The Dentist’s Diary – 626th

Well another two points, a gritty performance, a great showing from Albo and some well worked tries …. And otherwise? Well it was hardly a classic, but it was job done!

In all honesty, it was scrappy, unconvincing and frustrating to watch at times, but we found a way to win and regular readers will know that at this point in the season, all ‘glass half empty’ old me looks for every year is that 20 or 22 points that you need to survive relegation. Once that’s attained and ‘we live to play another season’, I can look upwards and that win gets us well on our way!!

Wakey had injuries, but according to Lee Radford we were down to our last 18 fit players before we even started and soon we were managing with a two-man bench and therefore it was pretty much ‘even Steven’s’ on the adversity front. So, to get the points in a game which also featured the worst refereeing performance thus far this year (which was totally baffling at times for both teams) and saw one player sin binned and a few either leave the field or soldier on with knocks, was certainly satisfying.

Of Mr Moore the referee, my pal Kathy turned to me and said, “No doubt he was at that meeting about the play the ball this week, he looks like he’s remembered all that and forgotten the rest of the rules completely!”

But in fairness it was a game that never really rose above the run of the mill, but the points are ours and we move on to Friday and a real chance to consolidate our position of 3rd in the table. That bit seems pretty surreal really, because as a team we don’t seem to have got going at all this year, yet we’ve got 8 wins and with County Road resembling the A&E at Hull Royal, the only healthy thing about Hull FC at present is our league position. 

As for us lot on the terraces, well it wasn’t a performance that allowed anyone to settle until we were well in front and even then you didn’t quite know what would happen next. Still we prevailed and whatever the circumstances, it was good to see those precious two points in the bag.

Although only 5 days, it had seemed like a long time since that drubbing at Saints and we had heard all week about how we had to get ‘back on the horse’ and quickly. In Chris Chester we had met our match on a few occasions just lately; in that massive reversal at Belle Vue last year, in the pre-season game and earlier this year at the KCOM. In fact, that massive 55-yard Sneyd drop goal that grabbed us a win at our place last year, had almost been shrouded in the mists of time by we kicked-off on Sunday. Nevertheless, we certainly owed them one, we all knew that and as a club we’d talked about retribution all week, but this is Hull FC and we all knew it doesn’t always work that way, does it?

As the sun broke through the leaden Sunday afternoon clouds and we joined the throng of fans on the perimeter road outside the Stadium, it was all pretty subdued, as apprehension rather than confidence was the watchword. I guess no one really knew what to expect, or which Hull FC would turn up!  We had thrashed Rovers and then been thrashed ourselves at Saints. We’d had injuries a plenty, but then so had Wakey and their giant forwards had muscled their way to a win at the KCOM earlier in the season and yet like us they were still in and out form wise. So it was that in the tea queue, we all just wondered how our forwards would handle that massive visiting pack on their return. They certainly looked just as big as they ran out to be greeted by a good travelling contingent from the West Riding, in what was a disappointing Sunday crowd of just over 10,000.  

Ellis at Loose Forward, with Westy on the bench and Faraimo missing raised a few eye brows in the pre-game gossip around me, but from the off, it felt better, we looked keen and showed a lot more urgency as Paea and Taylor ploughed into the Wakey middles. Furthermore, soon we were on the score board as Sneyd dummied left stepped right and put Albert Kelly brilliantly through a gap, from where, despite three would be tacklers being in attendance, Albo scooted through untouched to put the ball down behind the sticks.

However, no sooner had we swept down-field again and trapped the visitors close to their line, then we found ourselves down to 12 men as Gareth Ellis was sin-binned for a high tackle. As a fan you don’t mind if referees are consistent, even if it’s consistently crap, but soon the officials had ignored two other high shots from Wakey which seemed worse than Gareth’s offence (not to mention a straight right’ into Fash’s face and a real decapitator tackle on Griffin). These all, by Mr Moore’s early actions, warranted at least another ten-minute spell in the sin bin.

