Gritty Hull secure top four berth despite unconvincing performance

Hull went into tonight’s game against Huddersfield desperate not to lose. Three straight defeats had left them outside the top four and low on confidence with the massive Challenge Cup Semi Final looming next weekend. Thankfully Hull ground a win out tonight but it wasn’t pretty and still left Lee Radford with plenty of dilemmas ahead of next week.

Hull started well and were led by their returning Captain Gareth Ellis. He put in a couple of bone crunching hits early on and that set the platform for Hull. The Black and White’s took the lead after 14 minutes when Danny Houghton found Mark Minichiello with a short ball at the line and he crashed over. Sneyd converted for a 6-0 lead.

Hull’s second try came soon after and it oozed class from the returning Ellis. He put in two massive steps that Albert Kelly would have been proud of before firing a pass to Josh Bowden who found himself in acres of space and he strolled over. Sneyd made no mistake with the boot and Hull led 12-0.

Captain Fantastic: Ellis led from the front in a Man of the Match display

Hull looked to be on a roll but then the errors started to creep in as they have done in recent weeks. Josh Bowden had just scored but then he dropped two balls in quick succession. This gave all the momentum to Huddersfield. A Chris Green knock on and a penalty gave the Giants field position and Mahe Fonua shot out of the line too early and found himself watching Darnell McIntosh slide over in the corner. Danny Brough converted from the touchline to half the deficit at 12-6.

Just three minutes later Huddersfield were in again and suddenly Hull looked vulnerable. They won a penalty and while Hull stood and moaned they shipped it wide and Jermaine McGillvary powered his way over. Brough missed the kick which meant Hull led 12-10 at Half Time when it could and should have been so much more comfortable.

The second half was an extremely edgy affair. Hull were starting to get worried and you could see it. They lacked attacking ideas and despite gaining good territory on several occasions they never really troubled the Giants defence. Both sides enjoyed periods of pressure but neither could find a breakthrough which meant with ten minutes to go there were still just two points in it.

Jake Connor was taken out with five minutes to go and Marc Sneyd kicked the penalty to make it 14-10. Huddersfield took a short kick off and Hull made a mess of it which gave Huddersfield a great chance to pinch the win. Luckily Hull held on for what could turn out to be a massive two points. With Salford losing at Leigh tonight Hull are now guaranteed a top four finish going into the Super 8’s and it will be a top 3 place if Wakefield lose to St Helens on Sunday.

Lee Radford was happy if not slightly relieved with the win. He said the win was “Huge for us to secure top four” but admitted it was a “Real cagey affair, we started fantastically well but were made to work for the full 80 minutes”. Radford eluded to the nervous atmosphere around the KCOM Stadium tonight and how Hull started well but got nervous in the game, “You could feel the importance of the game, The first 25 minutes were very pleasing, Let’s make that 25 minutes into 50 or 60 which will be enough to win the game”. He also paid tribute to Gareth Ellis who put in a Captain’s Man of the Match performance after three months out “They love playing with him, you hear some of his contacts in the stands, imagine seeing your mate do that to someone”.

Finally Radford hinted that his side could be at full strength next week for the Challenge Cup Semi Final with Steve Michaels looking like he could return which would be a big boost as he has a great partnership with Mahe Fonua.

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