The Dentist’s Diary – 583rd

Newcastle’s St James Park was again turned into a sea of Black and White, as the FC fans chanted, “The City is Ours, the City is Ours’ as thanks to a great and heroic effort, in pretty difficult circumstances, we recorded our seventh successive Derby victory.

2018 so far shows two Derby’s down and two Derby’s won. One with twelve men for almost all the game and the second with a back line that read like a who’s, who of the young, the recovering and the aged!

I was proud of that performance and well done to everyone who took part! However yesterday the FC gained what was for me a very unlikely win. I have to eat a bit of humble pie and some of you will have watched that win and thought, ‘Oh Ye of Little Faith Wilf?’, but beforehand I just thought that Rovers familiarity with playing with a host of injuries over several weeks would trump a Hull FC that were just getting used to having around 9 players missing.

As I said to a pal at the end, “Yeh, to some people Lee Radford may not be a lot of things, but no one can deny he gets them up when he needs to”.

I know you all think I’m a worrier who spends most of his time looking downwards rather than up, but with our current adversity, I struggled to see where the next win was coming from and before the game I knew we probably needed another 4 or 5 points to avoid the middle 8’s. Some may not like it but whoever you are in reality that has to be every teams first goal and with changes apparently coming at the end of the year and Leigh and Toronto in such good form, no team can really afford to be down there at Round 23. Once that has been avoided, then we can start to look upwards. But, believe me, those were still two precious, precious points! It was a scratchy win but what a win just the same.

The fact that the Dobbins had got used to playing short-handed should have been a real advantage to them in the build-up, whilst just two games ago, before the Castleford match, we reported just two injuries, before, 160 minutes of rugby later, we found that approaching the Magic Weekend we had around 8 missing!! Lee Radford said last week in public that the whole situation was ‘an exciting challenge’, but I bet he called it something else in private! There is little doubt particularly in the backs, that our line-up yesterday could only be described as make shift at best.

It was always going to be a tough one and straight from the kick off a bit of hesitation in attack showed up, before we got caught on the right and quite frankly we looked flat as the Dobbins eased in at the corner. Once again our compressed defence worked at times but at others made us look vulnerable when the ball was moved wide early on in the set. It was always going to be hard for Yeamo, but a pinched ball that was harsh and another penalty conceded when a Rover player milked it at the play the ball brought him back to the reality of playing; that said for me throughout he really had a go. Then the mistakes started to creep in as Manu knocked on at the play the ball and players that should have known better started to crack a bit.

Luckily for us the Rovers were making mistakes as well and that seemed to give us some confidence. What I did think was that for a team with such a depleted back division we were certainly moving the ball well. Harris looked sharp, Westerman a class act and Connor led from the front. You need some luck and we got it in abundance when we scored perhaps the most unlikely try of the season when Connors ‘no look’ kick was just that (without the look) as it bounced off the cross bar and Tag did the rest. The likelihood of it being a score was so slim that ‘all action Scott’ was the only player who chased the ball and well done to him, for it was a typical Taylor never say die move.

Connor is skilful, but not that skilful. but at that point in the game we’d take that! Then Jamie Shaul scored a great try and amazingly we were 12-4 up. But, you could see it was hard going. Our right hand side defence was stretched at will as Griffin tried to hold it together on his own and Moss scored again. On 28 minutes it was anyone’s game I guess with tries coming on the back of both sides mistakes and that was going to set the pattern for the afternoon. But back we came and Harris, much coveted by the Rovers fans, scored a try in front of them that he will remember all his life, while Westerman superbly put Shaul in and at 24-10 at half time, we wondered if it could be our afternoon, we really did.

The second half was without doubt the Jake Connor show as he made one try brilliantly out on the right and scored the other with an audacious dummy. However, we fought against the odds (as the first ten minutes were blighted by another injury to another top back) and battled on commendably and boy where we worthy of our win against a Rovers side who try as they may could not be considered much more that hapless!

