The Dentist’s Diary – 447th

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A great night for Preccie and for his family, while it’s good to report Hull FC hold the Trophy for the next year, however…..

………perhaps on Friday night I came as close as I ever have since we moved to the KC of deciding that enough is enough, the game is buggered and it’s time to walk. Perhaps I thought, I should get the stamp album out and forget altogether the glorious pastime and obsession that has been the passion of my life since I was 6 years old.

But I can’t do that, because whatever I think about the game itself, I love Hull FC and would therefore never quit simply because of my Clubs performance, because over the years I’ve seen every possible permutation of ‘crapness’ and I guess I’m past all that now. My demeanour was nothing at all to do with our effort either, as against Saints we again put in a massive shift and hung in a game in which we spent a lot of time being our own worst enemies. However the issue for me is that although the Clubs continue to try and entertain, corporately the depth that our great game has sunk to depresses me. Why? Well, I witnessed once again another totally inept official and this time quite bizarrely a water carrier who between them reduced the spectacle of what is a great sport, into a farce and a fiasco and THAT is what could, for this fan at least, one day be the ‘deal breaker’.

On Friday for many sat there on the terraces the game we love plumbed new depths which left this particular fan wondering as I walked home why exactly I bothered to go.

Gates are dropping across the sport, people are voting with their feet and after watching that on Friday, who can really blame them? I hate going on about referees because they have just become a necessary evil in the modern game, every week they are poor and every week we put up with it, but sadly this week it’s impossible not to take Mr Thomason to task because his performance was, from the first whistle to the final hooter, totally inept.

All that said I enjoyed the FC ride again, rugby wise we gave another heartening showing, we had a real dig against the Champions and they’ll know they have been in a fight! We took them to the line and lost on goal kicks and with a bit of luck and a bit more skill and poise at crucial times, we’d now be the ones celebrating a great win! However with 4 tough away games coming up and the gap between the 8 and the rest widening, there is real and present danger that we could be cut adrift, unless we get some very unlikely results!!

Friday’s is a funny game to try to write about really, although for a start, despite my concerns about the state of the game itself, I have again to say that I left the Stadium feeling that I had at least been entertained, it was a good contest in which somehow, again, we managed to hang in there for long periods and even threatened to get ahead and win it. But, sat there, tearing our hair out on the terraces, about the refereeing, it was a pretty frustrating experience too! OK, as a team we were a lot sloppier than we have been of late, we made too many unforced errors, as with ball in hand we tried, in the spirit of our new and more expansive game, to force it a bit too much. However that said, compared with what has at times gone before, at least it was the sort of entertaining display from my team that I want to be involved with every week.

The fact that we have to some extent thrown caution to the wind makes for a lot more entertainment when it works, but when it doesn’t, as fans I guess you have to choose between trying and sometimes falling short, or returning to the boring ‘no risks and no frills’ grind we experienced for much of the first half of the season. We’ve been crying out for months for more enterprise and there is little doubt that now we have it, but the price you pay for that is that sometimes it doesn’t come off! On any other given game day those balls would have been held, those off the cuff passes would have stuck and we would be hailing an exciting win. Afterwards Lee Radford said that the level of skill was way down on what we have come to expect of late and you had to agree with him, but the new ‘feel’ to our performances continues, it’s good to watch and there was, at times, a great atmosphere as the crowd tried to buy into it too.

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Gareth Ellis; boy he gave an absolute classic performance.

As fans we are totally committed to the FC and so after losing we were a bit blinded by our disappointment and perhaps failed to give enough credit to Saints who set out with a plan and whose game management was good and ‘referee management’ excellent!

You all know that in here, in general, I’m at pains to try and not spend time ‘Referee bashing’ but Fridays performance by Mr Thomason was appalling and our Coach’s comments afterwards will probably cop him a fine, although few if any will disagree with him. In the end Lee will be fined for telling the truth while the rest of us were treated to a master class of standing off-side and lying on! Every week there is a coach complaining about the officials and this week it is our turn. That was an incredibly bad display from a referee who, with the best will in the world, simply wasn’t up to it! In fact I guess the fact that Saints managed the referee’s ineptitude better than us was probably the deciding factor in a close and tight game.