Playing busted and now short-handed without the influential Ellis, it was all down to seeing out the next ten minutes! Sadly, we conceded almost immediately when they made their way up the field through a barnstorming run from Kyle Wood before the nuisance that is Fafita managed to release a ball in a three man tackle before fast hands saw us run out of tacklers and Max Jowitt cruise in.

It didn’t look good at all but as we all watched the clock tick down, but Sneyd took charge and managed the rest of Ellis’s absence well. In fact, once Gareth was back (and despite the size of the Wildcats 6), we started winning the battle for the middle of the pitch as assisted by Scott Taylor, Micky Paea and Masi Matongo we consistently bashed our way up field. It was the leg pumping runs of Tag that at last got a reward when Danny Kirmond was penalised for attempting to slow his play the ball down and Sneyd kicked the penalty to put us back in the lead.

Again, we rumbled up the field with quick play the balls and some astute distribution from Houghton that encouraged some great running from Josh Griffin and Tumavive. Sika Manu was held up close to the line before young Connor Wynne, who was doing really well again, got over for his third try in as many games, as he dummied left and ran over would be tacklers from acting half.

Back came Wakefield and a couple of fortuitous penalties saw them deep in our half where, after three sets of six, they grabbed a second try as Justin Horo touched down Wood’s kick. It was nip and tuck in a game that was error strewn but developing into a real arm wrestle. At half time we led 14-10 and on the terraces we all wondered just how the second half would pan out after a first 40 minutes which had certainly showcased our hero’s tenacity and seen us dig deep to keep our fancied visitors at bay.

The second half started with us on the front foot and only a slip by Connor in the left hand corner saw us robbed of another score. That all came from a great kick from Griffin who was covering himself in glory with some great play both out wide and in the middle. However, the refereeing was just awful as we saw constant Wakefield shepherding and a plethora of forward passes go unpunished and don’t get me on Mr Moore’s mystifying view on obstruction for it had us all, on and off the field, totally baffled!!!

However, we battled on and Connor had to be on his guard as he pulled off a great tackle at the other end to deny Ben Jones-Bishop touching down in the corner. Immediately Jake sent Griffin careering down field to set up a position where after a superbly timed flat pass from Kelly, Westerman, who had run a terrific line, had the strength and power to bundle his way over the whitewash. Soon after that Albo was at it again as, held up over the line, he released an almost impossible off load and there was Westy to crash in for his second. 

We were all but home when broken play down-field saw Jowitt adding a second try late in the game, but it proved nothing more than a consolation for the visitors, as Sneyd converted a late penalty and somehow we had scrapped and scraped our way to what was a great win on paper, all be it perhaps not so convincing on grass!! But those were certainly two huge points in our race for the play off places.

Amidst flagging energy and more injuries everyone had a go and we battled and strained our way to the points, but as I said in starting this week’s Diary it was hardly champagne stuff. Taylor, Griffin, Matongo, Ellis, Paea and Manu were massive in the hard yard’s department and Sneyd, Kelly (who was with Taylor, my man of the match) and Connor did the rest with ball in hand. Our defence was much improved as we came out the best of two pretty bashed up and knackered teams. We finished with Hadley and Carlos off, Kelly playing with one arm and Logan and Sneyd both on one leg. It was again quite brutal!

Standing back from it all, it was without doubt a typical week after Easter match. Both sides looked mentally lacking at times as both ran down blind alleys and made unnecessary mistakes. However, it was the FC who got home and for the second week running I should praise Lee Radford for his tactics and game plan on the day, for down the middle we beat Wakefield at their own game.

As you know I don’t like discussing referee’s much but this week it was pretty impossible not to notice just how crap Mr Moore was. In the end I think that we just about managed this better than Wakefield and even realised in the second half that you could pass the ball as far forward as you liked and still get away with it!

The one thing that I think becomes apparent from this game and the Catalan and Rovers ones, (which again is a plus point for our coaching set up), is that whatever else we are not, then we are fitter than a lot of teams and that’s proving a big plus for us as injuries abound across the competition.  

