The Dentist’s Diary – 657th

“It’s a Derby and I’d much rather Win Ugly than lose Pretty!!!!”

On Friday It was always going to be tough playing against a team relishing their under-dog status and running on a wave of adversity inspired passion. 

The game was no doubt hard to play in and it was certainly, at times, excruciating to watch, but we have got four points from our first two games including a win against the old enemy, we produced some well-constructed tries and really dug deep at times and all that after a deal of adversity in the build-up. In addition, two players that were called on to play, hadn’t had a minute of competitive rugby of any type thus far this season! So, it was a pretty pleasing display! 

You have to admit that on Friday night, it was a brilliant atmosphere and a great showcase for the game of Rugby League. No monotonous mind-numbing drums, no bloody screeching trumpets, just tons of passion, anxiety and excitement and for all ages and inclinations, the sort of occasion that our game really needs!! It was a case of flags for the kids, big hearts for the players and sedatives for the rest of us!!

I hate Derby’s!! But you know that anyway! Yet the 236th one was a great event and for the neutral a smashing showcase for everything that is good about Rugby League!! But for me, as I squirmed and stressed my way through another 80 minutes that seemed like 800, it was, as they always are, tough going. In fact I was still catching those kicks aimed at Jamie Shaul, as I lay awake in bed at 2-00am on Saturday morning!!! 

But in the end WE WON, our resilience has come on leaps and bounds over pre-season and you can tell we are now a much more grounded side. In the two previous seasons we have struggled to stay in the arm wrestle in big games, but on Friday despite being below par at times, we showed we’ve found some bottle and ‘the balls’ that could take us a long way this year. 

So, we move on, there are 27 rounds left to go, we squeezed a victory and in the process beat the Dobbins and that, however it comes, is all that really matters. As for me? Well on Saturday tea-time I went out and had a few pints just so I could revel in that wonderful glow that’s has always come after winning a Derby. It’s great that however old you get, there are some things that never change! 

Talking of drinking, I should start by saying that I prepared for the game on Friday by going to collect my prescription; a couple of pints of Doombar from Weatherspoons which I consumed in an attempt, you’ll understand, to calm my nerves a bit!! They are tough games to face and seem to be getting tougher, simply because in the world of the local fan losing a Derby is the harshest thing there is to take. 

Win and you hold whatever is meant by the bragging rights until the next cross City game, lose and it’s so hard and seems like the end of the world …well it does for about 48 hours! The thing is, whether either set of fans like it or not, these games never go with form and after you’ve wintered and summered 64 years of them, as I have, then you know too that no one should brag beforehand about the likely outcome. No matter what the odds are before the game, there is never really a favourite, because as matches go they are simply ‘un-callable’ one-offs. It’s great to win, but you should never shout too loud or too long afterwards either, for you know that it’s very likely your turn to suffer next time!! 

However, all the philosophical stuff aside, on this occasion we did win, we were second best for some of the game and best by far in the final quarter; when it mattered. But we got home and wasn’t it a great feeling when that final hooter went. They were always going to throw caution to the wind and move the ball around in an unstructured way and that sort of desperation, littered as it is with broken play, is the hardest form of attack to defend against. 

We didn’t restrict the yardage like we did at Leeds, we didn’t hurt them like we hurt Leeds, we conceded more points than we did at Leeds and we certainly didn’t look as convincing as we did at Leeds.  

BUT, who cares, after a 5 day turn around and players dropping out and being banned at short notice, we knuckled down, fought for our lives and battled through in a game that was always going to be a titanic encounter. Let’s face it getting points in the bag from wherever at this time of the season is all that matters and if it’s from the Dobbins that’ll doubly do for me! 

Almost 20,000 (I still think it was more than that) witnessed Lee Radford’s 100th win as our Coach and it was a real arm wrestle against a team that showed tons of spirit, a real ability to adapt when things went wrong and a wanting and passion that was hard to overcome. That’s the accolades for that lot over though, because I still detest them and I don’t care how we shut them up, as long as we do!!!! 

Players who come to the Club invariably say after their first such experience that you just can’t imagine how intense and in your face, it all is until you experience it and I guess really that says it all, for it is, after all, the greatest Derby there is in the world. 