I have never seen off-sides like it as the official simply couldn’t control it at all. He got the players back OK, took his eye off the line, they started to advance before the ball playing players foot was anywhere near it and by the time the acting half had the ball in his hands the defensive line was level with the play or even past it. I don’t blame Saints at all they should have been penalised early on, the practise should have been ‘stamped on’ and then the game would have improved. Instead Mr Thomason inability to do this and the way that he allowed a water carrier to stand on the pitch coaching throughout, whether Saints were defending or attacking, was nothing short of ludicrous. Poor decisions were everywhere for both sides and the game spiralled backwards into a farce where once again the only person the fans were talking about as we all tramped home was the official.

Saints understood from early on that the referee wasn’t going to blow up for off side and they were 5 yards back throughout a game in which I can’t remember one penalty being given for the offence. Was the official in awe of Saints or scared after Cunningham’s outburst about referee’s the previous week? Who knows, but as for the ridiculous presence of the 14th man, that Saints water carrier, the official completely failed to nip it in the bud after the first 10 minutes of him quite literally taking the piss, after which he didn’t have a clue how to address it.

Still, away from that and as far as the game was concerned as I said it was an enthralling contest, we gave it a real go again and neither side was able to ever claim to have been on top throughout. In fact the intensity and tough nature of the game was highlighted by the scoring not being opened until the 21st minute. There were some massive performances for us with Jason Abdull, making one try and scoring the other and Ellis, ‘snapping players in half’ at regular intervals was in massive form throughout. On a couple of occasions he left players in a crumpled heap on the floor with his tackling and we are certainly a better team when he plays. Paea had a quieter game, but I don’t put that down to his off field news this week, but rather to the fact that he couldn’t get into his stride because so far off side were the Saints defence that they were in our faces before he had caught the ball! Minniceillo was however my Man of the Match. He had a fine game and was the best forward on the field.

He never gave up and battered his way down field time and again, while two half breaks he made would have been better served with better backing up. Houghton, as usual, worked his socks off, but the passing as wayward at times, Watts played well and Pryce had another superb game. Visiting teams chanting ‘You used to play for a big Club’ do so at their peril!! Of the rest Rankin never stopped trying and Sneyd tried everything he could to get us over the line but again when under the cosh some of his kicking was poor. In fact on a bad kicking night the most effective kicks were probably Abdull’s spiralling bombs.

So we could have won and with two tries a piece some might say we should have won, however we were in the end beaten by a poor referee and squeezed out by some brilliant game management and defence from Saints. At times it was us that looked the entertainers while they played some dour stuff, but scored two really top class tries and held their line brilliantly. As Champions they are a good team but one that, had we not made basic unforced errors and had our ambitious passes stuck a time or two, would have gone home on Friday empty handed. But, as I say that’s the price you pay for trying to force an expansive game. We tried so hard and effort, sweat and tenacity was everywhere, but we came up short and it was two points that we really needed with the next few games coming up! As for Mr Thomason, well for me he should be severely scrutinised and indeed censored by the RL, but he won’t be will he? However one thing’s for sure, I won’t be buying 10 meters of carpet from him any time soon.

Well I’ve banged on about it being a done deal for weeks and weeks and at last on Tuesday Scott Taylor was announced as our first signing for next season. He’s playing really well this term and has great potential, which could even see him become a full International in future years as he is at present, one of the best English born props in the game. This is borne out by the fact that Salford have already said that they are desperately disappointed they can’t retain him and the schism that his wanting to return ‘home’, (after they wanted him to stay), has caused between Hull FC and the Warriors is something that has contributed to what the Club has described to me as a difficult situation.

Putting aside his obvious ability, it’s great as fans to see his obvious passion for the club and hear his relief that he has got the ‘gig’ he always wanted at his hometown and family Club. I think he will be a great hit and as his current coach Iysetyn Harris said recently, “He is going to be a massive player in the years to come and we would have loved to retain his services”. So a massive step forward for us recruitment wise and although we have known about it for months it’s still good to have Scott officially signed and the deal confirmed.