I ain’t gonna dwell on the Saints debacle, because after that wonderful Derby and our record breaking victory, we were completely outplayed, out classed and particularly out-enthused by what is at present, the best team in the British game. They had played Wigan after we’d beaten Rovers on Good Friday so the turn-around was just the same for both teams, but you certainly wouldn’t have thought that if you were on the terraces last Monday, for after a good first ten minutes we looked as if we’d played a game the previous bloody evening! They absolutely demolished us. The shame about it for the fans was in the fact that we didn’t have long enough to dwell on and wallow in that mullering of the Dobbins and too soon the memory had faded and been sunk in the mire of that massive reversal. I’m not making any excuses, because playing wise, there’s simply no mitigating circumstances that spring to mind, it was abysmal and a real affront to all those gallant fans that made the journey.

That said however, for me there is certainly something about the pressure and stress that players feel leading up to that one true Derby in the game and perhaps that reflects on how it affects them afterwards. You see when you step out of the goldfish bowl that is rugby in Hull, it’s so much more than just a ‘Derby’. It’s a battle between two opposing sides of a city and two ‘tribes’ who pretty much hate each other. It’s a conflict that is only resolved when one side is gloriously triumphant; while the other has to suffer weeks of humiliation in the workplace and sometimes even at home.

They try and tell us there are other such match-ups, but there ain’t; not in that sense at least, this is the one true Derby in the British game. It’s another Liverpool v Everton and United v City, it’s a match that fuels the biggest rivalry in our domestic game of Rugby League, for it seems as if a whole City is fizzing and bubbling for the week leading up to it and either hiding, or hunting out the opposition for the next! The banter is rife and the rivalry ….well unrivalled! Who reading this can honestly say they haven’t ever sought out the odd Rovers fan after a good FC victory or shied away from one after a defeat?

With all that going on the anxiety that the burden of these games engenders in the players, must leave them emotionally wrung out and I’m sure that effects what goes on in the days following the game. Even Lee Radford said after Good Friday that he can now go to the petrol station without being harangued. Or he can for a while at least! Danny Houghton hinted at the pressure when he said this week, “Derby Week is draining for everyone at the club – all the promotional work and stuff that goes on behind the scenes for a big match like that takes it out of you, so to reward everyone with a performance and a day out like that is so pleasing”.

Of course that euphoria soon disappeared under the avalanche of points we leaked at The Totally Wicked Stadium, but perhaps indicatively, there were only two blow out scores last Monday and both involved the two Hull teams!

All that said there are no excuses, for it was a shocking capitulation where by three quarter time we were visibly waving the white flag, in a situation that embarrassed even me! You can talk about our aspirations and targets all you like, but we’ll never be a top team whilst that happens on a regular basis and it has; 4 times now in the last 10 months.

Following on from that however, I see that RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer has confirmed that Championship and League 1 clubs could drop a game in the busy Easter period. Many clubs believe the quick-fire fixtures put too much strain on part-time players, with the demands of two games in four days being added to by full-time jobs.

A number of senior players and pundits have spoken out on the Easter period and perhaps it’s time that Super League Clubs do the same. Looking at the high impact game we now promote and the number of injuries teams now have as they go into this weekend’s Round it’s about time we scrapped this ridiculous situation where 4 games can be played in 14 days. The thing is, I’m not convinced that there is anything like the stress placed on the two Hull clubs and their players, in the run up to a game featuring say Warrington and Salford, which is played on the same day, are you?

The Easter Hull Derby is a fine rugby league tradition and we should continue to promote it, it’s as popular as ever and with the reduction in meetings between the two clubs this season, the anticipation was heightened even further and we saw a bigger than usual gate on Good Friday!! However, there’s no reason why the rest of the Round could not be played a game at a time on Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday is there? Everyone would just play one game but TV would then get what they want and the players might just get through the Easter game with the correct rehab and rest before their next match. At present I don’t think it’s a level playing field at all really, but the stress and fatigue that players in the modern game suffer, (particularly at the two Hull clubs), due to this ridiculous procession of games does for me, need to be addressed. That said, I guess that two games in three days is however the same for all 12 teams, but there’s a distinct hangover too, because on Saturday the Wigan v Castleford game was a shambolic display by two teams who were out on their feet! As for our abysmal showing at Saints; well, I think I’ll just move on!  

