The Dentist’s Diary – 634th

That was Absolutely Sensational!!!

Could you believe some of that rugby … because I couldn’t!!!

For a bloke who is 69 this week, I find that you get to a point when you don’t believe that anything can surprise you anymore. But, in the life of a sports fan there are very occasionally, times when you are just lost for words, when your team is just so good that is hard to believe that (in this case), it’s the same group of players that got absolutely mullered at home by Warrington not so long ago. The fact is I think, that when this team really has their ‘heads on’ and move the ball around they are nothing short of glorious to watch.

Griffin, who was named in the pack, played a traditional wide running second rowers role and was almost unplayable and a real back-row forward for the future. Connor when he injected himself into the game was mesmerising and in Ratu, who we were reminded is eligible for GB, we have a finisher as good as anything you will see in this country. His try, which was recorded as a 105-meter effort, was just amazing. [PA1] 

But on the day it was another real team effort, Sneyd again controlled things and kicked impeccably both from the Tee and in play, while up front we took on and eventually overcame one of the biggest packs in the competition. Taylor, Green, Manu, Paea and the visibly improving Bowden worked so hard down the middle, Houghton provided the service and Griffin, Savelio and Westerman just ground it out!! By the end, the much vaunted and pretty hefty Catalan pack were visibly blowing for a tug!!

It was a game that under the circumstances (the heat, the travel and the opposition smarting from that London reversal last week) was a big ask for the FC, but a great chance to go 4 points clear in third, 6 points clear of 6th and put a massive 12 points between us and the relegation place held by the hapless Dobbins at the bottom. I doubted we could do it, because usually in such situation Hull FC just don’t do it, but we took that big chance, in quite ‘un-Hull like fashion.

I say that because for a team that have been so unpredictable, to the point of being down right inconsistent, we just went out and carried it all on from that second half at Castleford and with the confidence flowing, we at last strung two quite unbelievable halves together, in what was at times a breath taking win.

I guess when you looked at it objectively, in the light of Thursday and Fridays results this was a game that it would have been nice to win. However, if we hadn’t, we would slip further behind Warrington, but providing we showed some fight, determination and consistency, then it was one that made little difference to our position as far as keeping well away from the dog fight at the bottom was concerned. You know my views on the importance of that one, but for those who think we have a realistic chance of catching the top two, then this game took on ‘must win’ proportions. So, I sat back to watch a game that I’d like to win but one that I could get over being defeated in, if I had to. Such was the thin veneer of my confidence after such an up and down season in which I hoped we had turned a corner, but just wasn’t sure about it!! Flying there and back in a day, no doubt with the Derby in mind, was a risk, but it worked last time and indeed it was to again.

However, this Catalans team would, we knew, have been stinging from a tongue lashing from both McNamara and their owner and as such for them, a win to get ‘back on the horse’ in front of their demanding fans, was an absolute imperative.

The Club released pictures of the boys having a leisurely stretch and acclimatisation session two hours before kick-off, but all that travelling and some players leaving home at 6-00am to make the plane, must have put a strain on everyone. However, one thing was for sure and that was the fact that we had taken our support over there again in numbers and by kick off around 2000 FC fans were certainly in party mood. Of course all of us watching would (as we all have for months) have been ruminating on the question of, “Which FC will turn up to play today??”

It was 27 degrees at pitch side and very humid as well! But Catalan started as we all knew they would, with power and at 100 miles an hour. They pinned us on our line and restricted our yardage after the first set. However, we got out of jail after a wonderfully flighted Matty Smith kick saw a knock back go into touch. Then at the other end, as we tried to build some pressure, we were unlucky to see a good kick from Sneyd just run dead. So we faced a 7 tackle set just when we didn’t need one. We got pinned back by our line again as the sweat glistened on the brows of our over worked defence, before Ratu chanced his arm and got caught behind our line and an enforced drop out increased the pressure. Then just as we got the ball back, Griffin lost it in the tackle and a short kick near the line that ricocheted around like a pin ball machine, inevitably saw Tomkins get in. After just 8 minutes we were certainly under the cosh in the heat and all that tackling was quickly taking petrol out of our tank.