The first 5 day turn around is always the hardest, particularly when you have had months to prepare for the previous game. So, it had been a tough week and a short one for the FC with rehab on Monday and Tuesday an hour of training on Wednesday and Captains run on Thursday, whilst Ellis and Ma’u dropped out on Monday, Albo was banned on Thursday and Fairamo withdrew just before the kick-off. Not the best of preparation was it?

I made a few notes as the drama unfolded and so now, here’s how I saw the game. 

We had some early pressure, but I wasn’t convinced at all, as we couldn’t crack a swarming Rovers defence before they struck with their first attack. Livett was lucky to get the decision, as he squirmed over the line, but we were behind and we all just wondered a bit! Rovers tactics were simply to keep us in our own half and with some astute kicking putting Shaul under tremendous pressure and him wobbling a bit, they were certain succeeding with that. 

However, on the back of a Rovers mistake, we at last got to their end and with our first real pressure Sneyd brilliant put Jake Connor in with a peach of a pass that saw our Number 6 cruise through the line to score, on the back of a great dummy run from Savelio. Could we now pull away? Well the answer to that was in the negative, as Rovers continued with their tactics to forced pressure in our twenty before Naulago defused another towering effort from Ellis, only to be bundled into touch. 

The work put in by of the Dobbins tacklers in that passage of play was soon rewarded too, as Quinlan dummied over on the right, Ellis improved and the visitors were back in front 10-6. This, I thought was turning into a scary old night.  As they pressed again a brilliant interception by Josh Jones eased the pressure and we broke back downfield, before the Great Britain back-row earned a penalty that led to a try from a brilliantly angled grubber from Sneyd that saw Danny Houghton mark his return to the team with a much-needed try. 

Marc converted and we were just back in front 12-10 which was how it stayed to half-time. However, there was still time for a great break from Savelio and some good probing by Connor which tested their line. Rovers’ were flagging, but the video referee had to still, quite rightly, rule out a Brierley effort on the hooter. 

At half time, I commented that although we were in front we hadn’t been the best team and it was really only the spirit of our lot and the game management of Sneyd that saw us in the lead. He had created both tries and organised a bit of a dodgy line really well. 

Rovers soon took the lead again after the restart following a good-looking move that saw them keep the ball alive for Crooks to finish off in the corner. I guess for the casual observer, it was all great stuff, but such a see-saw game was purgatory for any FC fan, as at times, no doubt through fatigue and lack of preparation some of our lot looked a bit lost. Meanwhile I was reduced to watching through my fingers as the clock suddenly seemed to be gathering pace when we were behind and stopping when we were in front. 

However, fortune favoured the brave, as an Ellis penalty hit the posts and rebounded straight back to Shaul. At such times you have to grab your luck and turn it to your advantage and we did just that, in quite spectacular fashion. With Rovers seemingly stunned by the miss we soon set up a down field move in which Griffin, who was our top metre maker again, surged clear down the left. He moved effortlessly through their line and held his nerve to find Sneyd in support. Marc took a really high pass brilliant over his head and went in to score and convert as again the lead changed hands. 

Connor had done well in the first half, but faded in the second and all the organisation was now down to Marc Sneyd. He next brilliantly weighted a pass to release Griffin to cruise in and a conversion finally finished the gallant Dobbins off. As they tired they had no answer for some resolute FC defence and a great diving goalkeeper like ‘save’ of a loose ball by Sneyd defused the oppositions last chance of threatening our line.

A late drop goal to waste a bit of time and make Marc the joint highest drop goal scorer ever at the club, rubbed salt in their wounds and heralded the hooter which you can imagine being drowned out by the huge sigh of relief, that circled three sides of the ground. But, we were home with another two precious points and the scalp of the old enemy. First blood in 2020 to the FC!!! Woo Hoo!!!!

In the cold light of Saturday morning I realised that you don’t want to be peaking at this time of the season and on Friday we certainly weren’t, but we did what we had to and got the points. We beat that lot from ‘the Land that Time Forgot’ in what was obviously a massive game for them and we now have a much needed 9-day turnaround, before the Champions are in town next Sunday. With two wins against last season’s basement clubs it’s been satisfactory so far, but that fixture certainly heralds much bigger battle ahead! 

