The Dentist’s Diary – 590th


Is this the look that says, “Is that our season gone?”

In a week that saw the squad for next season all but complete with little change in personnel and with the FC still in a state best described as ‘ravaged by injuries’, the trip to Huddersfield was probably our best chance, in the remaining four games, to get 2 points to keep us in touch with the top four. Huddersfield couldn’t play as badly as they did at Rovers, but they were still poor at times and at first we looked to have our game plan just right. We then started to lose the battle up front and squandered the ball, whilst The Giants realised that we had little to offer on attack. With only really Bowden, Manu and Westerman missing from our first choice forwards, to be dominated like that in the middle of the park is just not good enough.

However, it was our inability to retain possession and too much risky rugby that did for us as well, with ‘rocks and diamonds’ Miloudi the main transgressor; although in fairness at least he had a go. Huddersfield on the other hand (just like Widnes last week) were a poor outfit, but they had a plan and they stuck to it, whilst we tried to create some miracle plays that soon turned out to have nightmare conclusions.

We have, since the start of that glorious 2016 season, been a team that could always find a way to win games away from home. However, in 2018 we have a poor record on the road and that continued last Thursday. In fact, it’s probably a good job that we have scratched a home win or two in Hull, particularly against Wakefield and Widnes, to keep us away from the bottom four. We have run out of troops, energy and structure and in the last three games we have looked devoid of ideas as well.

There are of course mitigating circumstances but make no mistake about it, whilst there are still ten games left in the season, this was a massive set back and indeed a real missed chance which, when taken in the same context as the Wigan game at the KCOM, may be the difference between making the top four or facing a meaningless seven game mini tournament, when pride is all there is to play for.

As you’ll see below such performances wind everyone up and see us all frustrated and disappointed. That certainly generates an unprecedented level of correspondence from Diary readers, some of which I’ll try and reflect in here as I go along.

The trip to Huddersfield was always going to be fraught with problems!! No Shaul, was a real worry but so was the home teams strong looking line up who were to a man out to avenge what was a pitiful performance last week against the Dobbins. But I just hoped that Connor would ‘take it personally’ and the inclusion of Green would stiffen up a front row that had looked a bit thin on resolve against Widnes. Neither wish, in the end, was to come true.

With every finger in East Hull crossed and hoping that we could do them a favour, it was always going to be a big ask, but one that, with the implacable Saints and the resilient ‘homers’ Wakey on the horizon, was also a game from which we had to try and get something.

In front of another pitifully poor gate, the game started to the accompaniment of the usual Huddersfield ‘kitchen utensils band’ and we looked really good powering towards their line. We bombed their winger really well and the plan seemed to be working. However, once again there was little structured creativity at all and so Huddersfield went down the other end and showed us exactly how to do it, as a short ball from Brough hit a forward in the hole and after 15 minutes we were 6-0 down. It was so simple and yet already a play that looked beyond us. That’s how easy it should have been for us, but already it looked like that failing of last week, where we couldn’t create anything in the 30-yard area in front of their line, was back again. We were off loading at will but couldn’t make any progress before in broken play on the sixth tackle, somehow we got the ball away and Hadley produced a great little dummy, Kelly grubbered to the corner and Burito was in.

Shortly afterwards a strange kick-play by Miloudi on the third tackle, saw us hand over possession and a seven tackle set, before Connor gave away a penalty and a lucky ricochet off Kelly on a short kick got the Giants in again under the posts. Once again we were our own worst enemies because we gave away the possession too easily in the wrong part of the field. We looked all at sea as good old Jordan Rankin strolled in to score his first try of the season and for me already a drubbing was on the cards. Then it was a case of we had to score next. We didn’t, but at least another period of Huddersfield pressure only ended with a drop goal. There was no doubt however that we were in trouble and as the hooter went it already looked like a game too far for our depleted troops.