However, they only played as well as we let them and so that’s their problem and long may it continue! A game that had been pretty incident free boiled over a bit near the end, as Rovers realised that they were destined to go on to lose again and be 3 years without a victory in the Derby’s. However, as the hooter went it was a massive two points for the FC as the fans sung us home in great fashion.

Looks like Masi has something (or someone) in his eye!

Shaul had for me perhaps his best game of the season we needed our remaining senior players to step up and he did big style. I really liked Cameron Scott’s debut too. He looked the part and had a real go and as for Kirk well he tackled well and although finding the going tough at times, as anyone would, he did himself proud. Logan came back from injury with a really strong showing; he’s aggressive as well as being fast and illusive. You can see what all the fuss is with Liam Harris can’t you and ‘Oh the irony!’ as he scored for his boyhood team against the team that he was courted by, it was a fine debut for him. A perfectly timed pass in the first half that put Mini away was a joy to watch and he linked well with Connor all afternoon. However, for me Jake was my Man of the Match, as his second half showing just shaded the resurgent Joe Westerman. Jake is just such a great player as a team tires and at times a magician with the ball. The way he made that try for Logan and then stepped through near the end, was absolutely fantastic.

The game was however won up front, were our rotating forwards in particular were so much better than the Rovers substitutes. Matongo started well off the bench and just got better as he at last showed a feisty side to his game which added some aggression to his usual 100% effort. Paea had a big, big game as well. Taylor playing from the off jabbed up and through the pain barrier, was a tower of strength and scored the try his chasing of a lost cause deserved. Danny Houghton led form the front and did a great job in getting us moving forward around acting half. Green wallowed in his starting role and played as well as he has done this year, while our back three were probably the difference.

Mini was massive and had his best game, Manu was a real hero and Westerman is proving to be the signing of the season as he was into everything. Playing with a real smile on his face, his handling was a joy to watch at times, as he switched play from side to side and caused problems throughout. Miloudi should perhaps get a start next week as he looked good from the bench and Hadley did really well too.

However, it was those forward and particularly our rotating pack men that we won the game. It was Rovers, there was adversity a plenty, but we had to win and, as we always do in these matches, we had to massively raise our game and thank goodness we did. Two great points and a good afternoons work on which the depth of our problems was I think epitomised by us seeing our football manager Gareth Ellis as Water Boy! Bigger battles to come of course and some reversals no doubt, but two precious points, one foot in the top 8’s and well done to everyone.

Some folks on social media criticised that performance, but I really don’t know what they want. In the horrendous injury situation in which we find ourselves and with such critical players missing long term, winning the odd game in the next 6 or 7 weeks was, if we are to keep out of trouble, all it was about. That was the reality and with Rovers in a real mess this was our chance and we took it. Moreover, we did it leaving a deal of egg on the faces of the bottom of the table Dobbins. That’ll do for me, for I honestly don’t think I could have asked for more.

But back to the beginning and at a time when our long-term future as a sport has never felt more uncertain, the return of Magic Weekend should have been the perfect break from the internal wrangling’s engulfing our game. In a way, though, the questions surrounding the event’s future, underline perfectly the sport’s state of flux.

Since it’s concept in 2007, when, (to capitalise on the success of the Challenge Cup Finals that took place at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium), the RL got together with the Welsh Tourist Board, the Magic Weekend has been a rather ‘Marmite’ sort of event for the traditional fans of the game. I get the concept and the reasons behind it, but, as you know, my main bone of contention is the fact that we always have to play the Dobbins, although the original concept of the fixture list being made up of traditional Derby games has long since disappeared for everyone else. Yeh, it’s great when you win, but for both Clubs its Derby overkill.

The fact that our game, the only remaining true Derby, has been left to the last one on a Sunday just to try and keep folks and the interest there, further bugs me as well. Hull and Rovers usually take the most fans and yet they had to wait right to the end for their efforts, with no doubt some fans like last time, not getting home till well after midnight with work and school next day. In the original format for Derby games we played the old enemy, Wakey played Cas or Huddersfield, Leeds played Bradford and Wigan played Saints. Even the two most southerly teams London (Harlequins) and Catalan played each other!

