There’s no doubting the importance of Hull’s 22 – 20 win over Wigan on Friday. To lose would have been a timely reminder of seasons’ gone by; all the potential with no end product. 2016 was a step in the right direction but the ‘Class of 2017’ seems to have even more resilience within it; quietly going about their business and slowly building momentum. After a fantastic start to the game that saw the Black & Whites go 18 – 0 up, the Warriors to their credit, launched a fantastic comeback. While Coach Lee Radford will have areas to work on, winning in this manner shows that Hull definitely have all the ingredients to mix it with the League’s elite. Let’s analyse a few areas from Friday:
Albert Kelly is hitting top form: You just can’t keep this guy out of the headlines and thankfully this season its for the right reasons. Albert scored one of the great individual tries of the modern era. His footwork and acceleration worked wonders once again to make a break, however the strength shown to swot away several Wigan defenders whilst off balance was sublime. 7 tries in 5 games says it all.
Areas to work on: Let’s make it clear; Radford will be relieved that his side managed to hang on for a win but certainly not entirely happy with the performance. Warrington await at the weekend and if Hull do not become more savvy with possession, the Wolves could easily bite back against the odds. It’s a scenario that’s presented itself a few times already in 2017. Against Catalans in Round 1 it cost the Black & Whites, this time around they were more fortunate. You can’t afford to cough up possession in your own half, nor kick out on the full and not expect repercussions. On the most basic level; if you complete your sets then you can build from there. I expect Kelly and Marc Sneyd will continue to work on their game management during training. Nonetheless, the entire team needs to develop the ethos that no amount of possession will be wasted.
Squad versatility is impressive: In a similar vein to 2016, Hull’s team has a degree of fluidity to it that allows the side to adapt during the game. Luckily, last season was one with few injuries but already in 2017 we’ve seen Radford forced to rotate his team. Friday’s game was no different as Hull received what could have been a hammer blow losing Danny Houghton to injury in the early stages. FC didn’t allow this to affect their game and Danny Washbrook proved to be an able deputy. There’s no doubting Houghton’s distribution, running and work-rate will be missed but I’m confident Washy will do a consistent job for the time being. We also saw Jake Connor pick up an elbow injury, with Jordan Thompson slotting in at centre. Thankfully Saturday’s game should see the returns of Tuimavave, Talanoa and Watts to bolster the ranks. It’s this type of interchangeability that needs to continue throughout the season if Hull are to be serious contenders.
Some stand-out performances: Though the Airlie Birds are still getting up to speed, it’s fantastic to see several players delivering fantastic performances on a weekly basis. Special mentions must go out to Josh Griffin who’s really starting to find his feet in the team. We are pretty certain come summer time he’s going to be the explosive outlet Hull desperately needed at centre. Obviously Gareth Ellis, Sika Manu & Mark Minichiello continue to meet and surpass already awesome standards (that’s a given!) I also think Jordan Thompson is finally starting to answer his critics with a series of complete performances. Could he be the answer at Loose-Forward in the future? Similar sentiments go out to Josh Bowden. Watch out for Jamie Shaul too who looks like he’s rediscovering his role as one of the best supporting players in the league, bagging another well taken try on Friday.
Momentum is building: Despite a slow preseason in terms of results, it’s clear Hull are playing the long game as their performances gradually improve with each round that passes. It might not always be pretty or even a complete performance but they’re getting the job done and beating the cream of Super League in Wigan is a shining example of that. Realistically, Hull find themselves at the summit of Super League without even really playing their best rugby. It may only be Round 7 but unlike Media Monopolists – Castleford Tigers, there’s a sense that Hull have a lot more to offer this season.