As was the case against Widnes we just couldn’t create anything. Connor started the half like a world beater and ended it like an egg beater, whilst besides the kick for the try Kelly did very little at all and Houghton tried hard, but got little running support around acting half and thus couldn’t create the link. Huddersfield were poor too, but gave us a right lesson on how to stay patient, stick to the plan and grab tries when the opportunity presented itself.

I had, with my usual half empty outlook on life, thought that was that and it was all over and in this case I wasn’t far wrong. The forwards had tried hard to get a foot hold but slowly and patently the Giants had turned the screw, although when we got the ball, patience was certainly not something we showed at all.

Once back out again we started the second half playing as if we had received a flea in our ears, we got on the front foot but that all disappeared as Miloudi gave away a stupid petulant penalty, which led to a walk in try for them wide out, as normal service was resumed.

Then they gave away a penalty and we scored, as Miloudi made up for things and got a great try, created from a great catch and pass from Kelly, who although still pretty ineffective with the ball was playing like a man possessed. But the penalties came again to the Giants as our pressure could not be pushed home and although we tried hard, we were beset by dumb rugby and bad option taking. We struggled to create and I commented to my mate Joe that I hope all the Sneyd knockers were watching at home because boy do we miss his organisation. Missing Marc and Jamie Shaul we were all over the place. I was however taken with how tough Albert Kelly played in adversity, how he tried to hurt the opposition and how hard he is for a half back!! Hakim Miloudi tried really hard too, much too hard at times, as he just went from bad to worse as he lacked any structure in his flamboyant attempts to get us back into things.

Then once again we got our numbers wrong on the right and McKintosh sealed the game for the Giants. On several occasions in desperation we managed to isolate our own players out on the touchline who were then forced into touch, which is just unforgiveable when your chasing the game. In the end Huddersfield scored more points than they have in any other game this season and deserved their win.

Miloudi is the cause of much discussion at present, but he is better out there on the wing, where he can learn his trade and not cause too much damage. He’s a maverick and at his age too much first team rugby is a recipe for disaster, because in chancing his arm he tries his hand at the expense of his mates. Much was made afterwards by some about us not getting our numbers right out wide in defence, but again the dictating of that is down to an experienced full-back calling to the defensive line. As my mate Richard said afterwards, “He’s not the answer at full back yet, by a long chalk, he fails to organise the line in defence, is shaky on goal line D and is caught out of position too often”. That said he’s a great prospect, but he and all of us lot should realise that at present a prospect is all he is. As for him being a better bet at full-back than Shaul (as a some were saying last week on social media) well a few folks should get real, as Richard commented again about how good Miloudi looked in front foot wins like those against Salford and Widnes, “He’s a bit like the girl in the bar that looks amazing after 10 pints, but come next morning it starts to dawn on you that …..”

We looked jaded and the youngsters appear to be starting to suffer from burn out. I spoke to Danny Houghton on Friday and as he said, “That always happens when young players that you expect to make the odd appearance have to make 8 or 10 in a season, particularly when they are on the trot, mentally they really suffer in the week to week grind of it all”. With Shaul, Griffin, Talanoa, Sneyd, Manu and Westy out there we would have won, but the reality is that by they are back, it could well be too late.

Are we getting a bit staid and predictable? I think I might like to see an additional attacking Coach sat up there soon.

On reflection it was probably our worse performance of the season, if not as one reader Iain said, “For years” and for the second week running it was a game where we simply had no attacking shape at all and as much as we huffed and puffed nothing happened and there was simply no direction in our play. I wondered as the game went on about our inability to create and pondered on the need for an attacking Assistant Coach. We had Brett Hodgson lined up for that role a while ago, he was signed up but then gave us back word to return to Australia and nothing has happened since. I heard that someone else was wanted and lined up, but Adam vetoed that.

On Thursday at least Kelly and Miloudi showed some passion and watching it back Houghton expended a ton of effort, but we constantly got our numbers wrong wide out on defence and on attack we were just so predictable, happily we couldn’t do Rovers any favours, but it’s hard to see any other positives from Thursday or indeed to envisage another win before the end of the season proper.