It was contrived, it was manufactured, but as it was the same for everyone, as a one off novelty it was fine, in fact through the years of licensing and franchises, with no relegation it really did become a showcase for the sport. Despite the worry about injuries it was a real chance to get out there and advertise all the good things about the game. However, franchises disappeared, Bradford were relegated and Wigan and Saints wheedled out of playing each other, as slowly but surely the fixture structure was fudged, with now only us lot left with the same format.

Plus, as some of our friends in the East commented this week, with the middle-eights and points being these days so important to any Club’s destiny, the way the fixtures and the possible two points involved are decided, (by a fixture set by a few guys sat in a room) is even more unfair. It’s certainly hard to see such a ‘fixed’ event being allowed in any other main-stream sport. Of course the fans pitched up as they always do but John Bateman seemed to agree with me when he cited the fact that Saints were playing Widnes and said, “The fixtures are probably not fair. They play Widnes three times this year (before the split) which in the context of the current top four is not fair at all”.

Of course I’m a traditionalist and the original Codger from Codgers Corner so I would say all of that wouldn’t I? I guess those who don’t agree with my geriatric views about the whole thing, which is no doubt most of you reading this, will point to the fact that perhaps the concept has been vindicated by the decision of the NRL to copy it and do it in Brisbane next year. However, I will be interested to see how they configure their fixtures and indeed with no relegation and promotion at stake in the NRL, for them it’s just an extra game anyway and as such what it should be; a great showcase for the sport.

However, there is little doubt that even I have to agree that our game needs a lift and perhaps this fixture will be the one handed over to the Hearn’s to beef up a bit in future. The glitz and glamour they would bring to it all would, I think, really lift the event, particularly if traditional one up one down relegation and promotion is re-instated and the jeopardy of the whole weekend is relieved a bit. We’re a sport that needs exposure and Magic at least gives us something different. It’s just a pity that it isn’t screened on mainstream TV.

But whatever the protagonists or the supporters say, it is what it is and around 3,000 FC fans made the trip up to Tyneside to watch the jamboree in the North Eastern sunshine. Well done as well to all of you that went; for upholding the tradition of a big FC presence and no doubt having a great time. The scenes at the end were incredible and I bet great to be part of.

I don’t know whether it was the Royal Wedding or the FA Cup Final that shaded the event this year, but the build-up somehow didn’t seem as intense nor the publicity before-hand so widely distributed. No doubt the Hearn’s will have noticed that three of the national newspapers didn’t even mention it in their sports pages at all until their Saturday editions. There were certainly none of the ‘potential record attendance’ hype we have seen from the RL in the build-up over the last three years. In fact, the whole future of the event at Newcastle was already in doubt before we even started, as much of the rhetoric was about the possibility of taking it abroad and afterwards the talk was once again of New York!! Still Ralph Rimmer hailed it as a great success and there is little doubt that with 64,000 there it was just that, what happens next however will be interesting!

For Hull and Rovers in particular it was a strange one and potentially, with all the injuries both teams were carrying, an unusual prospect, as we in particular really did scratch around to put together a team at all. The signing of Liam Harris and the re-registration of Kirk Yeaman, with Gareth Ellis back in training and waiting in the wings as well, was pretty unprecedented stuff, particularly for a team that had invested in such a depth of squad; there is little doubt that as the faithful FC fans we all wondered what would happen on the day.

In the actual game Yeamo found it hard to get up to pace at times and he’d be the first to admit that it was a big ask, but wouldn’t it be for anyone? If we thought he would just slot straight in and be back to his Wembley 2016 form, we were deluded. He however filled the gap, stood up, hurt a few in the tackling department and all that from a guy that I’m told put his hand up immediately to offer his services, even though he has only been training for a few days.

Westy and Yeamo; the Rovers (taunters) Return!!!