As I say, watching the game back a couple of times, and unlike a lot of the pundits on social media, I felt that Sneyd’s contribution was seminal. However, I also feel that Satae, Sao and Savelio, although not as dynamic as last week, all had big games down the middle and really gave their all. For me the pick of all the backs on the field was Griffin who is really fit and motoring at present. His yards with the ball and those two breaks were for many, the difference. Jones, who is the sort of player that can go under the radar, is going to be massive for us. He fought tooth and nail throughout and as he took some real gas out of the Dobbins defence, he was such a hard player to put down. Houghton, with no game time in the tank at all, did well to last the pace, but so did Johnstone when he came on. I thought that Danny was to be spelled and I believe in future he will be, but the fact that they were spreading the ball wider more and more often, meant that with our tiring forwards, Mint’s mobility was needed in defence. In the end our tactics paid off and we ground the visitors down and although not playing at our best, we showed bags of character. 

As for those who complained about our players celebrating in front of the Dobbins fans, well, I’ll leave that to Marc Sneyd when he said, “I managed to get my first try in Derby rugby and it might sound bizarre but it felt even better doing it in front of their fans. We got a few telling offs for celebrating down that end of the ground, but they give enough to be able to take it. It’s all part of the fun of derbies.” Don’t give it if you can’t take it eh!

Now there are 27 regular rounds still to go, but with one stunning victory and a good gritty fighting derby win under our belts, we have the four points that, when the fixtures came out, I thought we might be lucky to get in the first four games of the season. That’ll do for me and it’s certainly so far so good!!

As for the SMC well, as I said, I thought that there were more than 19,500 there and what’s more we saw again the problems they had when City played Chelsea, as we had to delay the start because the turnstiles were buggered again. After all the money they charge us and the restrictions they put on us, they should get their bloody fingers out. It’s an embarrassment that reflects on us and messes Sky TV around, just at a time when we need as a game to impress them. Furthermore it makes a game that is struggling to improve its image, just look amateurish. It’s certainly not good enough for a stadium that is only 18 years old!!

On a lighter note I said earlier that, in such situations, it doesn’t do to gloat too much with the next round of the local war coming up in the ‘foreign field’ at Easter, but you have some fun and so it was for me on Saturday morning. I have told you before about the two guys who have the card stall in Beverley Market who are red and white barmy and so it was a laugh to shout a quick, “Have you got any ‘So sorry to hear of your loss’ cards mate??” as I passed. They pretended they didn’t hear me, but I suspect they did!! 

So, it was a good weekend for all the FC fans and I hope you made the most of it. The victory wasn’t as convincing as many thought it would be, but as I said last week, so early in the season and with the sentiment and adversity fuelled Dobbins running on passion, it was never ever going to be. But a wins an win, so enjoy it!!

So to other things and it all started so well last week but of course, just when you thought that everything was going swimmingly and admiring our conditioning staff for delivering a squad with a clean bill of health after the first game of the season, along comes the body blow that Manu Ma’u looks set to miss the next month of Super League action after picking up a knee injury. 

The back-rower made his debut for the club last Sunday against Leeds Rhinos and impressed in that emphatic win, but unfortunately he’s strained his MCL ligament, and as such, he missed Friday and is expected to sit out the next three or four weeks of action, meaning he’ll likely miss the St Helens, Wigan Warriors and Catalans Dragons games. To lose your ‘imagination grabbing’ signing before his home debut, is certainly a blow, but one that I’m sure you’ll agree is nothing new for the FC. 

I was also looking forward to see Joe Cator getting a shot at hooker off the bench but he’s also out with ‘a hammy’ he suffered in the build-up to FC’s opening game of the season and is expected to have to wait for up to a month before he’ll be fit again. However, I’m told that Gareth Ellis could be back for next week. Then of course there is Albert Kelly’s two game ban, which I don’t think the club weren’t aware of until lunch time on Thursday, simply because Albert took a full part in Danny Houghton’s first Captains run of the season that morning. 