However every silver lining has its ‘cloud’ and hot on the heels of that news came the bombshell that Mickey Paea is on his way out of the Club at the end of the season and off to Australia. What a bloody body blow that is and if it’s any consolation I know for a fact that it came as a massive blow to Adam Pearson too. The plan was to build the front three around Paea, Watts and Taylor, but now with Mickey departing it seems certain that Gareth Ellis will be promoted to the front row next season. Mickey is just another bit of evidence that goes to prove that the drain of our top performers to the NRL is simply crippling our game. I knew something was up when from last weekend no one at the Club would say anything about his unsigned contract and in the end you have to ask, who can really blame him? We offered him more than he will be getting back home, but the lure of a chance to star in the NRL and for his family to get back to that environment, was just too much when just 10 days ago he was made an offer that he simply couldn’t refuse. All the talk was that Craig Sandercock was involved in there somewhere, so I wasn’t surprised to see him sign for Newcastle but in the end, the chance to play in that competition is just too big a carrot for good Super League players to turn down and that’s something that needs sorting because in general it’s killing our game.

As for Mickey, well, he did say he was staying at Hull FC, but few of us realised that although he had provisionally agreed to stay on, there was the proviso that this was unless an opportunity arose for him to return home to Australia. He’s made that very clear since and that is now a position which has been honoured by the club. I therefore personally think that we should all give him our 100% support for the rest of the season, because he has done nothing wrong and has to put his ambitions and his family first. I guess if any further proof of that is needed then we have only to look at what a pretty decent guy had to say when the news broke, as Paea said, “However, they (the Club) have known and understand that my family and I had aspirations to return home and for me as a player to test myself in the NRL again and have waited patiently for me to make my decision, without any added pressure. There is no doubt that the only other place I would have signed would have been Hull had I stayed in England. I love the club, the people here and would like to thank everyone who has made it such a great experience for me, including my team mates, the staff and the fans.” That, as a fan, says it all for me really, but when the personal bit is put aside he’s a massive loss, his departure has to be seen as a step backwards for the aspirations of the Club and I’d have just loved him to stay!

There of course hangs the whole crux of the matter in a nutshell, because as I always say as a fan you have to have hope because at times it’s all you’ve left and much of our hope for the future, up front at least, was pinned firmly on Mickey. He’s been a shining beacon in what’s been for the most part a desperate and pretty depressing season and now our best player is leaving. As for us fans, well we can’t go anywhere can we? We can’t move away or look forward to ‘pastures new’ because there aren’t any and we can’t return home because we’re here already. We just have to battle on, keep believing keep supporting the FC and hope; for the FC Faithful is the only option we have!

While I’m in the gloom department, the signing of Taylor does of course pose the caveat of what would happen to this signing and a couple of others still to be announced, should the unthinkable happen and we get relegated at the end of the season. It’s something the Club won’t even contemplate but a scenario that is always lurking back there in the dark recesses of many of our minds. The performance of Batley, Featherstone and Leigh in the Challenge Cup makes me very nervous about the bottom 4 scenario and we have to do everything we can to get over that and get into the 8. It certainly won’t be easy though, with the next few games all away from home.

In the Wilf’s Whiffs department, (which someone this week said they had missed of late in here), I do have a feeling that Lineham will go, simply because he doesn’t appear to the fans over time to be all that disciplined off the field, but that’s maybe just a perception we have, who knows. I also believe that Shaul is being courted by Rovers, how successfully I don’t know, but with him having a good contract I would expect us to be demanding a shed load of money and only then if Rankin was staying. On that I believe that Jordan has received another improved offer from the Club to stay and I also think that we have signed a high profile Aussie second rower. A few readers in Aus still persist with the name Frank (The Tank) Pritchard but I’m confident whoever it is he will be announced soon and I’m also suspicious that the capture of a quality antipodeans centre is not far off either. However the jungle drums in Australia are all over the place on that one with Chayse Blair, Krisnan Inu and Gerard Beale (a very long shot that last one) all mentioned! In addition there is also talk that Sentimata Sa is returning to Rugby Union at the end of the season as well. So there’s a few for you to wonder about! Let me know if you hear anything different!

