The Dentist’s Diary 475th

Soon the wait for some proper rugby will be over, as we look to the weekend and what is now our only ‘no pressure’ warm up game before the season starts.

With less than 4 weeks to go to the big kick off and the Salford opener and still not a pre-season match under our belts, this coming weekend at Doncaster is critical to our build up. The weather forecast as I write this shows a colder week with night frosts, but a couple of Doncaster football fans I know told me that they do have a cover, so we have to hope against hope that it will be on. We desperately need a run out before the ‘Phoney’ Derby and ‘us lot’ on the terraces need a game to whet our appetites again.

Quite frankly I’m really looking forward to it and to seeing a lot of old pals again in the crowd, but I guess as usual we are very much in the hands of the weather and with Doncaster Rovers at home the day before to Gillingham, the pitch might be a slight concern going into this weekend. Still, let’s just hope the game is on and a lot of our fringe players get a run out, however with the derby the following week and a long season ahead, I still wouldn’t be risking too many of our starting 13 myself, would you?

The Lee Smith stuff continues to be interesting as our on loan centre, winger or full back looks at this weekend’s game at Doncaster as a chance to impress and win a contract. A few who have watched him closely in camp have commented to me already as to how well he is going and a couple of the players are impressed too. His Agent Karl Harrison agreed at the weekend, stating that he has done really well on the training pitch whilst also taking the opportunity to remind us all that Lee had played in no less than 4 Grand Finals and was man of the match in one of them. Reading between the lines I think we want him but that the deal is the stumbling block now. He could, I guess yet prove to be a shrewd acquisition, but like the Club a lot of us want to see him play first before we pass judgement, although there is a chance that in the end his signing could end up as a real coup.

If he is to be offered a deal then he will certainly add some depth to the backs, putting some pressure on full back Jamie Shaul, which history proves is often a good thing for our young number 1, while his goal kicking prowess will be useful too as we are pretty thin in that department should Sneyd lose form or be injured. However as I have said before, the jury on this one is still very much out for me, but by the next Diary comes out, we may well have a better idea!

Well, the anticipation for the season to begin is everywhere at present and nowhere more so than in the Taylor family as Scott and all the clan eagerly await the Derby the week after next. He said: “I’m definitely looking forward to it however I think my family are more excited than me. They’ll all be there in their new shirts with them all being big fans. It’s obviously one I’m looking forward to and it’s even better to be making my Super League debut the week after against another of my old teams. It’s going to be brilliant, and I can’t wait to get out there. It is great to be back home and I am loving every minute of it. The club has been unbelievable for me in such a short period of time and I am really enjoying it”

Call me superstitious but I had to smile the other day when I picked up the Daily Mail to read an article concerning the good progress that Fetuli Talanoa was making after a minor setback he had on the road back to recovery (after the operation he had at the end of last season). New hand Paul Clarke is doing OK as our reporter on the paper and has been pretty resourceful at a time that news is at a premium. However when you’re in Hull and particularly when you’re the FC reporter with a team that hasn’t yet played a minute of competitive rugby, you don’t finish an article with the statement, “Hull coach Lee Radford is now set to boast a clean bill of health for the start of the Super League season”. That’s just tempting fate a bit mate!!

It was good to read Adam Pearson’s message on the FC Site this week and to see him thanking all those who have subscribed to the membership scheme thus far. Of course the discount deadline has now passed, but Adam was hoping that more would sign up before the season starts in a month’s time. However it was interesting to read in the release when the club stated, “Thousands of fans have pledged their support to the Black and Whites’ new look side this season, with hundreds racing in before the recent discount deadline to sign up for the season ahead”

I’m not sure whether the ‘hundreds racing in’ bit is completely accurate but if it is then that’s just great. I heard over Christmas that although new subscribers and young renewals were up on previous years, us ‘Codgers’ were a bit reluctant to re-new and the number of older fans returning was down so we were a few hundred short of last year’s total. That however may not now be the case. But whatever, junior passes are still on sale at a reduced rate right up to the season starting and for me it would be nice to be given an update of how we are doing, although history dictates that usually at this point in the proceedings we are invariably kept in the dark as to the final total.