Talking of Mint, it was good last Friday to have him back in the side and to pass some time during the interminable and scary run up to the Derby I spoke to the great Bill Dalton, so that I could bring you up to date with some of our esteemed hooker’s milestones. When Danny Houghton entered the field on Friday, it was his 350th appearance for Hull FC. He also equalled the all-time Derby Appearance Record. Ned Rogers (1906-1924) played in 32. Danny has 28 + 3 Subs to his name. However, our Club Captain already holds the Record for Consecutive Derbies (28). He also has the distinction of playing in the Derbies which have the three highest scores of all time, 44 Points in 2007, 46 Points in 2015, and 56 Points in 2019. He’s an institution at the Club and although I think like many that the time has come to give him a spell or two during games, he’s still a great servant to the team we all love.

Now, who saw that brilliant interview with Mahe Fonua on Inside Rugby League this week on Sky was just a great, great piece of TV for any FC fan. The much-used expression ‘Gentle Giant’ sprang to mind as the quietly spoken Tongan endeared himself to the viewers immediately. He’s a player who’ll I’m sure will be an all-time legend by he leaves our Club, because he is such a passionate yet measured guy as all the while it shone through what a thoroughly great bloke he is.

His integrity and honesty is certainly apparent, whilst his love of the City and the FC fans is always at the forefront of everything he says. He had you laughing at times and at others his honesty brought a lump to your throat. His gold teeth, his early years, those NRL days, the heartbreak of injuries, coming home to Hull, his children, beating rovers and that now famous banner on the fence, it was all there. It was at times as I say, quite compelling watching and if you didn’t see it you missed a treat. 

Incidentally while I remember, there has been a lot of talk in the past month about the club announcing a mega sponsorship deal with a national company, but although we were told it would materialise before the end of January, we have heard nothing since. However, I mention it because although the place is ‘water tight’ on what it is, I’m expecting an announcement in the next 7-10 days and one thing’s for sure the Club is getting very excited about it. 

Talking as well of happening things, it was good to see that on Friday the match day Programme returned just two years after we were told that the publication was now old hat and impossible to financially sustain. This of course is all down to the quite amazing levels of sponsorship we have seen this year with over 160 partners now signed up to support the club in 2020, one way or the other. It’s also down to us partnering with Ignition sports media who specialise in such publication. I have to say that I was quite impressed by it and its worth a read if you can get hold of a copy! 

Well it looks like my spell checker will be working overtime this year as Andre ‘Saveloy’ looks to be emerging as a real plus for the FC, after what can only be called a disastrous first season last year. 

Against Leeds he was a real revelation and he looked good again on Friday, for as part of a massive pack he brought mobility and shape when we were advancing down the field and had a real nose for an opening. He’s certainly intent on grabbing a starting slot, after joining us in a surprise move mid-season last year. And it’s clear that a great pre-season has certainly benefitted him and I just hope that now he keeps injury free. However, when you look at the skill, size and punch of Ma’u, Jones Taylor, Satae and Sao is certainly complimented by what Savelio brings to the party and he’s at last looking to be another piece of astute business by Lee Radford.  

Rather like Ratu Naulago, he is testament to the fact that Lee Radford is on the lookout for talent all the time and his ingenuity often finds it in the most unlikely places, or in people that most others have written off. That is certainly a massive plus for the FC and it is such imagination and if you like cunning, that can make a massive difference and give any club in a game hidebound by a salary cap and overseas quota restrictions, a real advantage.  

Now, facing a long season in which the luck of the bounce of the ball and indeed injuries are always likely to play their part we have to look to keeping our big forwards, Jones, Ma’u, Ellis and Taylor on the field, but as we have already seen that’s not always possible. So, it could well be that in times of woe the signing of Sao and Satae will prove to be a master stroke. Many Clubs, having the likes of Taylor and Savelio already signed up would have grabbed Jones and Ma’u and hailed it as a coupe and job done, but we went on to add two more lesser known forwards, who our Coach had tracked for two years. 