His spirit and love of the Club is typified I think by what he said straight after the game when he gave a comical insight into what is perhaps his current role at the Club when he said, “I enjoyed being out there and I’m happy to put my hand up in a tough time. I’ve been at this club since I was 14 and it means everything to me. If Radders wants me back making the tea, I’ll do that and if he wants me to play then I’ll be ready for that too.” That will do for me!

I mention it in some detail here because in the end it’s a bit of a fairy tale isn’t it? It’s a massive ask when you have had a season and a half away from the week in week out bruising and injury. One things for sure, his family was proud of him and his inclusion engendered some excitement there as both Honey Mae and Dylan were certainly well prepared to support their Dad as you can see below.

So, two valuable points and the old enemy vanquished again, now to the rest of the week and no-one who reads this regularly will be surprised that we have signed Liam Harris. It has come about a bit before we intended to bring him in I’ll grant you, but it was a move that has always been on the cards. I told you before the season started, when he turned down a lucrative Super League deal at the Dobbins to sign for a club two divisions down the leagues in Doncaster, what was happening. I said at the time Rovers refused to sell the player to us when he wanted to join the Club he always supported as a lad, so he turned the Rovers contract offer down point blank and left for a reduced contract to the Club with whom we have a duel registration deal. Rumours abounded at the time that we had even helped Donny buy him!

I indicated that it was only a matter of time before he came to us athough our current parlous situation saw him signing for us a lot earlier than either Clubs expected it. He’s no stranger to the FC game plan and the other players, as he trains full time with us every week, and he even did a full pre-season with us too. Just watching his first 80 minutes indicates I think that he’s a talented player and the length of the deal indicates what I told you months ago, that Lee Radford really rates him. However, this early move does pose the question, how much time will he get in the first team once Kelly and Sneyd are full fit and what’s more where does this acquisition leave Jordan Abdull?

It has already been made clear that once everyone is fit Harris will go back to Donny on duel registration and the South Yorkshire Club have received a transfer fee from us too, so everyone (except apparently the Dobbins) is happy. Personally I think he’s a great signing. He has time to prove his worth and circumstances dictate that he will now have to be given game time, which will be invaluable to a speedy development. Good luck to him and welcome aboard to a real rarity, a young British half back with true potential.

Of course that whole deal was brought forward for one reason and one reason only; our injury crisis, and crisis it certainly is. It’s not just the fact that loads of players are injured but it’s more the actual players that it effects and the length of the prognosis for each of them. One has to wonder where we will be in the League by the time the first of the long term injured are back in the team although after Sunday the top eight at least looks a more likely scenario. To lose Abdull and Bowden for the season is bad enough, but when you add to that Sneyd missing for 12 weeks and Kelly for 5, Talanoa and Carlos for 10 weeks each and now Griffin, it’s certainly a problem of crisis proportions. I can remember us sustaining a lot of injuries on top of one another in the past, but I struggling to remember a time when they included losing 7 players long term in just two weeks and them being such influential players as four half backs and our leading yard maker and try scorer, all of whom are now lost for months rather than weeks.

As for the Bureta sending off at Featherstone well he is starting to look a bit like a bit of a ‘silly boy’ to me, with two sending off’s so far, in what is only his first season here. To get carded in the last tackle of a game that we had easily won is pretty unforgivable, particularly when he had already witnessed his colleagues falling like flies around him and he certainly needs sorting out and quickly. He dropped us in it big time no doubt of that at all!!! He has a responsibility to his mates in the team and to act like that as the hooter went was for me pretty incomprehensible really. I think a lot of readers felt the same and one even E Mailed to say that he should be “Sent Home” which was a bit harsh, but showed how frustrated we all were with the dismissal. He is a really talented guy but has to watch himself now big style.