Hey though, how good it was to see Scott Taylor playing his 100th game for the FC over Easter and what a great time he has had at the Club he adores. This week he said, “Growing up being a fan and watching Hull FC since I was 6 years old in 1997, to have played 100 games for my hometown club is a great achievement, and both me and my family are really proud of that, I’ve still got over four years of unfinished business yet so here’s to the next 100!”. Leading again from the front yesterday, he’s a real Fan, a real Leader, a real Warrior and a great ambassador. If you’re an FC supporter he’s a good bloke too and one that I think will end up a ‘Hall of Famer’ and no mistake!

Now, like no doubt most of you, I was to say the least a bit shocked to read last week that someone was sniffing around on the trail of Jake Connor, a player that had over the past few months made it very clear that he is very happy at our Club. I guess that Leeds interest in Connor was understandable, probably most teams in the Northern and Southern hemisphere would be interested in a player that is fast becoming the hottest property in Super League. However, knowing how settled the player is, few clubs would be arrogant enough to pursue any interest and our club didn’t even feel the Rhino’s enquiry warranted mentioning. But I think that it is something that worried every FC fan and an action that at least deserves a quick looking at in here.  

Remember how, after we signed Jake, we all thought that Huddersfield’s battles to keep him were a bit over the top? Well, they’ve certainly been proved right haven’t they? For he’s a very talented player. Furthermore, Lee’s insistence in getting the player on board despite the Giants protestations, has certainly seen Jakes career blossom even perhaps beyond our coach’s expectations.

It’s hard however to believe that anyone even in the NRL would bid 500k for any player in the British game. It’s an insane amount of money, wherever in the world someone plays!! Plus, in the unlikely scenario that such an amount ever was offered, it’s hard to believe that anyone (including Hull FC) in our cash strapped game, would ever turn it down.

It’s all now blown over nicely, but of course in the end the major issue as far as the long term future of our club is concerned is Connor’s popularity with us lot on the terraces, he’s big mates with all the players and he’s liked by the Coaching staff who all see him as a likeable character. Jake has said on several occasions himself that he loves the atmosphere and camaraderie that exists within a squad which, of course, saw him signing a contract extension to 2021. I expect we will lose him to the NRL one day, but if things continue as they are that will be down to the players ambition rather than to the Clubs need for cash, but until then we should do everything we can as a club to keep Jake.

But we were never ever going to consider such an offer because in the end what could we do with that sort of money besides pocket it? With the cap there is only so much you can spend on salaries and although you could then offer someone else a big fee for a couple of players, even if they agreed (and the dearth of quality in the game would indicate they wouldn’t) what is the point if we have already lost your greatest asset? What sort of message would it send out at a club that has spent years getting it’s fans on board and whose apparent loyalty to those supporters has worked to engender an unprecedented level of involvement off the field, even when times are tough?

Do we need the money though? Well, last week Adam said, “The club is in a robust position, I was made to laugh recently because someone said there was something bad to come out of Hull FC concerning our finances. There’s nothing to come out, we’re extremely financially stable. We’ve turned over the same amount for the last three years and we have good sustainability at a time when there isn’t anyone out there looking to invest millions in Rugby League” Then more worryingly he added, “I’ve been the owner of this club for seven years and not once has anyone been willing to invest at board level”, before he concluded, “We’re very stable here, I have personal guarantees to this club to ensure it’s sustainable. We’re spending as much money as we possibly can while keeping the future of the club secure”.

 So, we aren’t desperate for cash and because of the salary cap it’s hardly like football, where we will go out and buy a couple of new players with the transfer fee anyway, because how do we pay them without busting the cap? Furthermore, the fans would go mad if we sold Jake, whether we re-invested the money or not and although there are so called Marquee players over in the NRL, would any of them really come? And would any who would be willing to move, ever be as good as Jake?