I won’t be dwelling on the Talanoa drink driving business which broke on Wednesday, the guys a fool in a long line of them, and having lost a mate years ago in drink drive ‘circumstances’, I have no sympathy at all. It’s totally inexcusable, however that said, it happens, he will be feeling extremely remorseful and a person who is looked up to by young and old fans alike, will know that he should have set a much better example. It’s not the first time it has happened at the Club and sadly it’s not that uncommon an occurrence in society in general. It’s happened, we all have an opinion and then we move on! However I don’t expect we’ll hear of any re-percussions from the Club, let’s face it, it’s impossible for Adam to take any moral high ground is it? He will probably have to just settle for recommending a decent chauffeur!

However on all fronts as we approach the 4th anniversary of him buying the Club, I think our owner is doing OK, although several folks of late have questioned as to just how much Adam really cares and after all the Leeds United stuff just how dedicated to the Club he really is! This week I posed that very question to someone very close to the Club and was simply told, “You should have seen the way he ran up the tunnel at the end of the Cas game to hug the players and congratulate them, you wouldn’t be even asking if you were there!”

Now we are all entitled to our opinions as fans, paying our wodge and having no control over what’s happening out there on the pitch is par for the course, in fact sometimes an opinion is all we are actually left with. At the heart of those passionate and yet totally differing opinions are those players that split the fans a bit and so this week, let’s talk Kirk Yeaman!! He is a player who I feel has come in for some pretty disproportionate stick from some quarters this season. For me, if we had two international flying centres in their early 20’s on our books, (you know the type big rangy characters that score tries for fun and put their wingers away every game), then things would be different, but we don’t have anything of the sort do we?

Kirk’s form has dipped a bit, he’d be the first to admit it, but he isn’t going anywhere and until we are in the situation I outlined above regarding centres, then he’ll play his part in the team and using his considerable knowledge of that position, his total commitment and stoic defence, he’ll simply do his best. Having spoken to him at length over the years one thing’s for certain, he is one of those really rare players who I honestly believe would ‘cut his own head off’ rather than play for anyone else! The loyalty simply exudes from him! Call me old fashioned, but that sort of devotion, when we see other players leaving to chase some mythical ambition which usually means the money, is important for this fan.

It’s strange when you stand back from it all but in general over the years it’s pretty amazing to consider how those ‘big name’ signings, (who often arrive heralded as great, shine on the field and then take the money and ‘run’), somehow seem to live on in our memories more than the more successful Hull lads who stay loyal; I mean to say just look at Richard Horne as an example of that! Anyway I’m raising this subject today because of correspondence I received this week about Yeamo from regular reader, top bloke and Club statistician, Bill Dalton, who also felt that perhaps Kirks achievements are overlooked and that he deserves some recognition, Bill in fact pointed out that this is a rather significant time in the career of Kirk when he explained….

“………..Kirk’s last-minute try against Castleford in last Saturday’s Cup-tie saw him move into 4th Place in the All-Time Try scoring chart for Hull FC. His previous Try against Sheffield brought him level with 1920’s legendary Forward, Bob Taylor.

The elevation to 4th Place in the illustrious list also bestows on Kirk the honour of becoming Hull’s highest Try-Scoring Englishman of all time. The three players above him, all wingers, Clive Sullivan (250 Tries), Ivor Watts (216) and Alf Francis (166), were each born in Wales. In an age where we play considerably fewer matches nowadays than in the days of Kirk’s illustrious ‘team-mates’, perhaps the only practical way to judge on how a particular player stands in the scoring rate is not by the time it takes to register a certain number of Tries, but rather by how many matches it took him to do it. To that end, I set about calculating just in which game Kirk scored his 165th Try, and found that it was his 336th game (including 19 as Substitute).

The quickest to have reached that figure was, probably to no one’s surprise, Clive Sullivan in his 224th game, followed by Alf Francis (245th), and Ivor Watts who recorded his 165th Try in his 334th match. So, as a Centre, Kirk’s Record in reaching the whitewash stands favourable comparison with those three legendary Wingers. Kirk has scored some 6 Hat-Tricks and that has only been bettered among Centres by the Immortal Billy Batten with 9 trebles. Clive Sullivan leads the way on total Hat-Tricks with 20, Francis bagged 13 of them and Ivor Watts matched Batten with 9. In addition to all that, it might be noted that Kirk has now moved level with Ivor Watts as the leader in Tries scored in Derby Matches against Hull K.R. Ivor clocked up 15 during his career (including two 4-timers), and Kirk drew level on 11th August 2013. It’s time for another against the Poorhouse Laners and I hope that Kirk can take that Record to a new level in Newcastle next week!”