I still see loads of fans who want to chat about Hull FC and we always talk about the coming season with a deal of hope, but what is it with me these days? What the heck is wrong? Yeh, I’m excited about the season and can’t wait to get going and yet when I talk about it I can’t seem to put that enthusiasm into words. My pal Kathy said this week that perhaps I’m getting a bit too moribund in here too!! I have to concur because when I look back on the last few editions I think there’s a chance it appears that at times I’m becoming a right moaning old git. If you read this every week you may well concur with that assumption already, however let me try and tell you what I mean. Last Thursday I was in the changing rooms at the gym when I bumped into a really nice guy I haven’t seen for ages. He was looking forward to the season and going on about Frank and the new boys and all I seemed to be able to do was air on the side of caution, so much so that when he’d gone I just wondered what he thought of me. Poor bloke must have gone away thinking, “He’s a miserable bugger I’ll avoid him in future!”

The ironic thing there was that the negativity was coming from me, a fan who quite honestly can’t wait for the Salford game to arrive!! I don’t know what causes this malaise, perhaps it’s just years of disappointment tinged with a dose of realism, but although I know I’m blooming doing it, I simply can’t seem to stop myself. I want us to do well so badly and the thought of the Salford game really does fill me with anticipation and excitement, so perhaps, in the end, it’s all just a form of defence mechanism that I utilise so that if we do well then all will be fine anyway and if we don’t I can say to myself, “well I did tell you so!”

Anyway for the next few weeks at least let’s all be positive, break that seemingly unending feeling of inevitable disaster, get back to supporting the boys and hope that we are soon winning a lot more than we lose. All I know is that I can’t stop going and I’ll always be there! One things for sure in that all this navel gazing certainly points to one thing; another bloody quiet week for news!

So, I’ll quickly move on and there was an interesting piece in the local Mail last Tuesday, as the paper like everyone else scratches around to find something to talk about in another news-less 7 days. As I said above, I’m excited about next season, but as a fan these days it’s a passion that has over the years been gradually tempered a little by a modicum of realism. The article outlined the possible starting 13 for our Club come the Salford game, and although I understand that injuries are always a worry and could change everything, when I perused it a few issues sprung to the mind of this average fan.

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The Mails predictions!

The pack looks so strong and yet I wonder if we should really start with our best two props in Watts and Taylor operating together, but then again and more worrying, we see one of our shining left side players of last season Mark Minnichiello moving to the right and apparently a concern that Seke Manu, (a major new signing) might not always start if Abdull (as his shirt number indicates) is used at loose forward against ‘lighter’ packs. Have we got way too many second rowers now? In the backs too, Logan, who was so good last season playing left centre, (with the exception of one game on the right where an impressive display against Catalans, I’ll grant you, created three tries for Lineham) is now being switched to the right side on a permanent basis.

For me, as a young player who needs as little disturbance as possible, he would perhaps be best kept where he has shown the most promise, but it is likely that he will have to switch sides so that we can field what was described as ‘a Polynesian left edge’. That starting three-quarter configuration would then feature Carlos Tuimavave in that left centre role, when in truth his most effective rugby during a short NRL career has been played a at full-back and stand-off. It will be interesting, I think, to see how the 23-year-old adapts to seeing a lot less of the ball out in the centre. I still think, with Pryce, who only made 3 try assists last year and who is without doubt getting to the twilight end of his career, Carlos may end up in the half backs a time or two myself!! So what am I getting at here?

Well, I guess it’s just the fact that despite us signing some players that really excite me, we all targeted certain positions in need of strengthening at the end of last season, but we have once again made signings that duplicate what we already had on board and thus it means that some of our most effective players of 2015 have to switch position to accommodate them. I guess availability of players to sign is a big thing in an ever decreasing market place, but in the Mail we saw our most likely starting 13 and it looks pretty feasible if I’m honest. There are some exciting prospects and some real class in there but it includes our best second rower of last season switching sides, our great young centre hope doing the same thing and a player who has excelled in the half backs and at full back playing in the centre.

Age of course comes into it too, so add to that Gareth Ellis making an enforced permanent change and moving up to play at prop and Yeamo an out and out centre all his career apparently being groomed as ANOTHER second rower and you can see that there is a deal of upheaval for some of 2015’s established performers. The Mail may have got that envisaged formation wrong and I’m sure Lee knows what he is doing but looking closely at those predictions above, it’s certainly food for thought isn’t it?