At 6-0 it didn’t look good at all. Connor almost got Shaul away but the ball went to ground, before a brilliant passing movement saw Kelly get Connor running at the line and he slipped a magician like pass behind his back to Ratu, who returned the ball to the supporting Kelly who sliced through to spin over the line. After 15 minutes we were level and what a try it was. Then after a second consecutive set, we got a penalty under the sticks as a bit of Catalan petulance started to creep in. As we needed to grab a breather, Sneyd took the two points, for us to lead for the first time.  But the ‘’Rocks and Diamonds’ of the brilliant Kelly saw him well and truly bugger up the re-start and Manu was caught off side more pressure saw us concede a drop out as the heat was sapping our energy again. David Mead went over, fumbled the ball and luckily knocked on, after Catalans had look sharp spreading the ball to their right.

A poor end of set kick by Sneyd went far too far downfield to pressure anyone and as the sweat ran off our player’s chins, we were under pressure again! Then when we needed a lift a brilliant defensive effort, with Kelly and Connor heavily involved, took Williami into touch and at last we got the ball back. More brillinat play from Kelly running across the line saw his short basket-ball lob brilliantly put Westerman in and at that point although the oppositions forwards were full of grunt, it was our attacking expansive rugby that was getting us through; we couldn’t mix it with their forward’s but out wide we looked to be cutting them to shreds. However, a pretty dubious ‘back to one’ gave them field position and Tierney was in to keep the home team in touch.

It was no doubt a good game to watch for the neutral, but I mused on the fact that at least we had turned up and were giving the ball plenty of air. Griffin gave away a stupid penalty for holding on and the pressure was on again, but we got a seven tackle set as the end of set kick rolled dead and a great stretching effort from Andre Savelio got us a really handy 4 points. with what was his first touch of the ball. With the wind visibly going from the Catalans sails, Bowden drove through really well and Savelio beat three defenders from acting half to stretch an arm out and score. There then came a sensational try for us, as Griffin started it and finished it off with some superb play, as in between Faraimo and Sneyd exchanged passes before Griffin concluded the play in sensational fashion. So at half time we went in leading 26-10 and most fans felt that although it wasn’t enough, if we kept going and our energy held out, we could perhaps just prevail in the sun!

It was a great 40 minutes in which we had turned it around and shown as much enterprise as we did at in the second half at Castleford, which proved that form certainly wasn’t a flash in the pan. A great end of set kick saw Tierney drop the ball as we started well. Then a hit from the side floored Kelly and he looked in a lot of pain. It was just what we didn’t need, as he gingerly got up and continued, to be substituted ten minutes later. Our game management was superb and typified by a great short kick from Griffin, which trapped the opposition behind their line for the drop out to give us back possession. Griffin was having a blinder and a short break through the line again showed his great acceleration, as he put the supporting Buchanan in, but it all came from a smart bit of acting half play by Houghton who counted up the numbers and found them short on the left.

That was just the start we wanted and the frustration was showing across the Catalans line as they were caught out with a forward pass and then a knock on. With 30 minutes to go we got a bit bogged down, as Westerman was pinged for obstruction and they were at us near our line.

Then Ratu did it again!

Scooping up a ball just inches from his own dead ball line he  evaded two chasing tacklers before crossing his own try line and galloping away for 105 yards, just doing enough to hold off the opposition chasers. At 38-10 we were in command but straight from the kick off, Paea lost the ball in the tackle and we were under a bit of quite unnecessary pressure.

