The Dentist’s Diary – 690th

Well, we all needed that one!!

That warm glow you get when you finally sink back in your seat as a game like that one is won, is still a great feeling to have. I fretted and fumed and even shouted at the TV and it was just like the old days again. Our lot really do exasperate us all. They looked to be winning it, looked to be losing it and it was certainly hard to watch at times. We should have been 24 points up at the break but we blew chance after chance. Yet, in the end it felt good and the relief was palpable, because at times we were good and at others still so bloody frustrating! Good old Hull FC eh? World beaters one minute and egg beaters the next! 

However, in the bigger scheme of things to have had reality suspended in that way for a couple of hours, was still a blessed  relief as well really. 

 As I say, we should have won that game by a country mile and that’s no reflection of a handy Huddersfield outfit at all. Fact is we made enough chances, had enough ball and commanded enough territory, to be out of sight! But as always with Hull FC it was a real arm wrestle right up to the final hooter. We blew chances, dropped ball and made daft mistakes that invited a ‘wobbling’ opposition back into the game, but we fought hard, dug in, our middles stood up and we didn’t let our set-backs get to us and anyway let’s face it in the end we won and it’s always great to win ….always! 

After a tough week on the virus front when no doubt many of you, like me, must have wondered what the hell is going to happen to us all, we needed a lift and that’s what we got. In Marc Sneyd we had the guy who again orchestrated the best stuff we produced. As I said last week, he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but for me he organised the line all night, before he coolly stroked over the two points that won us the game. Plus, in Joe Cator we had an absolute machine who chased and harried the Giants into the ground. What a signing he’s been. 

So, once again as FC fans, we experienced the whole remit of emotions on Tuesday night and it was harrowing to watch at times, yet at the same time, such a relief at the end. 

But, we have got used to that over the years for that’s the enigma that is Hull FC, isn’t it!   

I seem to check the fixture list every week to see how many games we have to endure before this shocking season is over and I noted that after this one we had just five left, whilst a couple of Clubs appeared to have 8!!! However, when we heard the squad that was announced on Sunday lunchtime (strange time in itself I thought!) at least we had welcomed back a few senior players in Ratu, Danny Houghton, Joe Cator and Jamie Shaul, but were still missing some big hitters like Ma’u, Taylor, Kelly, Jones, Ellis and Lane and then, as is usually the case with someone, Houghton dropped out on match day.

So, it was going to be tough and we knew from past experience, that we would have to watch McGillvary, McIntosh and particularly Sezer or we were stuffed. Plus, as a club ourselves we had to cut out the daft errors and the ‘play for ten minutes go to sleep for five’, attitude we have had at times of late. What’s more, we all knew that our defence particularly on our own try line had to improve considerably. Still a game at the unusual hour of 5-30, on a Tuesday tea-time did have its compensations at the start; in the form of a large plate of Mrs. R’s Sausage and Mash. 

So, there I was tucking in, as the dark clouds of the virus gathered all around; two Yorkshire clubs were playing each other in darkest Lancashire at 5-30 on a Tuesday afternoon. Neither could realistically make the top 4, but both had two interim Coaches trying to make a name for themselves whilst coaching two outfits that had flattered to deceive and bummed at regular intervals throughout this topsy turvy season; What could possibly go wrong? 

 We kicked off and we had to defend a strong first set from the Giants. They looked sharp, but a forward pass gave us good field position. Huddersfield then knocked on under their posts themselves after a great kick from Connor. Taking advantage of early field position we pressed their line and a good one handed off load from Tumavive saw Ratu dive brilliantly and he was in on off the corner flag. I almost swallowed a sausage whole, as a brilliant touch down had seen us once again go in front in a game, but there was still a long, long way to the 80-minute mark. Still, we were completing well and making ground down the middle whilst The Giants were concentrating on trying to bust us in that area as well when they had the ball; so for a period it was really tough going for both sides. 

Then a great 4th tackle kick from Sneyd forced a drop out, before some one-on-one targeted attacking play came to nought with the final pass. But we at least forced a second drop out.  As usual when most teams would have taken advantage we still couldn’t get over the line and at this point you felt that the scoreboard should have registered a lot more for our efforts. Our energy was good, but Huddersfield were hanging in there but being pressured into making mistakes, whilst we had a 100% completion rate before our first blob came dead on 20 minute as Shaul lost the ball. Of course, as is usual with the FC, after all our pressure the opposition was allowed to get back into it, but they then dropped the ball once more, as we all breathed again. 