It’s not just me wondering either, because I was talking to a pal in The Woolpack in Beverley on Friday and he said that all his pals favourite opening gambit these days is, “What do you think our starting 13 will be?” So I guess we are all doing it, but as I always say, only time will, I guess, tell. However over the years it has been proved that developing a successful team starts with creating some stability, building on it and then adding to that by improving any areas of perceived weakness. However we’ll all just have to wait and see whether our Coach has got his recruitment and indeed his formation right. If he has our excitement and anticipation will at last be fulfilled, if he hasn’t…. well just let’s hope he has eh?

You know I don’t take much confusing but I was reminded the other day of an old saying that my Mum used to quote. She’s been gone over 35 years now but she always used to say “Be sure you read the small print” and of course that was something I didn’t do last Friday when following a headline that read ‘Clive Sullivan Trophy Tickets on sale Tomorrow’ (which was Thursday) I booled up to the KC to get my tickets for the phoney derby. I’d just been to the Boulevard Academy and cleaned and polished the Boulevard Memorial and I thought it was a good opportunity to take my passes along and get my seats.

On arrival the first thing I noticed was that the old Stadium Ticket office has disappeared altogether!!! Instead it’s been replaced by a room containing three ticket machines rather like those you see on car parks which are apparently where we will get ‘walk up’ match day tickets from in future.

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The personal touch; SMC style! The future of tickets being available on match day!

I then went into the Club shop to be confronted by a counter with a ticket machine on each end obviously geared to sell the tickets you used to get from the Ticket office. The ladies in there are brilliant and do a tremendous job but I felt for them when they appeared to be inundated with folks who like me hadn’t read the small print and had instead just seen the headline that tickets were on sale from Thursday! That bit of ‘small print’ 13 paragraphs into the Clubs article read “Tickets will also be available to buy at the KC Stadium retail store from Monday 11th January. A number of unreserved tickets will also be available from the club’s city centre store on Savile Street”.

So they weren’t actually on sale last Thursday at all, unless you wanted to buy them online or by telephone (where there is a handling charge of £2), but if you want to go in with your pass to get YOUR seats for the game you have to do that from today (Monday) onwards. That was an issue because I hadn’t read an article in which the headline was a tad misleading, but the rest is the future I’m afraid! There will no longer be an SMC ticket office and instead all pre booked tickets have to be bought from the Club store and if you want to turn up on the day, from the ticket machines in the space that used to be the Ticket Office. Still at least it’s the same for Hull City fans, but that said, I just don’t feel welcome at the KC anymore these days, do you??

You’ll remember last week I mentioned having a coffee with my old mate Lee Jenkinson and following that on RL fans regular contributor ‘Touchliner’ asked concerning Lee, ‘What happened to the Canadian Link?’ He was of course refereeing to the initiative headed up by Lee and Tony Sutton a few years back when they were at the Club, to try and join forces with the fledgling Canadian RL with a view to bringing any good prospects amongst their players over for trials. Once the back-room exodus from our Club started and Messrs Jenks and Sutton saw what was happening and departed, no one else it appears was interested and the whole thing fell by the wayside and now is no more. That was a huge shame because it was something no one else was doing and it had, I felt, some potential. As a footnote it’s interesting to document that the Penrith Panthers have just swooped to take a lad from the Canadian RL on a year’s trial. So had we still been involved who knows? However Touchliner, I hope that answers your question.

It was I think quite a surprise to everyone on the terraces and in the media when the reigning Super League and Challenge Cup holders confirmed on Monday they had won the race for the England international Brett Ferres’ signature. Ferres, who quite aptly and to the amusement of many, described his fortunes last season as ‘Up and Down!’ For me he is extremely fortunate to end a particularly unsavoury episode at Huddersfield in the first team squad of the Champions. Talk about falling in the dock and coming up with your pockets full of fish!!!! Still it appears that once the deal was on, Leeds quickly agreed an ‘undisclosed fee’ with their West Yorkshire rivals for the 29-year-old, who has signed a one-year contract at Headingley with the view to a longer deal in the future, but more of that fee later. The Rhinos had already announced their 25-man squad for the forthcoming season and have now had to change it around to accommodate Ferres, but Gary Hetherington has insisted no one will have to leave in order to fit the second-row forward within the club’s salary cap , which appears to be as elastic as many others these days.