Back down field we went and a great piece of persistency from Griffin on the right saw him gallop in and that was shortly afterwards followed by a superb swerving effort by Shaul who capitalised on a knackered Catalan defence as he turned their floundering line inside out and sped away. And that was that. With 8 or 9 minutes to go we started to look a tad jaded, but managed the game well and Yaha was denied twice with great crash tackles by Ratu, who had had pretty incredible game. Sneyd even got a bit slap dash as he kicked straight out on the third, but who cared, as the hooter went and ‘Old Faithful’ echoed around the Stadium. We had nilled them in the second half, in 27 degrees, on their own soil and done it whilst flying out there (and back) in a day!!!

No one can ever predict what will happen with Hull FC at the best of times so forecasting what will happen in the next 10 games is almost impossible. However, when they move the ball about this FC team is something special and we were much too hot for the hapless Dragons, who after leading in the first half were literally just blown away by the end. The injury to Albo is a worry because he is often the link to getting play moving but, Lee says its precautionary and so we’ll just have to see about that one.

It would certainly be wrong to single out any players because no one did anything but excel in the Mediterranean sunshine. As for my man of the match well, for me, it had to be a tie between Ratu and Griffin, for both put in massive shifts. All in all it was a great, great win!!

So to the week gone by and on Wednesday it was the moment that we sort of had it confirmed that Marc Minichiello would be retiring at the end of the season. It is something we had all expected but although pushing 38 the most dedicated and consummate trainer at the Club did admit that physically he could probably go around again, although mentally he was struggling a bit. He said, “Only you know when it’s your time as a player and so as the weeks go by, we’ll see what happens. But mentally more than anything the family and I are ready to head back to start a new chapter. That decision is coming soon! We are a squad desperate to do something special, so if we perform consistently from now on in, we can do something”.

One off 400 odd games eh? What a career he has had and after 5 seasons with us lot, he’s certainly a hero and one that I will remember for a long, long time. He’s a player that is always there or there about’s and who can, at times, go a bit under the radar, but in the rough and tumble of modern rugby and the wear and tear that the grind of the modern day second row forward has to endure, that’s some record!!!

Gone are the days when 11’s and 12’s stood wide out having a chat with the centres waiting for a wide ball shift from the melee in the middle of the field to stretch their legs a bit. These days one minute they are expected to be making those play out there and the next we are looking for them to act as extra prop forwards in the grind of the middle. It’s a hard, hard position to play in and in Marc over the last five years we have watched one of the best exponents of it that we’ve seen at the Club for years.

These days sometimes his legs are going slower than his brain (and at his age why not??), he gets bashed, but he gets up smiles and gets on with it. Off the field he is a real gentleman who always has a word for everyone and all the guys at the gym who regularly talk to him say how he’s always got a lot of time for the fans and how, even now, he’s still really enthusiastic for the cause. So, as well as being a great player, he gets it as well!!

However, a word of caution comes when such a self-disciplined, consummate professional still points to his main vulnerability being his mental state, in that he finds the challenge of ‘constantly having to ‘get up’ for games at times tough to handle. That says a lot for how the game has changed as well. He’s a strong, level headed character who lead by example but if he’s feeling it, you can see how it affects others who are perhaps not so mentally equipped to take the strain can’t you? At least he’s honest about it, but then again Mini always would be.

He’s a top bloke who has influenced and set an example for a lot of youngsters to follow. In fact, with his detailed approach to how he lives, prepares himself for games and what he eats, he has a life style that makes him a real role model for every up and coming player in the game. 

So, we are seeing a possible end of an era here, all be it a short one, for I think that in years to come, when others much better qualified than me, write the books and do their own Codgers spots in future blogs, he will be remembered as the hero of a special era at the club; although at present as always we take a lot of what he does for granted. Believe me, whoever we sign in Marks place, what he brings as a role model and if you like ‘life coach’ for the rest of the team will be almost impossible to replace and we’ll miss him.