They went under the radar at both sides of the world but when Adam asked Lee who he wanted for 2020 they were up there near the top of his wish list, just behind the big names that many believed we would struggle to get anyway. In the end however he got every player he wanted. Already known in the squad as the ‘Bash Brothers’ Satae and Sao will I think help to take the focus off the bigger ‘named’ stars and will prove to be an amazing plus for the team. The foresight of seeking out such players and the diligence and resources that were forthcoming to get them signed up, has to be commended. It might just be these two plus Johnstone and Cator, (who I think will have a big part to play as well), that actually eventually makes the difference between a good season and a great one.  

Incidentally whilst we are giving out the accolades, well done to Rovers owner Neil Hudgell for leading the charge with regard to taking on the Catalan Dragons over the appointment of Israel Falou, which of course I wholeheartedly concur with, as you’ll know from what I had to say last week. Whilst Falou is earning around £200,000 for his one-year contract and Catalans don’t seem to care what anyone thinks, I agree that Clubs should look to be compensated if they actually lose revenue following another team in their league trying to gain an unfair advantage by crossing the basic rules of sporting ethics. But, as I said last week, just my thoughts!

I guess that you will have heard that the Clubs held a meeting last Wednesday at Salford to discuss the Falou situation and the Catalans Chairman was requested to attend. Of course, he didn’t turn up and that certainly upset some, but the Clubs still vent their dissatisfaction with the whole situation and confirmed the French team’s pariah status, as far as the rest of the game were concerned. Although, true to their attempts to project a united front, the owners were tight lipped as they left, their thoughts prompted Super League’s executive chairman Robert Elstone to issue the following statement: 

‘Super League has clearly and consistently outlined its position on Israel Falou. The Super League board accepts the legalities around the RFL’s decision to register Israel Folau and the board has voted unanimously to put in place measures that ensure the Super League has greater authority to stop controversial signings such as this in the future. As a sport, we have an impressive and enviable track record when it comes to equality, diversity and inclusion and we will continue our great work in those areas”. 

So, it appears that the Clubs have indeed followed the line I suggested in here last week and superseded the authority of the RFL to put measures in place to ensure Super League has the power to veto such signings in the future. However, in a sport that has always worked hard to come up with the right, ethical and fair answers it should never have happened in the first place. It came out this week as well that The Dragons were told by the Clubs not to do it, but they did it anyway, that stinks really!

It was legally impossible for Super League to stop it this time, but it’s hard to see how an organisation that is ‘in the Club’ can ignore 125 years of a principled, equality-based approach to administrating our game just so they get an unfair advantage over everyone else. The measures now in place ensure that hopefully it will never happen again, but that’s just ‘Closing the stable door’ me thinks, so it’s now over to the fans of the teams that the Catalans visit, I think they might just make the French Club aware of their feelings don’t you??

So, at last we have got a national Coach that is based in this country and one that I believe can do a good job. Shaun Wayne who won three Grand Finals, a Challenge Cup and World Club Challenge during his time at Wigan, will take over and so, above all things, Shaun Wayne is a winner!! 

He is a proven motivator and did a great job at Wigan and so I guess from who is available, he is the ideal choice to lead us into the World Cup. It’s just a pity that it has taken the RFL so long to accept what we all thought was bloody obvious, in that Bennett just didn’t cut it! He didn’t look the part, he didn’t sound the part, he needed to order a truck load of enthusiasm and he was never embraced as a hero by the British fans. 

It’s hard to overstate the importance of the World Cup and as I said last week, how important it is for the British game going forward. Shaun will be full time, whilst Wayne Bennett saw it as a bit of a side line, running alongside his day job in the NRL whilst he was based over there in Australia, which made him divorced from the domestic British game and what was happening within it. Too often British fans scratched their heads as he overlooked bright new British talent, giving preference to journeyman gold diggers, who had left their native game behind to chase the money in Australia. Of course, there is a place for them if they are the best, but not when you bring in someone who is past their best or more likely pick an exile who isn’t fit at the expense of giving a bright new Super League based talent a go, particularly when all we are playing in is some make weight end of season tournament.  

Bennett was always too ‘matter a fact’ and reticent for me, he wasn’t that fussed when we won and dismissed defeats with a shrug of his shoulders. Indeed, talk to players who have played for him and he was seen as divorced and above the group when he should be part of it. I want to see some wanting and some hurt when we lose!! At least Shaun, is widely respected and will be based here in this country, attending games every week and he’ll definitely bring a bit of passion to things. 