When we get some players back like Griffin, who would have broken Huddersfield wide out last Thursday, Shaul who would have organised the defence, Sneyd who would have run the show without doubt and Westerman who would have provided direction in the middle, we’ll be fine, but for me by then as I say, any thoughts of bigger and better things in the remaining games will likely be way beyond us.

The thing is as well when you watch it back (and it makes pretty tough watching) if you’re not controlling the ruck, it all becomes very hard indeed. Danny Houghton tried hard but the lack of quality runners around the ruck made his efforts pretty ineffective by his own standards and with no quick play the balls and no speed, it automatically means that there is no space for the half backs to execute anything. That’s why Connor faded from the scene as the game wore on and Albert was so frustrated in that second half.

We just consistently saw our play makers tackled in possession because of the lack of urgency and outlets, so much so that we were totally ineffective as far as being able to penetrate the line was concerned. There will have to be some hard yards on the training field this week and no mistake and a massive improvement is needed if we are to even keep the score down next weekend. However how we deal with the mental fatigue that a lot of our players at the younger end of the scale are suffering is another matter altogether!

If I have one major gripe about it all, then I share it with reader Brian in Spain who contacted me on Friday, because the way that Lee chastised Hakim in public after the game was Brian and I feel, uncalled for. Say what you like behind closed doors but I found it hard reading when he said, “The first error was off a scrum and Hakim (Miloudi) bats the ball into touch. The next set he kicks on play two and gives away a seven-tackle set and it slowly went down from there”. When asked what he said at half-time Radford responded, “If you throw the ball in touch again, I’ll give you a backhander.”

I know it was said in jest but in the context of a really disappointing loss possibly uncalled for. The fact that Miloudi picked up the Sky Sports’ Man of the Match’ award despite an indifferent performance, seemed to wind our Coach up even more as he then said, “Hakim is high risk and he rolls the dice. He got the man of the match but Stevie Wonder must have voted for that” That was I thought a bit harsh on a young kid who is a real trier.

Talking of that Man of the match winning vote I see Rodd Studd was elated after the game when he appeared to be well pleased that he had picked the man of the match at long odds of 12-1. That brings me onto some more correspondence this time from reader Steven who said, “I know he gets involved and I never ever doubt the kid’s effort, but anyone who watches rugby knows that Hakim was nowhere near the top 4 never mind the MOM. I of course have no problem with Hull fans voting for him, the fans do not select the top 4 as the people in studio do that. The same people paradoxically that Rod Studd is friends with. However, on his twitter account after the match the ubiquitous Mr Studd seemed to be delighted with his call, as it seems he had some money on Miloudi to get it!”

I guess If just one FC player is nominated by “The Mysterious Player” in such circumstances, then with our big viewing numbers for such games and a poor travelling army at the match on Thursday, it’s obvious that whoever is selected from the FC team, even if it’s Johnny Whiteley, has a really good chance of winning. We all love a conspiracy theory don’t we, but does Steven have a point? I think I had better leave you all to draw your own conclusions on that one.

So, to the week gone by and I went into detail in the last diary about the possibility of it happening and so it was that Mini signed up for another year, as the evergreen second rower is on board for 2019. His signing and the expenditure it involves is as much ‘taking one for the team’ as it is for his undoubted ability on the field. Mark has had a bit of a patchy year thus far, well he has by his standards, but it is his leadership off the field as much as the little things he does on the pitch that have seen him retained.

In his statement to the Mail Mark, expounded his amazing fitness regime but also, like most of the experienced players at the Club, took time to praise the conditioning staff when he said, “The coaching staff and the conditioners have without doubt played a role in my fitness too. They manage us really well with individually specific program’s for each player. That makes it a lot easier for older players like myself to keep going, and that’s a big credit to them.”