With us lot he might be a ‘prophet in his own land’ but to the rest of the RL world, Connor is our most precious asset at present, but as I said last week, with him such a maverick and ‘taunter’ and Sneyd so structured and ‘managing’ we have two super talented players that we should be trying to build a team around and that’s what makes then both priceless as far as the fans of Hull FC are concerned. As a team with ambition, we have to attempt at least to hang onto our biggest assets and if the club are to continue to build confidence with fans and display their aspirations to the players they hope to retain at the Club, they have to resist any bids for Jake or any of our top players; what’s more to their credit, that’s just what they have done here!!  

However, all that said, I suspect that’s not the only reason that any bid from Leeds for any of our players would have likely been turned down. Let’s not forget the obvious antagonism and dislike that Adam Pearson has for Gary H. and indeed the Hetherington family in general and quite frankly who can blame him for that?

There is I think some history of bad blood between the two Clubs, which harks back a few years to when the Rhino’s assisted by our then coach (their now Assistant Richard Agar) poached Luke Briscoe from the FC Academy. Then there was all the underhandedness that went on before Shaun Briscoe moved to Leeds. On that occasion, you’ll remember, Leeds supremo chief executive Gary Hetherington was accused of lies in the media, after he had said that Leeds didn’t want the player on several occasions, whilst all the time going around to his house waving a massive and very lucrative contract under his nose and all behind Hull FC’s back. Then Leeds signing him on a five-year deal. Pearson was fuming about both instances and said at the time that he would never do business with Hetherington again.

Furthermore, as someone reminded me this week, there was the issue surrounding Willie Manu, when he had moved to St. Helens, and Adam still had to pay £200,000 over to him as a settlement on his former contract with us; something which Gary’s wife Auntie Kath had agreed when signing Manu from Castleford Tigers, but that she’d ‘forgotten to mention’ when Adam bought the club from her in 2011. So I don’t think we will be doing much business at all any time soon with the Rhino’s, do you? Jakes a hero and must remain one at Hull FC as long as it is possible to retain him!

Well after watching an absolute ‘cheetathon’ in the game between Catalan and Castleford last weekend when the Frenchmen continued to play the ball into a player or throw the ball at another desperately trying to get on side to milk a penalty, it seems like the powers that be were watching too and then finally decided to do something. The practise was branded as immoral by Paul Cooke this week and who can disagree with him. A couple of weeks ago I featured this ‘cheating’ and there is little doubt that up to now this season the rucks have been an absolute disgrace. Everyone in the sport has been talking about it and lamenting the situation, whilst Lee Radford and the rest of the senior coaches have reared against it too. In fact, what is going on in the rucks has been described in the same breath as footballers diving to win penalties!

However now the referees have been told to stamp out the practise of stepping over players and playing the ball into them and instead the tackled player has to keep their feet and if necessary, with a defender struggling to get out of the ruck, take a step backwards to play the ball, for now we are told if it is played deliberately into the player it will lead to a penalty being awarded. Any sort of passing at a defending player will also be penalised and putting the ball down on a prone tackler with be adjudged as a knock on. The new rules have started well and so let’s hope in the weeks to come both the players and the officials, take them seriously and it’s an end to the farcical incidents that we’ve witnessed all too many times in 2019.  

Yeterdays display by the officials got me thinking last night and I don’t know if any of you read a side-line in the media two weeks ago about a football team who play in the Lithuanian Second Division whose players walked off the pitch half way through the first half of a League game, because the official was in their opinion, inept! One player even punched the official as he left the field. That got me thinking, as to whether that would ever happen in Super League, where let’s face it on occasions like yesterday, the referee’s do leave a bit to be desired.

Highly unlikely I would say, and yet once in the dim and distant past it almost did happen at the Boulevard in a Cup game, when the referee even attempted to punch a fan!!! This week’s Codgers corner goes back to Tuesday 10th September 1974when I was in my early twenties and to a barmy September evening at the Boulevard. That night we played a Second Round Yorkshire Cup game between the FC and Leeds. I was chatting to Bill Dalton this week about it and its certainly one we all remember even after all these years.