I know we enquired about the player but his wage demands were really high which makes me wonder if the lure of playing for Leeds made him drop his demands to fit within the Headingley Clubs rigid pay banding or was it more to do with the fee involved? When I asked Adam Pearson about Ferres a while ago he said we had to be interested when such a good player became available but at this time of the year it was, he said, doubtful that anyone could accommodate the England International. Heatherington seemed to concur with Pearson viewpoint when he said he was thrilled to have pulled off a coup by landing Ferres, claiming Coach Brian McDermott was desperate to add him to his squad. Adding, “It’s not every day you get an opportunity to bring in a quality player and current England international”

One thing’s for sure Ferres better keep his nose (and everything else) clean in future because he is undoubtedly a very lucky bloke, but never the less also one who will no doubt get a load of stick on the terraces as the Loiners visit the grounds of Super League next season.

The fact is of course, that we may however never find out exactly how much the Rhinos paid the Giants to secure the services of the wayward England star. However, it’s safe to assume it was a tidy amount and probably one that ran into six figures. It’s not unusual for rugby league transfer deals to be completed for an ‘undisclosed fee’, for the eyes of the general ticket buying public at least, but in rugby league terms the Ferres deal would still have had to have been a pretty big one. Such are the vagaries of sport that even though Ferres was transfer-listed by the Giants for disciplinary reasons after allegedly sleeping with a teammate’s wife, the England back-row forward was never ever going to be short of potential suitors.

Whatever he or his parent Club said at the time, as soon as news emerged that Ferres was likely to be kicked out of the Giants just days after starring for England in their Test series triumph over New Zealand, clubs on both sides of the world began queuing up to secure his services. Salford were of course first in, closely followed by Australian NRL club Sydney Roosters who were without doubt in there from the off, while the names of Wigan, Newcastle Knights in Australia and ourselves and even the Dobbins joined in to the ranks of those looking to provide a potential new homes for the wayward star. So forget all the ‘hoo ha’ about the player wanting to go to Leeds, it being a dream move, etc. etc, because although it might have been true in the end that was just good luck on the players part. From the outset his parent Club held all the aces and very, very soon the Giants found themselves in a strong bargaining position where the highest bidder was always going to win….and there is little doubt that they did!!

The turmoil at Salford seems to continue, as last week it appears that deposed Chief Executive Martin Vickers, (who we were originally told was moving sideways), left the Club with immediate effect, with owner Marwan Koukash taking over his duties himself! Salford fans must just wonder, “What next” as it can’t help matters on the pitch with things seemingly so chaotic off the field. We all appreciate Dr Koukash and his burning desire for success, but that comes through stability and patience. The successful teams in recent years, Leeds, Wigan, Saints, have done this through stability, maturing players, building a fan base and planning for to the future. Other clubs looking to step up in the league now seem to be adopting similar patterns in their off field activities, and maybe that’s what Salford need to be doing rather than trying to buy success in the space of a couple of seasons. Marwan is committed, but his impatience for instant success will lead, I fear, to more turmoil before the season is over.

Whilst on Salford, but Hull FC related, there is little doubt that one of our targets in the NRL before we signed Fornua and Carlos was undoubtedly Daniel Vidot. The international winger eventually took the big money and went to the AJ Bell Stadium for 2016 but we might just have had a lucky escape because the player in an unprecedented outburst on twitter usurped the Club and announced that he was set for an extended period on the sidelines. Vidot posted on his Facebook page that he is set to miss “half the season” due to injury, which will be a huge blow for the Red Devils as they look to start the 2016 season with a bang.

His Tweet said, “Been a tough period for me at this present time but every man has a storm in their lives, what makes a man is what he does when that storm comes. Half the season will be missed from me due to this injury, but when the time comes for me to chuck the boots back on, I’ll be ready!” And then hastily the Club confirmed the situation when they admitted that the 25-year-old Samoa international winger, who has joined the Red Devils on a two-year contract from Brisbane Broncos, sustained a shoulder injury in training and was undergoing surgery last Thursday!