Although our second rowers don’t, in my opinion, get the ball early enough and wide enough out, he’s done well and he’s certainly a really important member of the squad as far as mentoring the younger players is concerned. Lee said of his one-year deal, “Mini’s quality was never in doubt when he joined the club. He’s been huge on and off the field since 2015. Mark is the most professional player I have ever come across, and right up there with the likes of Craig Fitzgibbon and Richard Swain”.

Always first at training to warm up properly and last out of the cool down sessions afterwards we got an insight into just how meticulous he is with his preparations, when it was revealed that Mark even studies and plans his sleep patterns which shows just how he sets such a great example for our young guns who are emerging at present on the fringes of the first team.

His interview in the Mail about the merits of eating fresh vegetables would have easily enhanced any healthy eating publication and his mantra about listening to your body and giving it what it needs was fascinating stuff. In addition, I think that he has been playing well in recent weeks although as I said earlier, we still don’t really give our back rowers enough good ball in decent areas of the pitch.

Anyone who has spent time with Mini knows that he is a mild mannered guy with a great personality and the consummate professional, plus he’s been our most robust second rower this year as his colleagues have been falling by the wayside around him. Surprisingly he’s not one of our top earners, but I think he’ll still do a job for us and his work with the youngsters has been exemplary. For me, on balance, it’s a good move.

Hot on the heels of that announcement came the final one on the trilogy of signings that I told you were all done deals three editions ago, with Seke Manu committing to another year as well. I was told then they were all ‘over the line’ as far as contracts were concerned but no doubt the vagaries of agents and the Clubs need to release stuff as and when its appropriate held things up.

Speaking to the Club there is certainly nothing but truth in the story that three NRL Clubs had shown an interest in Manu with two making a concrete offer; both of which were probably more than he is getting staying with us. So what do you make of that one? Well, some thought he would go and its fair to say a few fans hoped he would, if only to free up cap space for some fictitious in coming ‘Star’ that probably doesn’t exist. However, the player was offered a deal and rather like what the England Football Coach is trying to build in his squad, the lure of another year in the ‘Family’ that is Hull FC swung the deal our way. Just as was the case when Jake Connor, Fetuli Talanoa and Mark Minichiello signed new deals, the first thing Seke talked about after signing was the culture at the Club, the merits of Lee Radford’s ‘Joe Blunt’ approach to Coaching and the atmosphere and code of shared ethics that it involves.

He said, “Lee is a brilliant coach. Some coaches beat around the bush a little bit, but he tells you how it is, and that’s really what you need as a player. He’s been great for the club, and for me personally too. His knowledge of the game is brilliant and he’s give me some really good guidance at times. I have learned a lot from him since I arrived at Hull FC”

The thing is of course that Seke has been unlucky with injuries (and indeed this latest ban) and sometimes he’s looked a tad out of sorts compared with the high standards he has set in the past, but the fact is no one really knows what injuries he’s carrying. Apparently he’s kept going with a lot of knocks this year and perhaps the enforced break of three weeks for his ban will serve him well and he’ll hit top form again when he’s back.

With those two signed up we now have to get Joe Westerman contracted if we can afford him within the cap! He brought something different immediately he arrived back at the Club and I liked our balance when he was out there. However, now I guess we will just have to wait and see what happens next in the field of retaining players. I’d also like to see Miloudi signed up on say a two-year deal but of course we have to get everyone fit before we can judge the complete squad.

The sacking of Leeds Coach Brian McDermott was a strange one indeed particularly as Gary Hetherington said that he had not planned for it and it just happened ‘out of the blue’ last Monday. Most of their fans welcomed the move but Gary has never been one to pander to supporter power although player power is completely a different kettle of fish! By the protestations that were forthcoming from McDermott, it did come out of the blue, in fact it’s hard to know really what brought it about, unless Sinfield and Lowes had actually been lined up. It’s still hard to know why now though!!