Back then there were three cup competitions as well as the League to play for, although we always seemed to get drawn against the same teams in the knock out tournaments and so there were few surprises for us as the draw was made for the second round of the Yorkshire Cup in 1974 because who should come out of the ‘hat’ against? Yep you guessed it; Leeds as usual. We always seemed to be drawn against the ‘Good time Charlies’ from the West Riding and always gave them a good game, so much so that the RL newspaper at the time the ‘The Rugby Leaguer’ described us as the ‘Loiners’ bogey team.

I watched it from the Best Stand, which was a rarity for me, however precisely why I was not in the usual position in the threepenny Stand escapes me, but the action in my mind’s eye all takes place from there, looking across towards the great old wooden edifice.

The match was played under floodlights at the Boulevard in front of a very respectable attendance of over 4000 people. That was certainly a good gate for that season and I remember my pal Barry commenting that “ …there can’t be too much going on in Hull tonight”. Whilst one wag commented to me before kick-off that, “Perhaps most of this lot thought it was Speedway tonight”

The souvenir programme’s listings reflected Doyle-Davidson’s efforts to build a viable team from scratch, as it included a few youngsters that were the first green shoots of what was to be a great team in the latter years of the decade. It was a game,  many reading this will remember, simply because of the amazing circumstances surrounding it and particularly the referee that night Mr. Lawrenson.

We were a team floundering in the Second Division whilst Leeds had won that same Yorkshire Cup for the past two years and were, as usual, the top club East of the Pennines and ‘dead certs’ to win it again. Their line up back then included familiar names like Langley, Holmes, Syd Hynes, Keith Hepworth (late of Castleford and soon to be of Hull FC), Mike Harrison (ex of Hull FC) and a great flying winger who scored for fun called John Atkinson.

Of course the pundits had us down for a good hiding but we shot into a surprise 7-0 lead in the first half hour, however it was just before half time when the whole thing kicked off. Hepworth tackled our captain, the usually mild mannered Brian Hancock, bending his leg to the side in the process and much to the delight of the fans a fist fight involving at least six players from each side immediately broke out around the tackle. For some unknown reason, Referee ‘Loppy’ Lawrenson sent Hancock straight off the field, for what was the player’s first ever dismissal. He had obviously been set upon first and as he started the long walk back to the dressing rooms his Hull FC team mates crowded around the official to object. Never backward at coming forward in such situations Len Casey must have said a bit too much, because off he went too, as the referee again pointed to the dressing rooms.

Our blind side prop forward that day ‘Big’ Jim Macklin, who never displayed that much patience in such situations, had by this time clearly had enough! The fiery front rower motioned to the players and pointed to the tunnel as the majority of those left on the field started to trudge defiantly towards the dressing rooms. Now this was a real surprise for the fans who had never ever contemplated seeing players walking from the field in protest. It was simply unheard of and we were all stood in absolute amazement before, in response to their actions, deafening cheers encircle the ground.

The official, who clearly had no idea what to do next, (nothing new there then) told Leeds to ignore our players and get on with the penalty on his own 25-yard line, Syd Hynes tapped the ball and set off jogging down the pitch towards the Airlie Street end, taunting the Threepennies, who had given him stick all night, with a wide grin on his face as he went.

Alf Macklin, Jim’s brother who was stuck out on the wing in front of the best stand and not joined the walk off, shouted to the lads and pointed across at the Leeds player, whilst clearly exclaiming, ‘F*cking get Him’ a call that was taken up immediately around the terracing. Our players turned around, and in a fit of rage ran back across the field as Hynes, still looking the other way, arrogantly jogged towards the line, goading the FC fans as he went. Then Jim Macklin and Don Robson sunk the un-expecting Leeds man with one of the biggest side on crash tackles I’d ever seen!!

The referee had by now completely lost control and as the FC players raced to take up their places in the line three more massive tackles followed and Leeds dropped the ball in the last as the opposition were somehow kept out! Led by Jim and Don the Hull 11 systematically roughed up the whole of the Leeds team and the game continued to the break in a white hot atmosphere where penalties followed punch up’s and head high tackles were everywhere. As the whistle went the eleven players of Hull FC, playing like men possessed, had somehow managed to tough it out and keep the marauding Leeds forwards from scoring any points.