Whilst I’m on about that game, I know some of us spend a lot of time scratching our heads and shaking them in disbelief when we talk about the RL, but what better example of their ineptitude, that when they told Hull FC, the player and the other Clubs that Griffin had received a ‘Grade A with no ban’, for a punch in the game at Featherstone, they then published a list for the press that showed him getting a one match ban. The left hand doesn’t really seem to know what the right hand is doing? But then again, why are we not surprised?

If we thought we had problems after the Featherstone Cup game with our injury roll call, the Cup draw was as bad as it could be and after that hatful of injuries and some disciplinary issues the bad luck continued to pile up as we came out of the hat straight after Saints and so were paired up with the undoubted best team in the competition so far this season and that while we are decimated by injuries. It will be tough and perhaps even an insurmountable hurdle but then again, who knows?

So to a more ‘global’ issue in the game. As you know over the weeks I have tried to make some sense in here of the re-organisation of the game and what might be going on behind the scenes as a rudderless RL try to sort out the needs of an ever disturbed upper echelon of Clubs. As another week goes by and there has been more talking, but no sign of any sort of ‘White Smoke’ emitting from the chimneys of Red Hall, this week I thought I would have a wider look at things in sport in general and how they impact on our current situation as a game.

You see although Super League appears to have a new and very credible CEO, the RL still has no new head honcho and the wrangling behind the scenes about funding go on, without much sign of a conclusion being in sight.

Of course, such scenarios are nothing new because there is a conflict of interest running through most professional sports, including both codes of rugby. The problem seems to be that at any point in time a sport only has a certain amount of revenue to distribute to the competing stakeholders and in every case the big question is, how much should be allocated to performance (paying and supporting the players), how much should go to the lower divisions, grassroots and the community game and how much should be invested in overheads, facilities, administration and promotional activities? IN RL a formula needs to be agreed but no one seems to want to do it. It’s certainly a fact that as I look around its not just in our game that these debates over the options continue.

Sports such as Rugby League, Union and Association Football that have large audiences, generate their revenue through the income attained, either in person or through some form of media. However, they soon find themselves in a big debate as to how to control the distribution of those monies. Its different in those spectator sports where players do not get paid much at all such as Gaelic football and Hurling in Ireland or college football and basketball in the United States. In those sports crowds are large, sponsors keen to engage and media companies jostle to bid for the broadcast rights. However, the players receive little or no monetary reward. Instead the money generated goes towards building facilities and subsidising grassroots programmes. As well as creating, in the case of the USA, an incredibly well rewarded infrastructure of colleges with coaches and athletic directors who provide a quality conveyer belt of talent for the top levels of the professional game. That’s the reason, before it became a professional and paid game, that rugby union in the UK was able to build its great Stadia at Twickenham, Murrayfield and Cardiff Arms Park without a penny of public money. They were built at a time when nobody, least of all the players, had to be paid.

Before Super League, RL was semi-professional and never a well-paid sport, but ever since Sky TV facilitated a fully-fledged competitive professional league in 1996, underlying tensions have always been there between the ‘have’s’ and the ‘have not’s’. Not just between the Clubs either, but also between the English game and the money rich NRL. The rise of the Premier League in English football is another case in point and no doubt a model that our Super league owners will have firmly in the back of their minds.

By forming a schism and separating themselves from the rest of the Leagues, the elite division have secured revenues beyond the wildest dreams of clubs that, only just over sixty years ago were very small organisations with players constrained by a maximum wage of £20 per week. Now the largest ten English clubs have the collective revenue of over £3 billion. Has there been a commensurate windfall to the grassroots game or indeed clubs outside the EPL? Well, of course there hasn’t. Some crumbs are passed down in a token gesture, but never in any amounts that would jeopardise the constantly increasing incomes of the top Clubs and their players. In fact, that particular sport is about to sell Wembley Stadium, their ‘crown jewels, to help support grass roots football because the Premier Clubs are taking all the gravy and doing little in that direction at all. In effect in soccer the revenues the sport generates through its popularity, have been annexed by a small number of players, administrators and owners.