With four games to go and an important Challenge Cup semi-final on the horizon, would you dismiss the man who has brought you four Super League trophies, a World Club Challenge trophy and two Challenge Cups? Was there a player’s revolt, or was it just a knee jerk reaction from Gary Hetherington or indeed was Hetherington tapped up by Sinfield? After his rantings about the other owners some even doubted his sanity, following what he has been doing of late.

OK, Leeds were down in the qualifiers in 2016 but they survived and carried on, almost as if nothing had happened before they entered 2017 with, again, a dreadful start to the season including a 66-10 loss at Castleford, but there was still no whiff of a sacking then. And, further down the line they were crowned 2017 champions. He’s led them to victories, Cups and out of plenty of trouble before, so why pull the trigger now and not at the end of the campaign?

I’ve never really liked him or his arrogant attitude, but I think that for a guy who won that Grand Final so convincingly last year, it was pretty much a case of rough justice at this point of the season and would have been far more appropriate once the Leeds club knew if they were going to Wembley and staying in the top 8 this year, or even what was most sensible, at the end of the current season. I think Lowes and Sinfield or the players must have approached Hetherington myself.

Now to Cumbria and a parlous state of affairs with two of the three Clubs in the North West on the brink. Folks like Marwan Koukash seem to think there is scope for a Super League Club up there but for a start, it would have to be an independent one because of any of the three Clubs working with one of the others, is about as likely and abhorrent for their relative supporters as it would be in Hull!! Koukash should think again, because rather than it being a hot bed of Rugby League it appears than none of the three Clubs can amass a gate over 1500 for love nor money and following the shocking financial position that Whitehaven find themselves in, this week it was Barrows turn to teeter on the brink.

A statement by the chairman, David Sharpe on Barrow’s website has set out the club’s short-term history and the funding gap they currently face. Their solution: new directors on the board, loyal fans to each bring another paying adult with them to home games, the Barrow council to assist and for those ‘Barrovians’ too far afield to attend games, they’ve set up a page on the “Just Giving” website.
Here is just an extract from the Chairman’s comments to the local newspaper. “Last Wednesday evening Barrow Raiders came within hours of going out of existence. Together with the other four remaining directors – much too few for the club to prosper – I faced the prospect of the club being no longer able to pay its players and staff caused by a huge black hole in our finances. It was only due to a fantastic eleventh hour offer by one of our directors that the club is still in existence today and will hopefully finish the season which is ironically one of our best for some years. This was the third time in our recent history that the club has been close to closure. Last year when I took over we had just £7-45 in the bank and were facing a winding up order!”

He continued, “That’s how bad it was but you know sometimes sports clubs are more important than the result of a game or a league position. They are about heritage, culture and the blood sweat and tears of a great community. Barrow Raiders is part of a special cultural heritage we need in our local community but also the ‘expat’ community living elsewhere in the country or overseas to get involved and show the spirit that make our club great! To that said if you want to influence the future of the club and have the skills and time to be a director: step forward! Barrow Town Council if you want to support our heritage: step forward! With a great coach, dedicated players and superb volunteers we have the best of a great club. We can’t let the raiders die!”

Fine words indeed and ones we can all associate with but sadly, the day after that statement came out, that same passionate Chairman, David Sharp, and one of the other Directors resigned citing the conflict between work commitments and running the Club and so despite the rallying call, with that announcement the Club sank even further towards oblivion. I’ve sent a donation to their just giving page which in a week has raised over £4500 and I just hope that they survive, for I have fond memories of my trips up there in the 80’s and the hostile, but good natured, greeting we received from the local fans after our long journeys. Perhaps, in these times of change, we should be looking at the bottom of the tree as well as the top for the games future direction!

Now, to lighter matters and I have spent a bit of time this week watching the Football World Cup under the pretext of the fact that as you get older you never quite know how many more of such a tournament, that only comes around once every 4 years, you’ll actually be around to see. That’s not being morbid but just I guess practical. Actually I’ve quite enjoyed the unpredictability of it, and there are certainly a lot of very gifted players on display and when I get over how much they actually get paid compared with our lads, they certainly have a deal of skill too. That England penalty shoot-out was almost unwatchable and I sort of entered into the whole thing.