However, the excitement was not over yet!!! After the referee had blown the whistle for half time with tensions still running high and the opposing players jostling each other as they walked off, a Hull fan, obviously enraged by the earlier dismissals, vaulted the hooped top fencing in front of the terracing at the Airlie Street end and ran towards the match official. Spotting this, referee Lawrenson, who was a bit renowned for fancying himself a bit, turned and set off toward the supporter, fists up to confront him head on! It was all happening, and the crowd roared their approval as two policemen, losing their helmets as they went, ran on the pitch to rugby tackled the fan, whilst Chris Davidson, our scrum half, held back the referee and escorted him off the pitch. That was a real reversal of roles because with Chris it was usually the other way around and he’d been in the thick of the ‘contact stuff’ just a minute earlier!! This unique occurrence was something that was not lost on the crowd who cheered it all and were buzzing throughout the half time interval as they taunted the knot of Leeds fans stood on the terracing under the scoreboard at the Gordon Street end.

If the first half was pure circus, then, no doubt after a rousing half time interjection from the Doyle, the second half was possibly one of the best displays of ‘backs to the wall’ rugby I have seen on any field of play anywhere in my lifetime. Gone was a lot of the thuggery, to be replaced by some stoic hard hitting defence which was for the most part legal!! The crowd, who had come along to watch an anticipated drubbing, took a big part in it all and were treated to the best dogged, gutsy exhibition of Rugby League most of them had seen.

The “flash” Leeds team had obviously had a half time ear bashing and immediately ripped into the 11 men of Hull from the kick off, but the home defences covered for each other came up as one and somehow stayed intact and then when a frustrated Mick Harrison lamped Alf Macklin, Davidson kicked a penalty and then a drop goal, (the first ever one-point drop scored by the Club) to move the score line to 10-0; what we were witnessing was almost impossible to believe.

Although Syd Hynes was surprisingly quiet, Leeds numerical superiority brought them two quick tries, as they threw the ball around and after 60 minutes they were trailing by just 2 points at 10-8. For the last 10 minutes they bombarded our line, but somehow we held out! In those days of unlimited substitution our coach constantly rang the changes, so many times in the last fifteen minutes that according to the notes I took that day, the referee stopped the game on a couple of occasions just to count how many players we actually had on the field. I’ve witnessed some great gritty and passionate performances since, notably winning at Castleford again with 11 men in the early 80’s, but no display against adversity was greater and yet more unique than that one!

Bill Dalton (the Clubs historian) and font of all FC knowledge reminded me this week that Jim Macklin is still a real character and was recently a pall bearer at the great Terry Devonshire’s funeral. He commented that at the time of this game Jim had just returned to the Club to see out his career after a short spell at Bradford Northern and a longer one at York, where he’d joined quite a few ex FC players at Wiggington Road.

Looking at the record books for that year Leeds were the first ever winners of the First Division Premiership title! That was a convoluted plan where the 12 First Division teams were joined by Second Division outfits in a play-off format that only lasted one year. But I bet Leeds, their fans, Syd Hynes and indeed some of you reading this remembered that September night at the Boulevard for a long time afterwards, because it was simply unbelievable.

So it was a hard fought, hard earned and in the end a satisfying win against the Wildcats, in a game that is always a tough one coming as it does straight after Easter. We’ll have to wait on the injuries but you do wonder just who will be fit for this weekend don’t you? Still Friday is another day and Catalan got a real seeing to at Saints, so it’s a massive chance to consolidate our position at the expense of another of our closest rivals. For me, with all the injuries, blow out scores, fine victories and strange outcomes, the season so far is best described as a strange one. It doesn’t seem to have either settled down or shown much direction, yet after 13 games we have 16 points and any of us would have taken that back in February. I guess that either our battling qualities are in general getting us by or the RL gods are shining on us a tad; I’ll leave you to decided which!  Perhaps it’s a bit of both!

Thanks as always for all your support and to all those who stopped for a chat before and during the game yesterday. Let’s hope we can just do it again on Friday, before we have a full week off and THAT Cup game!!

See you all next week and Keep Believing!!!

Faithfully Yours

Wilf