and loved the adulation of the crowd as they greeted their FC heroes, whilst the Castleford fans who had been just a tad cocky thirty minutes earlier, drained away to the exits like water down a drain. In fact, I kept my emotions pretty much in check until I met my lifelong mate Barry King on the concourse and then I have to admit a tear appeared in my eye, because we’d been through a lot over the years and it had been such a drama packed and emotional afternoon for us both; no one but no one, on the field or off it, wanted to let go of that Cup!

Driving home it crossed my mind as to how good it would have been to put the car away and go and get absolutely blathered, but I had this rubbish to write and so I came straight home. However, just after we arrived Mrs R shouted “How Ironic” from the kitchen, as she’d just switched on the radio and on Radio Two Paul O’Grady was playing “Sweet Caroline”. It was it seemed the end to a perfect day and I opened a bottle of Bud to celebrate!

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The Dentist’s Diary – 540th

Forever a Hero!

“We’re on the march with Arthur’s Army
We’re all off to Wembley
And we’ll really shake ‘em up when we win the Challenge Cup
‘Cos Hull are the greatest rugby team”

As Fans, a Club and a Family, this week we lost one of the finest people to ever be associated with Hull FC and our most successful Coach of all time. Arthur Bunting’s record as a hero for the masses speaks for itself. In 7 glorious years of unprecedented success, when we won everything, he gained the status of a Rugby League legend, as he masterminded a golden era in the history of our beloved Club. His star has shone brightly ever since! If you never saw a Bunting coached team, full of flamboyant rugby and classy players expressing themselves, you missed a treat, but no-one should ever be in any doubt as to just what a great coach he was, because those of us who did witness his years at the Club, will never forget. It is a measure of his significance to the Airlie Birds that since those halcyon days his has been the benchmark against which every FC coach and every period of success has been judged and indeed will be judged in the future.

Personally, with his death this week I lost a very special piece of my life and on Thursday lunchtime I went and sat on that stone bench at the Boulevard Memorial in Airlie Street, to reflect on a hero taken from us. Hull FC will certainly be a sadder place now he’s gone. However, we’ll always have our memories and at least before he passed away he realised ‘The Dream’ and witnessed Hull FC as they went ‘off to Wembley’, ‘really shook them up’ and ‘won the Challenge Cup’. Arthur will always be remembered by everyone who witnessed that glorious era between 1978 and 1985, an era that will always be referred to as The Bunting Years!

R.I.P. ARTHUR BUNTING

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