However, the bit I can’t get my head around is the South American conning that goes on with the falling about clutching of legs and heads and general play acting every-time a player gets the better of them or even in some cases goes near them. Look for instance as that guy Neymar, who plays for Brazil, boy he can lay it on thick, can’t he? In fact, it amazes me with all that rolling about and crying out, how a guy with so many tattoos has such a low pain threshold! It’s getting so much worse I’m afraid and for me it will never be as honest a game as Rugby League.

Talking of watching TV I see that Channel 4 are showing Viagra adverts every night after ten, I guess some folks feel they are worth staying up for!

In Codgers Corner this week I want to indulge myself again in that great first season that Brian Smith was here, simply because as you know I really did rate Smithy and it’s a period of time during which I can remember just about every game.

When Director Mick Stanley went over to Aus. to persuade the young manager of the previous seasons Australian Schoolboys side, to become our coach, it was a brave and no doubt expensive move for the club. After the first 4 league games which we lost we were all thinking deep down that it just might have been the wrong decision as well. We had all experienced his ‘new’ thinking with the first ever fans forum taking place and a pre-season open trials day when RU players, with their collars turned up, and hats pulled down, came from across the country to have a go at Rugby League.

Those early season worries however were unfounded as a brilliant run saw us rise from bottom of the League in October to fourth in the table at the end of the normal season. Of course I have covered some of those games in previous Diaries so special was the season to me, and no doubt you’ll remember those home wins against Saints and Leeds and that fantastic night at Central Park Wigan when Garry Pearce blew the home team away and probably instigated the first ever ‘Wigan walk’. The other surprise package of the year in 88/89 was ‘Little’ Featherstone who finished 7th in the League. Under Peter Fox they had made great strides forward and were in fact, as the season ended, the only club to have done the double over us. So we moved into the play offs which were a top 8 competition in those days, (with none of the present day wild and wonderful formulas to worry about) we faced and beat Castleford who finished 5th easily 32-6, and that set up quite nicely a clash against our arch nemesis Featherstone in the semi-final at the Boulevard, on Sunday 7th May 1989.

It was our first chance at a major final appearance for two years and that in a competition that we had failed to win in three consecutive finals between 1981-1983. The scene was set for a close game against a team that coach Peter Fox said had in Derek Fox and Graeme Steadman, ‘The best half back combination in the domestic game’. Why do I particularly remember this game? Well, in addition to a wonderful performance on the field it was the first time that I had heard Garry Pearce called ‘Porky’ a nick name that has stuck for me, to this day.

Earlier in the week Brian Smith had hinted that Pearce our ‘talisman’ off half could be dropped, as he was probably ‘not as fit as he could be’ something that prompted all us supporters to think that perhaps that was code for the fact that Garry had been on the Cream Cakes or worse! In truth Pearce never even looked like a rugby player, and had a physique more in keeping with say a used car salesman or a door to door insurance broker. That threat from Smith was however just the challenge ‘Porky’ needed and he answered his boss and the protagonists amongst the fans, in the best way possible.

Over 11,000 fans packed the Boulevard that day as Smithy’s brand of never say die, uncompromising and at times flamboyant rugby was wooing the supporters and bringing them back in their droves. It was to be a magical performance by the lads as the first 20 minutes set the pattern for the game. With Smithy watching from up in the stand in his new ‘Crow’s Nest’ we kicked off on a sunny afternoon in front of a shirt sleeved crowd. The first few exchanges were tough as first Karl Harrison and then Jeff Grayson tried to gain ground for the visitors but were both repelled by a swarming FC defence led by Andy Dannett. In the12th minute Pearce converted a penalty after Welham had been tripped by Burton the Colliers second rower, and we were on the board.