Thanks for that Bill it’s really interesting to see just what a local one Club lad has achieved. We all have our opinions and all have our favourites and everyone who plays the game has to eventually move aside, but Bills point was I guess that just because he is local we should never forget what a player has done for our Club. Kirk Yeaman eh; ‘Hull FC highest ever try scoring Englishman’…. I bet, like me, you didn’t know that one and yet despite all that, he still can’t pass a ball…. apparently!!!

Well after a couple of weeks when it was ‘nailed on’ that Adam Pearson had sold the Club, it has all died down a bit since our form has improved, however it was interesting to see what was said by the outspoken Marwan Koukash last week about his wife’s ambitions in the game and perhaps the rumour that he had bid for Hull City and had his offer turned down. He stated, “I have had a look at football but decided ownership is not for me. Having said that, if another rugby league club was to become available for purchase, my wife Mandy may still be interested in becoming involved, as she was with the Bradford Bulls around this time last year. I would never stand in her way if such an opportunity arose. It may happen, it may not”.

Now just a word of consolation for all those long term Hull City supporters who followed the Club in good times and bad and simply just hoped and hoped. You have touched the dream before it was once again snatched away. It’s a tough time, we’ve all been there in the past and we’ll all be there again. But you should always take heart, Hull City is a proud Club and a proud name in the game and ironically had there not been so much hoo haa about changing it, then it probably would never have come to this. Whether he likes it or not the heart has been ripped out of the Club by the owner and now their lunch ticket in the top league has been taken away too. It’s a sad day for the die-hard fans indeed. As for all those freeloaders, good time charley’s, plastic pretenders and charletons who after jumping on board the Premiership train, will now be disappearing back into the woodwork, fact is guys sport doesn’t always give you your own way, nor does life often work out for the bullies!!

Well the Leeds Rhino’s were in a spot of bother last week when they got fined by the RL because they had transgressed operational rule C1:1:6. That clause in the games rule book basically prevents clubs from allowing anyone who is not on their register to play, train or do conditioning with them. Leeds have subsequently been fined £2,000, half of which is suspended until the end of the current season and what a load of twaddle that is. Leeds transferred several players on one year deals to Featherstone and Hunslet, probably because they are good at producing young players and are finding it difficult to operate under the ridiculous restrictions brought about by the dual registration set up. But the Rhinos are upset and are I think right to question the issue, as it seems to be one of those laws which is actually preventing good practice and wasn’t originally drawn up to be used in a case like this.

A law banning a player signed at one club from training with another, is stopping, as far as playing development is concerned, something I think the RFL should be looking to encourage. If someone from a part-time Championship clubs wants to train with Leeds or use the gym there, surely that’s only going to make him a better player and help raise standards in his competition? Of course, this isn’t about Championship players training with Super League clubs, it is more, as I say, fall-out from that hugely controversial dual-registration system, introduced a few years ago as a ‘fudged’ alternative to reserve sides. If Leeds had an ‘A’ team, the six players – all too old for the under-19 academy – would be playing there, not for Featherstone or Hunslet.

Reserve teams were axed to save money, a move Hetherington and the Rhinos backed strongly and quite frankly It hasn’t worked; dual-registration has created a huge mess and a series of negative headlines and it’s time it was scrapped and as I said a couple of weeks ago, the solution is simple because it’s time ‘A’ teams were brought back.

Last week’s Diary and particularly the Codgers piece in memory of Vince, brought back some great memories for a lot of readers. John Fletcher made me smile when he wrote about my comment s on the atmosphere in the Threepenny Stand, “I remember the match very well, your reference to the language reminded me of that game against Wigan when I took a visiting priest to the match. The guy stood next to him repeatedly questioned the parentage of the referee followed by “Sorry vicar”. On the way out the priest commented, “They may have raised them rough but they certainly taught them good manners”.