Now to that evergreen question in here of can the Rugby League manage anything? The time is nigh and at last we have a great opportunity to take the game forward but if ever there was a measure of the inadequacies of the whole set up then it was never better displayed than during last week. Firstly in the new rules for the salary cap it stated in Section 3 of the Salary Cap Offences 3.1.1a, that you can’t exceed £1.825m then backs it up in brackets with (One Million NINE Hundred and Twenty Five Thousand Pounds).
Not much difference there then!!

Then there was a deal of confusion when in a typical RL bloomer we saw another classic cock up when in the draw for the RL Challenge Cup Round One East Leeds were drawn out twice, while Stanningley were not drawn out at all. I know I go on about it, but boy do they leave our game with egg on its face at times!

Well Rovers pre season camp certainly took a different turn last week. The Dobbins were first going to Florida on the recommendations of their new football manager then it was Cyprus with us on a cut price jaunt on the Cypriot Government before in the end, last week, they were sent in teams to the far corners of this we Country! They left with the comment from Chester, “We have removed their mobile phones, car keys and wallets and the players were divided into five groups before being sent on their way with a member of the coaching team for company. The groups of players will now be expected to find food and accommodation and forage and fend for themselves over the coming days…

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A bit of foraging going on!

Talking of the Dobbins I was hearing from Caravan Park last week that there is a chance that their star half back Campese will miss the first 4 weeks of the season.

Now you’ll remember I said last week how important it was to build on the late 2015 season excitement, NZ Test victory and Sports Personality of the Year and it was great to see MP Greg Mullholland doing just that last week. He stood up and proposed an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons, to commemorate the 3,000th edition of League Express weekly newspaper. That provided once again more high profile publicity for the game!!

In this week Codgers corner I thought, to jog a few memories, I would continue a discussion I had in the St Stephens Shopping Centre just before Christmas with Billy Holland a fan of over 70 years. We got talking about the old days and some of the places that we both used to visit to watch the FC, and believe me we had both been to some unusual grounds to see our hero’s over the years. We both however agreed that one of the nicest was the home of Bramley, which was situated in West Leeds next to the Brewery and where up to the end of the 60’s the team’s used to get changed in the room above the Barley Mow pub at the front of the ground. The players would descend down the whitewashed back of the building, via a steep wooden staircase, to the pitch! Then they sold the ground to the Brewery for a car park and moved into the very next field which was donated to the Club by a Mrs McClaren and thus the McClaren Field was their home from the mid 60’s. It was a really friendly club, run on old fashioned lines, and we were always made really welcome, right up to the club leaving the ground, which alas heralded the start of their demise and eventual departure from the senior competitions.

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While researching for the Boulevard memorial I went in search of Bramley’s old stamping ground but all I found was this plaque.

Then there was that trip to play the Mansfield Marksmen at the North Street Stadium, in 1987. What a place that was. The club was the RL’s attempt to introduce the East Midlands to Rugby League, and was named after their sponsor’s premier beer. The Marksmen had started their time at Mansfield football ground but moved north to Alfreton after their first season. The ground featured one dilapidated stand and grass mounds on the other sides with rough terracing in places. There were around 1600 people there that day if I remember rightly, which made for a big pay day for Dave ‘Nosey’ Parker and his board at the fledgling club, and we ended up winning 38-7, on a freezing cold afternoon. Of Course the previous season the Marksman’s star player was Australian Import Peter Gentle who told some great stories of that experience when he was in Hull!

In 1989 the club changed its name to Nottingham City and played at the Harvey Haddon Stadium, which I visited in that year to watch us play a Yorkshire Cup preliminary round game. It was like playing at Costello Stadium!! A Yorkshire Cup game in Nottingham, only in the rugby league!!

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The Main stand at the Harvey Haddon Stadium in Nottingham!

The freezing cold at Mansfield, makes me reminiscent of another regular, but long, trip we used to make, this time to Fulham. I remember best of all a day we played them at Craven Cottage on the banks of the Thames. It was a long haul in the car back then, but thousands used to trek south whenever we played the London outfit! The game in question was a John Player Trophy game in November 1984 when we again won, 36-14. Although it was only November the pitch was frozen over and it was probably only the fact that so many had made the trip from Hull that saw the game played at all!

