Hull FC fans, players and coaching staff alike were left frustrated last week as they travelled home from Wheldon Road.
Hull were narrowly beaten by the so called “Harlem Globetrotters” of Super League the Castleford Tigers. Although the loss was disappointing it may well turn out to be a defining moment in the season for all the right reasons.
In many ways last week’s game showed that both of the teams on display are a cut above the rest in Super League. Hull sit fourth after the loss while the Tigers are running away with it at the top but it’s obvious to see that there is very little between them. Hull had already beaten Cas twice before this season coming into last week’s game and not may sides this season will go to Castleford and only lose by two points.
In fact St Helens, Wigan, Leeds, Catalans, Huddersfield, Wakefield and Leigh had already left the Jungle with their tails between their legs after conceding 40+ points to the imperious Tigers. This shows that Hull are the only club that can realistically push Castleford this season. They outscored their opponents by four tries to three last week and only lost on penalty kicks. I would wager that no one else will go to Castleford and match them try for try this season.
Hull have also kept Man of Steel contender Greg Eden extremely quiet. He has crossed the try line 31 times this season but has failed to score in three attempts against Hull. Mahe Fonua has done a great job on him which no one else in the league has managed.
Another negative that can be turned into a positive is that Hull gifted Castleford all of their points through mistakes and ill-discipline. While those aspects of the game will have given Lee Radford a sleepless night last Friday he will have woken up knowing that if his side had been just a little bit smarter they would have won the game. This is why this defeat could prove to be so pivotal come the real business end of the season.
Many are predicting a Hull v Castleford Grand Final at Old Trafford including one of Hull’s harshest critics in recent times, Garry Schofield. Last Friday’s game poured more fuel on that fire and should Hull face Castleford again in the showpiece final they will be confident that if they don’t make silly errors they have enough to stifle and defeat Daryl Powell’s side.
Powell admitted after the game that the last 15 minutes were painful to watch as he saw his side capitulate before his eyes. If the game had gone on for five more minutes Hull would have won and this shows the lack of big game experience Castleford have. Most of the Hull players have memories of grinding out a win in an absolute classic Challenge Cup Final last season which will stand them in good stead for the big matches to come.
The next few weeks will show if Hull have learnt their lessons from last week’s defeat and if they have they showed enough for people to think that they will be very difficult to stop this season.