As the Super league owners become more and more restless and impatient for change, they would be wise to bear in mind that when the long practised financial balance goes awry, the consequences can be extremely damaging. It’s starting to happen in football but look at the example of what happened with Australian Rugby Union after they placed an over emphasis on funding of the elite side of the game. In trying to spread the professional game outside its heartlands and to compete with European club player salaries, grassroots investment was neglected and underfunded. Over a generation participation fell, audience for the sport began to wither and eventually the game found itself under serious pressure and had to regroup as a matter of urgency. Recognise anything there? It’s a vicious circle if you get the allocation wrong and however a game distributes its revenues there is always an opportunity cost, because parties with vested interests will always say that it should have gone elsewhere (usually to them!).

In RL these tensions are exacerbated because power is not held within one organisation. Elite clubs are rightly concerned with their own short term situation; can we win more, can we recruit, can we appease the fan base, can we avoid the middle eight’s and indeed, how about that much needed marquee signing to boost flagging fan interest? But in their focus, might they just miss the bigger picture as they argue incessantly for an ever increasing slice of the pie and more control. Players themselves, quite understandably, seek higher and higher earnings in a career that is short and at times precarious. They are the group that provides the spectacle, so they will surely demand the greatest rewards? But schools and grassroots clubs see themselves as the people who produce those players, buy the tickets and watch on TV to pay their wages, so if we go for the performance side of the product, where is their share?

It just goes on and on backwards and forwards but in the end where is the ‘honest broker’ in all this mess? Ideally a respected and durable governing body is the glue that can keep all these competing interests in some kind of equilibrium. They do it through strong leadership and good governance structures so that they can selling a common vision to the various stakeholders.

Boy, what a great vision, in theory, but in practise we all know too well that is just a joke when you look at what has happened over the years in the centre of our game. For British Rugby League to move forward and perhaps even for it to survive at all, at the elite level we have to reward the big players but still get the balance with grassroots and the administration cost right as well. All that must be administered by a united and strong governing Body! And, everyone reading this will I’m sure agree that we certainly aint there yet by a long chalk and if we are to believe some of the rumours coming out of the current discussions, we could be looking at a breakaway Super League akin to the EPL and a game actually moving in the opposite direction and away from unity altogether. We’d all like to know what is happening but in the end you can see how it’s a hard one to sort out can’t you! Difficult times indeed.

This week in Codgers Corner I want to take you back for a change to December in the 1987/88 season when Len Casey was still our coach and we were struggling at the wrong end of the table. We had lost 6 of our last 9 games although the last two at Saints and Widnes we had only lost by 4 points. As we drove over to the West Yorkshire stronghold of Halifax for a difficult looking fixture, we wondered if this week we could just pull off a win at a team that were currently in the top half of the table and had only lost one game at home so far that season. Despite the game being televised by the BBC on Grandstand that afternoon (those were the days eh?) about 1000 made the trip over from Hull, most I guess, like us, travelling more in hope than expectation. Our downfall under Casey was a lack of discipline on the field and that plus our tendency to start slowly had seen us lose a lot of games that year.

After 4 years away from the club, we had re-signed Tim Wilby the previous week and he made his return to the first team that afternoon on the substitute’s bench. However, his return was to be a short one. We kicked off on a grey cold December afternoon and I remember thinking that the dour, stone built surroundings of Thrum Hall and the leaden grey skies made for a dismal picture which was reflected by our early play out on the pitch. Playing up the hill we started slowly again. Firstly, Fletcher dropped the ball as he ran it out of defence after a kick at the end of the home team’s first set of six and then Dannett lost the ball in a suspiciously high tackle by the ‘Fax’ second rower Paul Dixon. Although Referee Mr Hague waived play on, Dannett was carried from the field of play and took no further part in proceedings that afternoon. As we reshuffled our pack he was replaced by Neil Puckering but four minutes later the hosts opened the scoring with a well taken try by centre Wilkinson. Meredith and Robinson produced an excellent ‘run around’ move and the brilliant Graham Eadie fed Robinson who ran in untouched by a Hull defender. Whitfield goaled and already we were 6 points behind as the cold wind blew down the field and into our faces on the open terracing at the north east corner of the stadium. Funny now looking back, but I recall that I had toothache at the time, which didn’t help at all!