Then 6 minutes later we scored a wonderful try. Initially we seemed to be going nowhere as first Jackson then Steve Crooks drove the ball straight at defenders. However, from a quick play the ball Lee Jackson flashed the ball to Price who darted forward and as the Featherstone defence stood mesmerised Pearce took a short pass and crashed over about five yards in from the corner flag. After the game Brian Smith said laughingly in his post-match interview, ‘It was great play by Price who completely suckered their defence, and all ‘Porky’ had to do was roll over in the corner’ and so a legend was born. Garry kicked the goal and then after 27 minutes on the third tackle he dropped a fine field goal from 20 yards out, to further turn the screw.

Two minutes later Featherstone had their one and only real chance of the half when Bibb brilliantly side stepped away from our defence and raced down field, only for winger Ian Smales to drop the ball with an open run to the line. Finally on 40 minutes it was Pearce again with another penalty this time for off side that made the half time score ‘Porky’ eleven Featherstone nil. In between times Windley, Sharp and Divorty had completely snuffed out ‘the best half back combination in the League’ and a dominant pack enabled Phil Windley at 7 to provide a link to the backs where full back Fletcher was brilliant coming forward on a string of sizzling runs from deep positions.

The second half was business as usual really and after two sets a piece during which Andy Dannett was in mean and destructive mood, we got the ball from a scrum on half way. Three tackles into the set Windley passed to Pearce who was, no doubt following a wigging at half time for the visitors from Fox, receiving close attention from several players. The star of the show though brilliantly threaded a pass through about four of them to find Nolan on the run. He raced onto the ball to score the easiest of tries and as Pearce added the goal again, we were all getting ready for a trip to Old Trafford the following weekend.

Poor old Featherstone and their 1000 supporters just didn’t know what had hit them, as Hull drove on to victory. In that second half Dannett, on no less than 5 occasions loosened the ball with ferocious tackles, whilst Wilby and Steve Crooks pulled off massive hits on Bastian and Clarke. A great run from Fletcher saw Paul Eastwood almost in at the corner whilst Brian Blacker was unlucky as he juggled the ball but lost it over the line. Still it really was all over in the final few minutes when Jon Sharp broke 60 yards out from their line and fed a peach of a pass to full back Fletcher who took it at full pelt. He ran downfield and then in an arc around the Colliers full back Chris Bibb to score the try of the game which, (need I say it anymore) Pearce, who by then had been announced as man of the match, converted.

As referee Haigh blew the final whistle, and the appeals for fans to stay behind the fences rang out around the ground, Smithy and the lads did a lap of honour with not a soul leaving the place until they had paid homage to a remarkable win and a remarkable season. Of course on this occasion we lost the following week to a disputed O’Hara try against Widnes in the final, but this was just the shape of things to come, as the Brian Smith bandwagon gained momentum and we enjoyed a great three seasons culminating with us winning that prize of the premiership trophy against the same Widnes two years later.

So that’s it a Diary finished in haste after Thursday game because I was so fed up with it all. We all marvelled at how well we had taken on the challenge of our injury crisis (because crisis is what it certainly is) but now the young players look jaded and mentally fatigued, whilst the senior professionals that are out there are being asked too much and have lost a lot of the poise and direction to ensure we hold the line. It’s Saints up next and another easy game!!!!

On Friday night as I no doubt watch through my fingers (because there is no settee to hide behind), we face the best team in the league by a country mile, in a must win game. Facing the competitions form side and runaway leaders with at least 6 regular first pick starters missing is the biggest ask of the season so far and all I can hope for at present is that we keep the score down! I think that there is a lot of talking, practising and most of all heart searching to be done before then!

It’s been a busy week and I’ve never had so much post after a game since the aftermath of that glorious 2016 final, so thanks to everyone who got in touch to make it a bumper bundle of correspondence this week.

Tough Times! But …….

Try to Keep Believing

Faithfully Yours