Perhaps the most bizarre adventure when watching an FC representative team was during the short existence of the Scarborough Pirates. This team coached by Len Casey was set up as another of the RL’s ill-fated attempts to spread the game away from the M62 corridor. We did not play them in a competitive first team game, but the Pirates, in an attempt to protect the pitch which they hired from the local football team, decided to play their “A” team games at Goole, of all places!!!!! These games were played at the Victoria Pleasure ground in the shadow of the old water tower on Friday nights. They actually got good gates too, I went there twice I think and there were regularly 1000 people in attendance.

Huyton’s Alt Park was a ground I visited on two occasions as well and was probably the worst place I have ever watched Rugby League. Set in one of the toughest areas of suburban Liverpool the ground was an absolute mess, litter everywhere, and the old joke about men going to the loo against a wall was lived out to perfection. The Gents was a wall!!! It was there, I believe, that Dick Tingle leaned back in his seat in the press box and fell through the back of the stand!! If you ever went there you will never forget it. The club struggled for years and was kept going by the ubiquitous and balding Geoff Fletcher. For what seemed like years he was groundsman, fundraiser and player/coach, and his wife even washed the shirts. He was bald when he played the game, but had a full head of hair the rest of the time. It was a running joke in those parts for months after one wag took a picture of his “syrup” hanging on a hook, in the changing rooms during a game!

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The trappings of Super league are a far cry from this typical home game at Huyton!

Finally, in this visit to grounds that have long since stopped welcoming RL supporters there was the fantastic, antique, and dilapidated, Watersheddings Ground in Oldham. As our club’s supporter’s coaches climbed up the hills to the highest ground in the Rugby League, the weather always seemed to get wet and drizzly. I went there at least 8 times but the sun never seemed to shine! The fact that as you entered Oldham you went under a bridge which announced on its advertisement board “Oldham home of the Tubular Bandage”, should have prepared you for what was to come. It was like the land that time forgot.
Probably the best Stand at The Watersheddings, on a rare day when the lack of mist meant that you could see the top of the posts.

There was a stand, the nearest I guess to the “Threepennies” at the Boulevard, called the “Penny Rush” which dated back to the 1890’s and I doubt if it had experienced a lick of paint since then. The surrounds where made up of short stands which seemed to have been added and joined together as they were needed, probably built as the club got the finance to do so! It was always an experience watching the FC at Oldham!

This diary does not give me the space or the time to talk about, Crown Flatt at Dewsbury, Sheffield Eagles at the Athletics Stadium, Station Road at Swinton, Wiggington Road in York, The Recreation Ground in Rochdale, Thrum Hall at Halifax, the Willows in Salford or many other grounds which are now sadly no more. They all have their stories too, and perhaps I will revisit some of them in a future Diary, but after my chat with Billy I though a trip down memory lane wouldn’t go a miss! Great memories eh?

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Wiggington Road York-Happy memories!

So that’s it for another week and I can’t wait for next weekend and the chance to see some rugby again. It seems like ages since we have watched the black and white and indeed since I have had a game to report on in here. Not a lot can be read into these games I know and its often just a case of blowing away a few cobwebs, but it will be good to see some rugby again and to say hello to a lot of old pals on the terraces. It’s less than 4 weeks to the Salford game now and the build up to that, if we take the initiative, should ensure we have a good gate and a reasonable send off into the new season! We have some great talent within our squad these days and it will be good to see how they gel together and whether our hopes and aspirations for 2016 are more than just dreams! I do think we have a good chance this term I really do! In the meantime thanks so much for reading the Diary again I hope you found something of interest in what was as I said earlier a barren week for news. However as always this week it was great to hear from so many readers and I’ll see you all at Doncaster!!

In closing sadly I lost a hero today and someone who along with Mick Ronson provided the soundtrack to my early twenties, RIP ‘Starman’ David Bowie!

Faithfully Yours

Wilf
And Finally my picture of the week!

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Hull Ionians v Plymouth Albion and the Ionians won!