The whole advantage of him is encapsulated in what he said when he was appointed which was, “Everyone who knows me knows that I’ve always loved the game of rugby league, and been proud of British Rugby League. I’m looking forward so much to starting work with the outstanding rugby league players we have in this country to do all we can, to win the World Cup next year”

Personally I think that it’s a good move. As an opposing Coach Wane was a bit abrupt and a bit harsh for many at times and he’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but when you look who is available, do we want a part time British International Coach taking it up as a side line to his day job because if Shaun had not been available I don’t honestly think that many top British Coaches would leave their club contracts to work directly for the RFL do you? What’s more I know I wouldn’t want Lee splitting his time between the FC and the International team; no way! 

So, for me a full-time head of international rugby, with a proven track record and a passion for winning is just the ticket as we head for the World Cup and if that’s what you want, who else was available with the sort of credentials Shaun has? Some will point out that he’s not known as an exponent of exciting rugby, but whatever style of rugby Wigan played it was effective and international rugby is about winning. The fact is of course, he is a winner and to him, victory is everything and in what is often sudden death tournament rugby, that’s exactly what you want. 

As a foot note though there will be a couple of Super League Clubs who just might be upset to see this appointment, as I know they had Wane ‘on the back burner’ as they watched how their current Coaches went in this critical year for the game. Let’s just hope that Shaun can do the business and do something that could make the biggest impact on the British game for it would be amazing to go into the next TV deal with England as the World Champions. 

An all-time great was in town last week as Peter Sterling visited the Club and although I’ve featured it before, here from Book Two ‘Going Down the Boulevard’ is my account of one of this fans favourite Sterlo games!

Sir Peter Stirling; Back in Hull an all-time great and one of my top 5 FC players of all time. How he loved being greeted by the fans and being at the game on Friday.

On Saturday 6th April 1985 we played Castleford full of expectation, believing that a trip to Wembley was a formality with Sterling at the helm and that later that afternoon we would all be preparing for another trip to London. However, no one told Castleford and in a dour encounter we ended up drawing 10-10, with Peter Sterling who was truly outstanding for us at scrum half, scoring a brilliant late try to keep us in it. Two Cup Final appearances that season were starting to take their toll and we were in the middle of a really tough fixture ‘pile up’, and so we had to play Barrow in between the two semi-finals where, despite sending a full ‘A’ team, we still managed to draw 12-12. 

So, we were back on the road again the following Wednesday and I was back on it, having decided because of the abject fear and concern I had for the outcome, to break from my now customary car travel and partake of ‘pre drinks’. By 4.00pm we were back in the ‘Three Horseshoes’ on Otley Road, before taking our places on the East Terracing at Headingley in a crowd of over 20,000. There must have been at least 12,000 spectators from Hull, most of whom had learned their lessons from the traffic chaos before the Elland Road Final replay a couple of years previously and set off early. It was certainly turning out to be a season of replays, after a heroic victory at Widnes in the previous round. Castleford had obviously noted the important role that the wonderful Peter Stirling played in the first game and targeted him from the off. 

However, it was Ian Orum, the Cas’ scrum half, and their recent convert from Rugby Union, that literally drew the first blood. Whilst we had started slowly, Castleford had scored an early try, but then Orum took Gary Kemble really late with ‘a coat hanger’ of a ‘stiff arm’ tackle which left the New Zealand International Full-Back severally concussed. The game was stopped for about 4 minutes whilst Gary was carried from the pitch to go on to miss the next four games. With the referee taking no action from the terraces we were ‘baying for blood’ and were not disappointed as, in the very next play, John Muggleton laid out their centre Hyde. It was then the Castleford fans’ turn to go ballistic! 