Our defence was however doing well and there was no lack of effort in the tackle, whilst at half back both McCaffrey and Pearce were starting to get to grips with Meredith and Robinson their opposite numbers. The break for us came when Divorty sent out a long pass from near the play the ball, to Pearce. ‘Porkey shimmied his way into a half break, before passing to Regan who flipped the ball out of the tackle to Welham and Fletchers superb ‘show and go’ saw him crash in wide out. Pearce missed the conversion and a Whitfield penalty five minutes later when O’Hara tripped Taylor saw the home team go in at half time leading 8-4 as we all pondered whether we could hang on to the coat tails of a good looking ‘Fax outfit!

From the restart we poured into the Halifax half as character wise, we had it just right. Len Casey had a (probably unfounded) reputation back then for pinning the players to the wall and threatening them at half time if they were not performing but whatever he had done had certainly worked that day. Within 15 minutes of the restart we were 8 points ahead. Firstly on 51 minutes McCaffrey found Pearce who toughed it out with two tacklers before releasing a great inside ball to Shaun Patrick who dived in to score near the posts and a conversion by Pearce saw us in the lead for the first time 10-8.

Then a superb piece of inter-passing between Puckering and Divorty sent Stuart Vass hurtling down the wing before he released his winger Paul Eastwood who crossed the line wide out after outpacing George, and Pearce landed a brilliant touch line conversion to give us an 8 point ‘cushion’. That looked like it, but just 4 minutes later Dixon took on our line twenty yards out and wrestled and worked his way to the whitewash with three FC defenders on his back, it was a fine try but it cut our lead to just 4 points.

Then just six minutes later, and just three minute after Wilby had come onto the pitch for the injured Welham, MacCallion broke our line and as Halifax second rower Paul Dixon stormed through, he passed onto Robinson who was immediately elbowed in the face by Wilby and after just 4 minutes on the field he was sent off and we were down to 12 men. Then it was real backs to the wall stuff but despite some great defence from Brooks and Regan, we conceded again on the 64th minute when Taylor got an unconverted try and with the scored tied 16-16, I feared the worst.

The TV audience were certainly being treated to a great end to end game but that was little consolation to us lot shivering and worried on the terraces. Then on 71 minutes some great work by Divorty and Puckering set up ‘Porky’ Pearce for the drop goal. Out of the Halifax defensive line came both Neller and Pendlebury to try and charge down the kick but Pearce dummied, stepped to the left and wriggled through two tackles to release O’Hara who shot in at the corner to reinstate out 4 point lead. Although Pendelbury went close in the last minute, a brilliant last ditch tackle by our full back Fletcher saved the line, and as he spilled the ball the chance was lost and the hooter went, and after a string of 4 point reversals for once it was Hull FC that benefitted from a four-point winning margin.

Ray French commentating for the BBC that day awarded the Man of the match to Garry Pearce who had once again proved to be the difference between two evenly matched teams. As we drove home the snow flurries started to fall as we made our way back to the M62 but we didn’t care that day, because we were back to winning ways after a great team performance fought out in the last 20 minutes with just twelve men. Tougher times were ahead for Casey and Co but that night we didn’t care a jot! Great memories!

Thanks to everyone who has been in touch and congratulations to all of you who went to Newcastle you are probably as much the heroes as the players were. It will be really hard at Warrington but for now it was a great show from everyone and a good win against the old enemy; I bet Yeamo’s aching a bit today. Lee Radford summed it up when he said, ““He was desperate for a try but I thought his contact was really good. He stopped some of their ball carriers short. But, his wife is going to have to get him pulled out of bed and oiled up I think!” Too much information there Lisa!

Keep Believing and enjoy the week, I know I will!!!

Faithfully Yours