The other day I was shopping in the village shop in Walkington before partaking of a pint in the excellent Barrel hostelry, when I caught sight of Chairman of the ex players and ex hero of mine Chico Jackson. When I got home I had a quick look at my Diaries from the early 90 and so this week in Codgers Corner it seemed only fitting that we should feature a game that I remember most for firstly a sterling performance in a season when we were not doing well at all and secondly for a typical rough and tough display by Chico Jackson in a match where quite ironically where we turned over the Saints!

The 1992/93 campaign was a tough one for everyone at the Club, finance was in short supply and with most home gates failing to reach 4000 things were spiralling downwards at a frightening rate. After a reasonably good period in November and December we fell away badly after Christmas and a run of 6 defeats on the bounce left us close to the relegation trap door at the foot of the First Division. The visit of St Helens to the Boulevard was therefore a daunting looking fixture for the Black and Whites particularly as the Lancashire side were riding high at the top of the table and three points clear of Wigan their nearest rivals. Add to that the fact that we had just been defeated 42-0 at Wigan in midweek and things looked pretty bleak for the FC.

Injury ravaged and out of form it was hard to see just what Hull could get out of the game short of a trouncing, but as has always been the case with our great Club, desperate times make for desperate efforts and that afternoon we witnessed the players digging deep into their reserves of character, to pull off one of the best performances of a poor season.

As we kicked off a crowd of 4,291 were strangely quite as on the windswept Airlie Street terracing we stood huddled against the elements awaiting our fate. Hull actually started really well as a neat kick by Rob Nolan found Saints Full Back Lyon out of position and he had to move swiftly to de-fuse it as Turner and Grant bore down on him. Then after around 8 minutes Sonny Nickel dummied and fooled half the Hull defence as he set off on a 40 yard burst down field before he was stopped by a brilliant ankle tackle by Richard Gay. Chico Jackson and Steve McNamara were making good inroads into the Saints defence but we suffered a real blow when Welsh International Prop Mark Jones hobbled off the field after just 12 minutes. He was replaced by Andy Dannett who immediately took the ball up field and into the Saints half with a blockbusting run that left Chris Joynt needing attention to his shoulder.

Jon Sharp playing his 200th game for the Club was next to show up and he fed stand in half back Terry Smirk who shot downfield before juggling with the ball in a tackle and dropping it. It was now all very fast and furious and there was danger every time the St Helens back division of Connolly, Quirk, Loughlin and Riley got the ball. On 24 minutes Smirk gave us the lead with a penalty, after Cowan was penalised for a high tackle on Sharp, but it just seemed like a matter of time before the visitors would score. However on the half hour we extended our lead when some superb attacking play and a quick switch of direction saw us pressing down the left through Gary Nolan. The ball was then shovelled through fast hands to the right where Rob Nolan found winger Turner on the overlap and he superbly ran back inside and around three defenders to score a great try wide out, to give us an unlikely 6-0 lead.

Another great piece of attacking play this time by Sharp, Smirk and Gay was interrupted by the Half Time hooter and as we ran off the field to a standing ovation the obviously rattled Saints players trudged off in disbelief.

As the second half started it was Hull and not, as was expected, the Saints that exerted the initial pressure as first Gay and then Dannett were held up inches short of the line and shortly after that a high tackle by a desperate Roparti on Turner saw Smirk stretch our lead to 8 points with a perfectly taken penalty. After Smirk had hit the post with a drop goal attempt, the ball dropped over the line and as Dixon and Chico Jackson homed in, Riley knocked on behind his own line as we piled on the pressure. Three hard drives in the same set of six by Chico Jackson had Saints in trouble as the second rower was proving almost impossible to put down and this set up Gary Nolan to hang out a brilliant pass for Dannett to run onto and crash over for a converted try. To all the FC fans utter disbelief we were 14-0 up.