Then began to unfold one of the most intense and brutal halves of rugby I have ever seen. The Hull players were clearly enraged by the earlier foul by Orum (for which he got four games when it was reviewed by the Rugby League afterwards) and tore into Castleford. Sterling started to dictate the play as Lee Crooks broke their line and passed to Dane O’Hara who raced in just below us for Crooks to convert from the touchline. Four minutes later, with Castleford concentrating on retribution; we were ahead from a great weaving and ducking Peter Sterling try. This prompted Castleford to bring on their secret weapon, Mal Reilly, their veteran Player/Coach. This was only his second game of the season and although he could hardly raise a trot, at the very next scrum he ‘stiff armed’ ‘Sterlo’ as he broke away; the hit was of such force that you could clearly hear the impact echo around the Stadium. The Aussie’s feet left the ground and was left out cold on his back. Smelling salts brought him round before Timpson repeated the treatment a minute later and Sterlo was carried off in a daze. 

Back roared Castleford to equalize through David Rookley who shot through from Full Back to plant the ball between the posts. The conversion was successful and the game was ‘all square’. With no concussion protocols back then, miraculously Sterling returned to the fray ten minutes later as Crooks broke through and sent Muggleton away, he passed to Kevin James who scorched into the corner to score. Next, ‘Man of the Match’ Crooks broke again this time sending Leuluei through, to ‘shimmy’ around the full back and in for another great try, which increased our lead to 22-12. 

It was almost half time, but the ‘action’ wasn’t over yet because after the hooter had sounded the linesman down on the touchline near us spotted a Castleford infringement and walked out with his flag held high. Hull took the penalty which Crooks dispatched into touch. He fell onto the ball after he tapped the restart and was immediately penalised for the very rare offence of a ‘voluntary tackle’ and all hell broke loose. Reilly hoisted a ‘bomb’ which Sterling caught behind the posts as six Castleford players piled in. There followed a massive fight behind the Hull try line which lasted well over two minutes and involved everyone, with the majority of the players openly brawling. Gary Schofield was pinned against the perimeter wall as two Castleford players pummelled him, whilst young Lee Crooks picked on probably the hardest man on the field Malcolm Reilly. The referee stood his ground to separate the teams and he was just happy to get the players off the pitch.

In comparison the second half was a ‘tepid’ affair as Hull’s fine defence restricted Castleford to a couple of breakaways and it ended as the first had begun with a solitary Castleford try leaving the final score 22-16. So, singing “we’re the famous Hull FC and were off to Wembley, Wembleeeeeey Wemberleeeeeey ” at the top of our voices, we all tramped back to the buses, having witnessed one of the most brutal games most of us had ever attended but looking forward to Wembley and Wigan. It had been a dour but sweet victory with a fracas the scale of which made for a lasting memory. Peter Sterling eh? Legend or what!!

A still concussed Sterlo, with Dane O’Hara, Kevin James and James Leuluai after the game.

So, thank goodness the Derby is out of the way, we have 4 points and what’s more we march on to next Sunday with a good break and a lot of heart. After I had a go about the stagnation of RL fans message board of late it was certainly back on form on Friday night with reams and reams of grumbles about our ‘poor’ performance. Yeh, it was inferior  after the great showing at Leeds, but I have to just say it as I see it and to that end it was for me a victory we simply wouldn’t have got last year. We battled and fought a lively and passionate opposition whilst also having to get over our own fatigue and occasional shortcomings brought about by the circumstances that preceded the game. But, with passion and wanting we succeeded.

Beating Rovers is all that matters in a season to some and although I wouldn’t agree with that one, I have to say that when you do play them, winning is all that matters!! We won and I feel a whole lot better for it. Rovers can have the valiant losers tag all day long for me, but as they always say Winners are Grinners and as my pal Richard says at the top of the Diary, “I’d rather win ugly than lose pretty!!!!!”

Thanks for all the contact and Mail this week its always great to hear from you all and thanks as always for sticking with another Diary. Since the last edition it’s certainly been a real roller coaster ride of unexpected injuries, suspensions, late withdrawals, strange selections and over the top media hype and as I say, I’m quite glad to see the back of it all. With 9 days to the next game, I guess even at this early stage the visit of Saints is going to be a bit of an acid test of our new found spirit and resolve. I’m looking forward to it a lot more than I was to Friday’s game, believe me!! But that’s just me, however let’s hope for another big gate and another great match. 

See you all there next week and 


Faithfully Yours