Thursday was in fcat a bumper day for FC stories in the Mail, as besides announcing his team for France, Lee was also quizzed on when our injured players Ellis and Tumavive would be returning, whether we were really after Fonua and whether we were signing Tevita Satae who is another player the Hull Daily Mail feel sure we have already captured. We learned I think that we are relying on having a fit and well Ellis back in time for the end of season run in and more importantly that Cup semi-final. We are certainly wary of bringing him back too soon as he continues to get reaction from his healing Achilles and so at present he won’t be risked. On the other hand, we found out as well that Tumavive, who was struggling with exactly the same issue, has stopped getting any swelling after training and should be back next week. Good news indeed, as our team which seems well stacked with backs, (despite appearing to sign and look at some more), looks even stronger.

As for Fonua, well he’s a great player and a fans favourite, but it has to be right if he comes back and with us already having signed Swift, with Ratu still top of most fans wish list for the 2020 season, Dawson-Jones recovering well and Fairamo wanting to stay, but not apparently signed up yet, it seems that we already have a surfeit of wingers. It did cross my mind that perhaps Radford, who has confessed to being close to Fonua, has been planning a swoop for him for a while and that’s why Fairamo is currently rumoured to be in limbo. It’s all conjecture of course for we are as they say in a state of flux, but I guess there is no hurry and we are still reported to be talking to three or four forwards, so, before we get concerned about 2020 lets concentrate on this season and wait and see what happens next.

No doubt last week you’ll have seen that great piece in the Hull Daily Mail by Adrian Durham the drive time presenter from Talk Sport, which they included after our amazing victory over Castleford last weekend. In it he extolled the virtues of Lee Radford and the current FC team and indeed their ability to play exciting rugby. I was so impressed by his rationale and thinking, that I dropped him a line to say how much I enjoyed reading such a positive and sensible piece. In the cut and thrust of modern day journalism there are a lot of sharks about, but Adrian is not just a good broadcaster but I’ve found him to be a good bloke as well. When I was writing ‘2017 The Year of the Airlie Bird’ he heard about it, took an interest and contacted me to ask how it was going. He had just published the Paul Cooke book and we got to exchanging regular E mails.

He absolutely loves Hull FC and has done so for years. Once my book was out, he talked about it on the national sports station and gave me loads of help supporting on-line sales and getting the word out about it. He reads the Diary as well and he commented to me that his thoughts on seeing Lee and Andy Last’s animated celebration of that try by Albert Kelly at the Jungle last week, were exactly the same as mine, which was kind of him. Nice bloke and a sincere guy as well, if you get the chance to listen to his Drive Time show on Talk Sport Radio, do so, it’s a good listen from a real FC fan.    

Well I guess it’s safe to say that although in the twilight of his career, Mickey Paea has had possibly his best season at Hull FC and you would think that even ay 33 we would be considered for a one-year deal for next season. Micky is one of the most amiable of RL players and a real gentle giant, but his form this year and particularly his very impressive yards in contact, have really made him popular with the fans. However, it would appear that although Micky feels he has another year in him, it won’t be at Hull FC. Well, that’s what I have gleaned anyway. I stress this is only ‘second hand’, but he is reported to have told several different people that he discovered last weekend that he wouldn’t be retained and that he was looking to move to another Super League Club to play out a final year in this country. As I say ‘Second hand news’ but perhaps an indication of some new props arriving? However, if that is the case you can’t fault his effort can you?  

We have to trust our administration to know what they are doing and let’s face it, they know who is coming in and coming through the ranks and see a much bigger picture than we will ever do. I like Micky as a bloke and although last season was not a good one for him, this year he has been a revelation. If he is to leave then I wish him luck, but as with all rumours at this time of the year, we have to take them with a pinch of salt until that is, they become fact.

For me it seems that the Hull Daily Mail, usually so reliable on the rumour front has been a bit wobbly of late, just look at Joel Thompson who was according to the local paper all but signed up for us, to where we are now, with them saying in passing that he isn’t coming. Then there is the on-going saga of Fairamo’s new contract. The Hull Daily Mail announced two weeks ago that he had definitely signed a new deal, but as far as the Club is concerned, we have heard absolutely nothing! In fact, the player is reported to have said to someone I trust implicitly, “If that’s the case I wish someone would tell me’.