Then we had our first ‘bad call’ of the afternoon from Referee Russell Smith. Saints threatened through both Loughlin and Roparti when the latter lost the ball in a tackle. Smith surprisingly awarded the scrum ‘head and ball’ to Saints and before we could regroup Nickel darted in and Loughlin added the conversion to bring the visitors right back into it. Gary Nolan then looked to have scored with a great break, but the pass from his brother Rob was deemed to have been forward, however undeterred Hull were still pressuring Saints and not letting them get into any sort of pattern of play.

Then on 76 minutes Grant swept through a gap in the Saints defence, Gay joined the line and took a great inside pass and fed onto Chico for him to score a fabulous try which the powerful forward’s none stop efforts throughout the afternoon richly deserved. Of course with just 10 minutes to go you somehow knew that at 20-6 you were still not safe against the table toppers and despite the fact that he could clearly be seen to drop the ball and pick it up again before the line, Referee Smith awarded a dubious score to Ropati which saw our lead reduced to just 8 points. Then as we pressed again in an effort to keep possession away from the visitors and run the clock down, Smirk dropped a beautiful goal and despite another freak score being given to St Helens (when Joynt was awarded a try, despite the fact that he flattened the corner flag with his arm before he got the ball down), we all celebrated long and loud as the hooter went and we had beaten St Helens 21-16.

It was a superb contest and there were several telling performances. Dannett, Marlow, Walker and McNamara bossed the visitors defence into submission whilst the strength, determination and passion of Chico Jackson in the second row and the vision and intelligent play of Rob Nolan at half back were the highlights that stick in my memory. As you would expect Russell Smith was booed off the field but he was used to that at the Boulevard, still we all went home happy having seen a great dogged courageous performance on a cold and blustery afternoon!

Well it’s something that regular readers will remember and that has become an annual tradition in here as once again I simply have to take a short break in these ramblings mid season. With The Magic Weekend and a trip to Newcastle to negotiate and then, after Widnes, our annual sojourn to Southern France, plus a pile of gardening to do in between, it seems like the tradition ‘start of June’ break for this Diary has come at just the right time. I need to re-charge a bit and have a break and so as usual I’ll be taking a couple of weeks off and this weekly offering will return on 22nd June after which it will continue to Christmas and beyond. However, thanks so much for supporting this rubbish week in week out and I hope you will all re-join me on 22nd as I re-engage with my journey through the life of an obsessive fan!! That week I’ll be back to preview the big game against Leeds in the Cup on Friday 26th June with all its drama and tension; which on a personal note, is a nice way to spend your 65th Birthday….not!!!!

However for now it’s Rover up next at the plastic, contrived and ‘devised for TV’ fiasco that is the Magic Weekend. I never really liked the concept in the first place and fell out completely with it the moment Saints no longer had to play Wigan while we have still to play the Dobbins! It’s just a fix which didn’t really matter when there was no relegation and promotion but now with two precious points at stake it’s totally unfair, but that’s just me and I expect most of you think it’s a great idea! It will be a great day out in Geordie land anyway! A lot of you will no doubt be looking forward to the weekend and it’s certainly a great venue for the games; it’s just the principle of it all that gets my goat, but what do I know! One thing’s for certain we really do need to win the next two games as Wigan’s thumping defeat at Catalan means, if we don’t, that we could be cut adrift by we travel to France on 13th June.

NEWCASTLE, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 26:   St James' park sky during the pre-season friendly match between Newcastle United and Glasgow Celtic at St James Park on July 26, 2007 in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England.  (Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle Utd via Getty Images)

NEWCASTLE, UNITED KINGDOM – JULY 26: St James’ park sky during the pre-season friendly match between Newcastle United and Glasgow Celtic at St James Park on July 26, 2007 in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England. (Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle Utd via Getty Images)

It was great to see so many pals and readers at the Saints game including Barry, Stan, Stevo, Billy the Wiz, Ian, Sarah and of course ‘Salsa’ Adam and thanks to everyone else who said hello and to all the kind folks who have continued to support the diary over the years. The response and reader figures for recent diaries have been the best in our nine and a half year run so thanks so much to everyone, let’s do the Dobbins and I’ll speak to you all again on 22nd June with hopefully at the very least a couple of wins and some signings to report on!!!

Keep Believing!!!

Comeonyouhulllllaaaarrrrr!!!!!!!

Faithfully Yours

Wilf