Griffin who was playing out of his skin in the second row, got over to touch down, but was called back because Ligi Sao had run early into their line and the chance was gone. At this point it was really nip and tuck as both teams prodded and probed the opposition line with both sides restarting their sets deep in their own halves, but Huddersfield looked to be starting to get back into it. A restart on the 30th minute saw them kick early and Shaul had to track back and fly hack the ball dead for us to drop out. Back they came as we suffered from ‘second set syndrome’ as McGilvrey scored in the corner after Cudjoe had made the extra man on their left. 

So, at 6-4 our possession and field position deserved more and immediately we gave away ‘6 again’ to put our line under pressure.  Connor defused a bomb and took a brilliant quick tap to get us right down the field and a knock-on, from the end of set kick got us another six on their line. Faraimo then knocked on when we were really applying the pressure and with 3 mins to go it looked like we wouldn’t be getting anything else before half time.  

However, unpredictable to the end Shaul took a big kick before we worked the ball well down field. On the sixth Sneyd worked out the numbers and decided not to kick but to run it. He manufactured a brilliant pass then watched as Griffin produce an even better one for Fonua to go steaming in with defenders trailing in his wake. It was vintage Mahe and that made it 10-4 at half time, in a half that should have in all honesty seen us out of sight.  

The second half started with us only 6 points in the lead but a set restart on the third tackle of the first set then saw Gaskell get a hand in on the 6th to give us another 6. It was the sort of pressure most teams in the modern game capitalise on but Satae knock on when all he had to do was dive in. Again, we’d blown a big chance and in the next possession we coughed the ball up again and just when we needed to consolidate our lead it was two handling errors in two minutes and typical of Hull FC. Then of course it saw English in next to the posts and the scores were level. 

With so much class and so many good players we still can’t steady it down and push on, something that is the major conundrum about the FC again this season. An unexpected break down-field by Shaul set up a good position and a great pass again by Griffin saw Faraimo score in the corner for his first try of the season . A brilliant touchline conversion from Sneyd put us 6 up again. Then again we imploded, as a shocking 6th tackle option from Johnstone saw Fash caught in possession on the last as Huddersfield got out of jail again.  We were playing some good rugby but failing to drive home our advantage and an off side call, did for us again on their line. 

Shaul let a dangerous kick bounce and we were caught off-side late in the tackle count, but then Jack Brown gave away a penalty 5 yards out from our line and capitalising on their line pressure as we should have done so many times before that, Sezar strode in untouched next to our posts. We had dominated the game for long periods, but we couldn’t kill them off and so it was all square again on 63 minutes. Our goal line defence was once more not good enough under pressure and we had thrown away our lead again. Back up field we moved the play and on their line again a great grubber from Sneyd almost got Brown in, as again another chance went begging. 

We kept spreading the ball and moving their defence around but we just couldn’t get through at all and as we approached the last ten minutes we got a penalty for off side on our own 20,  which relieved some more Huddersfield pressure. Shaul nearly got through, but naively he chose to run a line that put Sneyd off-side. We then got pinged for pinched the ball and gave them a good position as Huddersfield set up for the drop goal that would probably win the game however, ‘dead eye’ Sezer missed after great kick pressure from Johnstone and of course Cator. We then drove on well down the middle and Huddersfield were themselves caught off-side. It looked a fortuitous call but ice cool Sneyd converted and with 5 minutes left, we were 2 points up. 

We just had to hold out, but for us that’s easy to say. However, the lads tackled like demons and we forced Huddersfield to knock on at half way. It was that time in the game when I found myself watching from behind a cushion as Huddersfield had what for us would be a very long 90 seconds to snatch it, however cometh the hour cometh the hero and astute play by  Tumavive, forced their winger wide before he tackled him into touch and it was all over. We were the better team for long periods and I guess, deserved winners, but as far as Hull FC are concerned, once again we looked just incapable of putting a team away. However, on this occasion we got the win and it was such a good feeling!  

If I was to cite a single play that won us the game then it would probably be ‘action man’ Joe Cator and Jordan Johnstone sprinting out of the line to harass Sezer, as he aimed to seal the game for Huddersfield with a late drop goal. I don’t know if we would have come back from that one, but that effort from two blokes who had run themselves to a standstill already was phenomenal for me.  

Personally, as I said earlier, Sneyd again was instrument in the fact that we came out victorious. I noticed a couple of end of set options that I didn’t think were the best, but his organisation and prompting throughout made for a great 150th appearance for the Club. Some say he should have created more near their line but have a look again at the runners he has at times and the lines some are trying to run. On three occasions players got themselves or their team mates caught off-side by taking the wrong options when Sneyd was looking to do otherwise. But when he could the middles created the platform and Marc used it. Right up there with him, for me, was Joe Cator who made 50 tackles and well over 100yards in carries. He covered every blade of grass on the pitch, his engine is phenomenal and if you ever want proof of that, just watch his kick chase, for it is as good in the 80th minute as it is in the 1st; he’s a phenomenal find for the FC and as a fan himself, he plays like one!  