Now we have Mahe Fonua rumoured to be coming back which is something that has been about on message boards for a while. You know from last week and my reference to Billy Joel what I think about players coming back, but this one is strange, because at this time in our rebuilding process, why would we want another back, particularly one that I think is best on the wing? Mahe would certainly be Box Office and sell a shed load of season tickets, (which is why, no doubt, the Club are looking at it) but for me, we have already got Swift, Dawson-Jones, Ratu and depending on who you believe, perhaps Faraimo as well, AND ….we need some forwards. But, are we definitely not signing Faraimo and is keeping Ratu proving too difficult to pull off, with pressure from both the Army and Rugby Union? There are more questions than answers at present and that is something that has been muddied by the ruminations in the Mail.

It is that time of year and I guess although we all like the speculation, in effect until the Club have announced anything, we are better off holding our water a bit!! That said, it’s important that no one is just making it up for effect and a good story because that helps no one! Current players form is dependent on a lot of things and being disrupted by press and fans speculation can certainly be unsettling, we are a strong community as a team at present and we have to keep it that way.

As clubs are starting to scramble around to find new players for the relegation run in, something that did fly under the radar a bit this week was the fact that the Rugby Football League and its member clubs have agreed to change the transfer deadline day. The changes to the competition structure for 2019 have instigated a number of changes to signings and registration deadlines. The cut-off date for signing players for the season, (when the deadline was July 27 to cornice with the end of the regular season last year), will now revert to Friday, 9th August 9 across all three Leagues. At that stage there will be only be four rounds of the regular season remaining in the Championship and League One, and five in Super League.

The cut-off for dual registration will follow on Monday, August 12. After that point, players will only be eligible to move between two clubs if they have already made four appearances on dual-registration. If not, they would be able to play either for their parent club, or to move on loan for the rest of the season to their dual-registration club – but not both. The third change, and the one that will take effect first, is the signing deadline for the Challenge Cup and the 1895 Cup. For both competitions, that deadline will be Friday July 19, eight days before the semi-finals and nine before the 1895 Cup semi-finals.

So, what about that upcoming semi eh? Despite everyone trying their best to focus on the League and with over a month to go, it still seems that our obsession with that game at Bolton is at the back of everyone’s minds. So this week, let’s have a closer look at another great semi-final played in Lancashire and not a million miles away from Bolton.

On Saturday 29th March 1980 around 12,000 of the FC Army made the journey over the Pennines to Station Road Swinton to watch us play Widnes in a Cup semi-final that few of the pundits thought we could win. For us the prize was a history making game at Wembley against the Dobbins, who had got through to the final the previous weekend. It was a game filled with expectation, but one to which I did not travel as usual with the Half Way bus, but instead, so that I could go and see Dad after the game at Castle Hill Hospital, we went by car.

The build up to the match was marred by the loss of two of our best players late in the day. Stand-off John Newlove and Winger Paul Prendeville had been injured the previous week in a 20-4 victory over Workington at the Boulevard, and the back room staff had been working all week to get them fit.  It was thought that Prendeville at least would make it, but he failed a fitness test the night before the game. This meant that our Full Back, famous hard man and talismanic leader Paul Woods, had to switch from his usual position, to fill in and so at the last minute, George Robinson, local hero, ex ball boy and ’100% Black and Whiter’ was called up. It’s funny what you remember, and I recall talking after the game with George when I bumped into him in Littlewoods the following week. I remember him saying, ‘I was at home watching the Muppet show  when Peter Darley (our Secretary back then) came round and told me I had to be at the team’s training camp at Mottram Hall in two hours’.

Arthur Bunting had decided that the only way to beat the ‘Cup hardened’, flamboyant Widnes outfit was to crowd the middle of the park and stop them from playing. Of course we did not know this was to be our tactics as we arrived at the great old ground of Station Road. The stadium had for years been Manchester’s RL answer to Old Trafford and had seen numerous prestigious games played there. However, the demise of Swinton as a force in rugby league and difficult financial times for the game itself, meant that it was quickly falling into disuse and the crumbling terraces and antiquated turnstiles that met us that day were a sad, if not accurate, reflection on the state of the game in most parts of the North, away that was, from Humberside.

