Typical opening day game:
Both sides looked ragged, as would be expected for a first game of the season, there were lots of mistakes from both sides, and certainly the conditions didn’t help, neither did referee Chris Campbell at times.
The infuriating thing about the man in the middle was that he set his stall out early, giving some good decisions for both sides, but later in the game he became more error prone, for instance not giving Hull FC a penalty for a blatant trip on Danny Houghton, which ended up with prop forward Scott Taylor having to produce a kick after his vice-captain was deliberately taken out.
However it would be wrong to moan about the standard of the officiating because, overall it was of a decent standard, and most importantly, it was largely consistent. The weather can also take some of the blame for the low quality offering on the pitch.
Effort from both sides:
One thing that cannot be faulted for either side is the effort, there was niggles, mistakes and aggression towards opposition players, but both sides pushed themselves to their limits. The man who epitomised this was Hull’s 35 year old captain Gareth Ellis.
Ellis has not played any game time in the Airlie Birds pre-season games, and yet in the last few minutes he was still in good enough condition to take on THREE Wakefield defenders, cause panic and inspire heroics that eventually secured the victory for his team.
Other big efforts came from Tinirau Arona for the home side, and especially Albert Kelly as well as England prop Scott Taylor for the Black & Whites, but don’t write off the other warriors who took to the pitch in West Yorkshire.
Top 4 v Mid Table:
This game was a very good example of the difference between a top 4 side, and a mid table side. Trinity had their chances to finish this game off and claim the two Super League points on offer, but the know-how and intensity of the top 4 dwellers ensured that they didn’t.
Yes both sides scored one try apiece, the boot of Marc Sneyd was the difference in more ways than one, but what Hull had when they needed it, was the ability to get a score when they needed one, and then close the game out, even despite a late rally from the home side.
The Airlie Birds just wore their hosts down, and when things were not quite going right, there was no worry, the Black & Whites didn’t panic, they just stuck to the game plan, and did what needed to be done, and that was enough to see them home and claim two points, while this game wasn’t a must-win, it would have been a more difficult week and a half until their next game at home to Catalans Dragons if they had lost.
Patience was also a big factor in this game, and the Challenge Cup holders had that in abundance, they are able to frustrate teams, and produce something when their opponents get frustrated, today was a classic example of that.
Marc Sneyd, Albert Kelly and Jake Connor:
The Lance Todd Trophy winner, and Super League Top Gun produced a performance that belied the conditions and the fact that it was a first game of the season, he must have been one of the clearest Man of the Match winners of the entire opening weekend.
He kicked 4 from 4, he produced a 40/20, the try for Jake Connor came from his delicate kick, and his all-round kicking game cleared Hull’s lines regularly, and also increased the pressure on a well-drilled home side’s defence.
Lee Radford has won every first game of the season since he took over as head coach at the KCOM Stadium and that tells its own story, but on this occasion it’s mainly due to the performance of his scrum-half, and special mention must also go to his new half-back partner Albert Kelly who ran his blood to water, and was defensively extremely sound.
The development of the partnership of Sneyd and Kelly will be key to what Hull can achieve this year, and when you have Jake Connor to rely on as well it’s a very nice situation for the Black & Whites to be in.
Kelly and Connor clearly bring something different to the side, and the more the combinations of them and Sneyd are developed, the better their attacking options will become.
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