Tumavive also put in a massive shift and since he re-signed for the club his performances have got better and better, whilst Johnston, without the benefit of Houghton on the bench tackled everything and operated at acting half very well too.  Griffin, whose passing is getting better and better is heading towards being a real old-fashioned free running second rower and he again had a massive game, whilst Connor for me is getting better as the matches go by too. I love it when he runs into gaps and between players before releasing the ball and although he still has the odd rush of blood, he is coming on well for me. At last Fonua is getting back to some sort of form as the games go by and he looked a real threat again on Tuesday. His try was right out of the 2017 photo album and he worked hard throughout. At last he seems to be making his own publicity rather than believing it!! But everyone had a dig and in the end it was a very deserved win. 

So, all round a heartening victory but one that emphasised once again that we are not a consistent 80-minute team and that we can still blow hot and cold in the period of a single  game. Our minds seem to wander and we seem incapable of killing off teams that are wobbling and for us lot watching at home it is therefore never ever easy viewing at all!! 

  Now, our Club changed their policy somewhat last Monday when Andy Last revealed (obviously with the player’s permission)  that the person who had contracted Covid last week was Jordan Lane and that he was self-isolating along with his training bubble, gym partner, Scott Taylor. Thankfully Laney is asymptomatic, whilst for Scott it’s another blow for a guy who can’t get a break at present. Having just returned from the longest lay off in his career he was just getting back at it and now he’s stuck at home again. It’s certainly a steep learning curve for some of these guys this season and it will be interesting to see how it will affect them in the future. 

 Another player that can’t buy a break is Josh Jones who is having all sorts of issues getting over Covid and at present having regular scans on his lungs to track their recovery. If ever there was a better example for all the kids out there who think that they won’t have any after effects from the disease, its Josh, although thankfully it’s hoped he will be back in training next week. I can’t honestly see him back this season and after his rumoured unhappiness at having to travel to Hull for training etc. one wonders if when the almost inevitable end of season downscaling comes, Josh will be one of the casualties. He was a brilliant player when we signed him, but his season has, like everyone else’s, been disrupted and we certainly didn’t see him playing at anything like his full potential when he did turn out. He was reported to be unhappy at the club and we later announced that we had come to an agreement with him for the rest of this season, so watch this space? 

There was better news this week about Albert Kelly as he returned to training after a hamstring injury and we might just get a final couple of games to see Albo turn out in the black and white before he return to Australia at the end of the season. Kelly has had some massive games for us, none more so than when he appeared in that 2017 final and from being a real bad guy when he was at Rovers he has become a real hero and a  true line breakers at our Club. The tragedy of this season and us not being able to get fans back to the KCom is that we won’t be able to give Albo the send-off that he deserves because that is something the FC Faithful are famous for. 

 Reader Kevin Horsley summed the feelings of most FC fans up this week when he contacted me to comment, “I just wanted to say, I really hope we get the chance to say farewell to Albert before the season ends, it’s looking improbable at present, but what a shame if he and the fans would miss the fondest of farewells that our supporters give. Albert has been absolute class, and it’s been a privilege to witness his talents”. As Kevin says it’s highly unlikely that we will be able to thank Albert properly, but at least we might just get a chance to see him play a couple of times more before he leaves. What a great player Albert has been during his stay at our club. In fact, I would hazard a guess that such are his talents as a game breaker that, in the present financial climate, he will be almost impossible to replace. 

Well it’s official Hull and Rovers are the most travelled Clubs in the game this season with the exception of course of the Catalans Dragons. As a Diary reader said to me this week, “You have to ponder why both Hull & Rovers have to travel hundreds of miles, to one of the most highly infected areas in the U.K. to dance to the tune of the sky cameras”. It does indeed seem crazy that we have to travel all that way to play a team that are based only 5 miles away from us and to do it to one of the most infectious areas of the country at present. It’s a crazy season with crazy decisions as we bend over to please the broadcaster and so the venue has been fixed to ensure three games are played there that day and Sky only have to set up one set of camera’s etc. However, we have to keep them sweet apparently, but such moves as this for the Derby must seem ludicrous to the outsider looking in at our game. 

Now, keeping on the broadcaster front and I was hearing last week that the negotiations between Sky and Super League are progressing, slowly, but, understandably I guess, they are being thwarted by the uncertainty as to where everything will be come 2022, as far as the game itself is concerned. We seem to be pinning all our hopes on Sky TV, with whom Super League has had a relationship for over 25 years, although rumours emerged last week concerning some interest from BT Sport. Super League needs two things at present, one is the security of a new TV deal going forward and the other is new investment in the game from outside companies and corporations. However, you can’t blame TV providers, or indeed struggling companies, being a bit cagey about committing themselves until they see exactly where they are, where the game of rugby league is and indeed where the world is.  