The place had several areas of terracing that could not be used and with almost 19,000 in attendance, the rest of the ground was packed, with one famous photograph even showing FC fans having to climb the flood light pylons to gain a better view of the match. We positioned ourselves at one end on the open terracing towards the corner, as the ’Bunting Plan’ was implemented straight from the kick off.

It was one of the most stunning displays of power rugby I have ever seen, and when the Widnes team got a bit of space and tried to used the wind that was, in the first half, at their backs, it was ‘Muppets fan’ George Robinson that was fielding the towering kicks of Mick Adams and Mick Burke, as if he were a fixture in the team. The first half was a real arm wrestle as Hull hustled and smothered a Widnes team that was famous for its open flowing rugby. In the first period Widnes’s defence stood tall as it repelled wave after wave of FC counter-attack. They used the strong blustery wind to great effect and put us under periods of sustained pressure, but we swept back at them with Wileman and Norton a constant thorn in their side.

It was an accolade to the FC defence that during the entire game Widnes only got within 5 yard of our line three times, on one occasion they scored and on the other two they were thwarted by Steve Norton hammering Les Gormley as he went for glory, and Ronnie Wileman pulling off what turned out to be a match winning tackle on Brian Hogan. After all their pressure in the first half Widnes finally broke our line and Gormley scored that try despite the attentions of George Robinson clinging to his back, before a Burke conversion saw the much fancied ’Chemics’ go in 5-0 up at half time.

The second half was all Hull though. With the wind behind us we laid siege to their line and on one occasion it took 17 tackles for the Widnes lads to get out of their own 25, even then, on the next play, they were pushed back again to the resounding cheers of the FC Faithful. In that second half we got just the start we needed though, as Norton passed onto Walters who first went outside, then in, to open up space for his winger Graham Bray to fly in at the corner, right in front of us. Sammy Lloyd missed the goal and as Widnes tried to come back, Bowden broke down the left, but that Wileman tackle on Hogan just saved a certain try. The Widnes player was grounded and then penalised for making a double movement, as he strained to get over the line. From then on it was all Hull. Firstly, Woods hoisted a massive kick, which was caught in the wind and looked to have gone too far, but Paul was blatantly obstructed as he chased the ball, and Lloyd was able to level the scores at 5-5 with the resultant penalty.

Widnes returned to the centre spot to kick off, kicked the ball deep toward Bray, and chased it down. Graham caught the ball and immediately cut inside the approaching Widnes cover. Walters, and then Wilby took up the running, before Dennison raced down the wing, but as he fly kicked forward, he was halted in his tracks by Keith Bentley with a good old fashioned ‘stiff Arm‘, Sammy Lloyd knocked over the resultant penalty, and we were ahead for the first time, 7-5.

With two minutes to go, and our finger nails down to the knuckles, the game was sealed when from nowhere Charlie Birdsall broke the line, to send out a very uncharacteristic pass to Bray who was waiting out wide on the wing. He tracked towards the Widnes defence, before passing inside for Ronnie Wileman to score, again right in front of us. That was another of those ‘remember it forever’ moments, when the action seemed to go into slow motion. The crowd went mad and at 10-5 the game was over. However, there was a bizarre end to the match that most people who were there will always remember.

A sensational final minute, saw Walters and Widnes’s Hughes ordered from the field. Mick Kendall FC’s Physio was treating Walters on the floor after being floored by a late tackle, when up came Hughes to lay a couple of punches on our Physio. This made the prone Walters jump to his feet to retaliate and both players were sent from the field by Referee Fred Lindop. It was a disappointing, if not exciting end to a game that had lived up to all our expectations, and surpassed most of them.

The Fairy Tale that was unfolding saw the massive army of FC fans on the field and celebrating with the players, as once again Arthur Bunting had got his tactics absolutely right. I’ve never ever written about the next Cup game we played that year and believe me I never will!!!!!

You all know by now that as a fan of who has been around the Club from my very early years, I’ve always stated that these days all I want is a Club to support in my dotage and that although Cup’s and semi-finals etc. are all great stuff, the survival of my team is everything for me. Not owning our ground and the vagaries and implications of relegation and how it has impacted on many clubs, like just recently Leigh and Widnes, makes demotion from Super League pretty scary. In that league table, thanks to two great away wins, that is a long way off for us at present, but whether it is the recent successes of the Bronco’s or that seemingly unending run of defeats that we suffered last season, I still find myself looking at the gap between us and the bottom place and wondering? Am I on my own in that?

Perhaps I’m just getting too paranoid, but it does concern me at times. Wakefield, Huddersfield, Rovers and Leeds have all got a lot more to worry about than us, but until mathematically we can’t go down, I have to admit to ruminating a bit about it just the same. I guess I wish I could be more positive and of course, at present I have every reason to be so. However, I guess in the end what I’m thinking just emphasizes that there is too little support for relegated teams, that the gulf between the Championship and the Super League is too great and although everyone likes a bit of jeopardy (as long as it’s not your team that’s suffering from it) the ramifications of relegation on years of team building, youth development and community involvement are devastating for the team that goes down.

At present the infrastructure and set up within the game is too flimsy. With recently relegated clubs Leigh and Widnes both struggling to keep going in the Championship and even Salford in Super League living from hand to mouth as they hemorrhaging their best players to their rivals, we could this year face losing a heartlands team and end up with a Super League competition of 12 Clubs three of which (Toronto, London and Catalans) bring no travelling supporters at all and one (Salford) who bring a bus full!

All that because of the possible demise of a club like Wakefield, Rovers or Leeds, who all travel well. Perhaps me worrying, probably unnecessarily about our prospects, pales into insignificance compared with where the game could end up next season, if it isn’t careful.

But, enough of that for it’s another Derby this week and boy do I hate these games. As always it will be TV for me, but good luck to all of you who are making the trip into ‘The Land that Time Forgot’, they are really going to be fired up for their ‘Cup Final’ and we will have to be on our metal. One Rovers fan this week told me he would rather beat us than go down, which I guess just emphasizes the mentality of it all.   

If I’m honest with such a short turnaround and after 80 minutes played in energy sapping heat against probably the most physical side in the comp, it could, with such a short turnaround, prove a great leveler. We have secured the use of a cryogenic chamber to help recovery again, but I have a nagging suspicion that perhaps Rovers will prevail in this one, simply because they might just be more rested and need the win a bit more than we do.

With their precarious league position, they’ll throw the kitchen sink at us and with us perhaps missing Kelly, it might prove hard going. However, I’m ever hopeful and I’d love to be proved wrong and if we can gel again as far as that expansive rugby is concerned, I believe I probably will be. None the less, seeing all that sweat running off our guys chins over in France certainly made me wonder a bit. It’s a Derby and we’ll fight and fight and I’ll love it if we do win, but if we don’t, at least little, League wise, will change in the short term at least. Thankfully it’s the last bloody one for this season and the sooner it’s over the better it will be for me!!

However, for now let’s just spend a couple of days watching those tries back again and marveling in what was nothing short of a super human effort in the heat of Southern France. Well done to everyone who went and who were in turn so richly rewarded with a game that is still quite unbelievable to look back on. Thanks as well to everyone who has been in touch for these are good times to be an FC fan. Enjoy the moment and as for Thursday, well let’s all worry about that tomorrow eh?

I’ll leave the last word to Lee, who said, of getting the boys up again for the Derby, “We’ll go to Bridlington to recover on Monday, the boys will have a donkey ride and I’ll be in the chip shop!”.

Keep Believing and enjoy the moment!

Faithfully Yours

Wilf