The story goes that Super League Clubs are looking for a guaranteed cut of the deal every year before anything else and that is believed to be £35m. More than that and Championship and Division one Clubs will get their cut, but that amount or less and those clubs will get zilch. I don’t know how the negotiations are going, no one does, but I understood that Elstone was only talking to Sky, before early last week there was a rumour doing the rounds that BT sport, who already cover the bulk of RU on the TV, were looking at the possibility of having one channel devoted entirely to both codes of Rugby. Furthermore, they were taking an active interest in the situation with the RL TV deal. Ironically that sort of channel would seem a more natural progression for Sky who, already have dedicated channels to Cricket, Formula One etc. and with their connections to Fox Sports the deal for showing NRL games. 

However, watching closely in the last week how Sky go on, I have to say they don’t promote our sport much at all, although we are with football one of the only British based sports that they regularly cover. The quality of the games we have seen thus far should be a big drawing card for sports starved viewers, but they don’t seem to be doing much to push broadcasting them at all. Still should the deal secured be less than £35m per annum and thus leaving the Championship and Division One Clubs with nothing, there will be hell on. There are two arguments of course on that one. Firstly, we need to support the lower Divisions, for Super League get a lot of players coming through from that direction, but on the other hand, TV companies don’t seem interested in broadcasting matches from the lower divisions and so it could be argued that as the Super League Clubs are providing all the product, they should get all the dosh. 

One things for sure the next few weeks are going to be critical as for starters we have to keep Sky sweet and thus complete the rest of our commitments to them for this season. Then the negotiations proper begin. With Covid and the lack of crowds at games effecting the game from one side and the threat of losing a broadcast partner on the other, it’s going to be a rough ride for the game we all love, and that’s a fact!     

Well, we are getting through this totally chaotic season and the new rules brought in to aid its launch seem to be going OK really. The ‘6 again’ rule must be left as it is next season for me, because I think that it looks to be tidying up the rucks a bit, but more importantly the players seem to be realising that conceding another set is just knackering and so on the whole they are trying their best to tidy up their play. However, the bigger question is I guess what about scrums? Do we bring them back as they were, do we bring them back under the operational rules the NRL have in place, were the attacking team can decide where across the pitch the scrum is formed, or do we continue with the fast and furious stuff that emanates from the new tap restart rules. 

Personally, I was expecting a lot more run away, blow out scores from some of the big clubs, but even when that has happened we are still seeing some great tries from all the sides in the competition. Every week we are seeing none stop action and what has I guess surprised me most is how teams are surviving the full 80 minutes and still going at it hammer and tongs at the end. 

So, although I’m an old traditionalist on these things, I accept that the game has to move forward and with the need to one day fire people up and get them back watching exciting rugby in stadiums again, as far as the rule changes go, it might be that we leave things as they are.   

Of course, out of all the adversity we still see some good things and many of the youngsters that have had to be given their heads because there was no one else to take to the field, have really excelled. I think that they have thrived in the opportunities they have been given. Just look at young McNamara who is as a half back a player who was unlikely to make his debut for at least another year (their development usually take longer than most), yet there he was playing 60 minutes in one game and a full match in the next. Furthermore, on both occasions he acquitted himself really well. 

Jack Brown is another player who, for me, has taken his chance whilst the games have been coming thick and fast and again, his opportunities in a normal season would probably have been limited to the odd ten minutes off the bench. 

So, there we are, as a team on Tuesday we were never behind on the score board, but never far enough in front for us to rest easy at all, but that Hull FC isn’t it, even if we win we are all wrung out by the end.  

Next up its Cas. at the KCom on Sunday and because of the. vagaries of the current competition, (where fairness has been chucked out of the window in the name of necessity), we stepped in to help them out by playing Leeds at 24-hour’s notice and now we are pitted against them after, because of their recent infections, they have had two weeks off to prepare for this their next game. 

Its ludicrous really but that’s what we have to contend with these days and after that game at least we will only have four games left to play before the relief that will come at the culmination of this disastrous campaign. Let’s hope the game, the players and the competition can make it through to that point! 

This has been a rushed Diary, out earlier than usual to fit in around the fixtures and thanks so much to everyone who has read it and got this far. It was great to hear from so many of you   this week and for all your encouragement and support. The next edition will be out sometime after the Cas. game and I’ll look forward to speaking to you all again then.  

Please take care and Stay safe everyone!! 

Faithfully Yours