So, as the dust settles on a memorable bank holiday weekend, reality is starting to re-emerge. It would however be rude not to look back over the weekend at Wembley, as we assess why FC’s win was so important, and what it could bring for the rest of the season…
Before Saturday’s game, the final was being compared to that of 2013, in which Wigan came out on top. That was a horrible day; raining constantly all day, being outplayed, long journey, etc. But the tides have changed since then. FC are a team on the up, whereas Wigan have had a tough season, struggling to find results where they normally fare much better. No matter how poor a season Wigan were having, every Hull FC fan still knows how Shaun Wane gets his sides to turn up and put in a performance on big occasions, so I think every Hull fan kept that in the back of their mind. In general though, the biggest change from 2013 is that FC went into this game more in expectation than hope. Having already had the sweet taste of success in 2016, every fan was desperate to win the trophy again and bring it back to Hull where it belongs.
I must say, the game in real time was horrible. I think I was more stressed this year than last year, especially those last ten minutes. I was getting to the not being able to watch anymore stage. When Joe Burgess went through in the last 2 minutes I think my heart sank. But, like the infamous Tackle 52 last year, we got away with it again and won the game. There are a few players I want to pick out who especially stood out for me, despite 1-17 having an unbelieveable game:
I think Mahe deserves so much credit for his performance on Saturday. Lee Radford admitted before the game that due to recent performances, which have absolutely been poor, he was in danger of being dropped for the final. I can understand that, with Steve Michaels not putting a foot wrong when he has stepped in, but thank goodness he didn’t. I think if he’d have got his hat trick (which was taken from him wrongly in my opinion) then he would’ve won the Lance Todd trophy, no matter how well Sneyd kicked. He was magnificent. To produce a performance like he did is testament to his character and is also testament to Lee Radford for showing faith in him. His finish for his second try was magnificent, and if a Castleford winger like Greg Eden pulled that off, we wouldn’t stop hearing about it for the rest of the year.
The definition of a big game player. Two years in a row he has produced the performance of his life, kicking Wigan off the park. Not only providing the kicks for both Fetuli Talanoa and Mahe Fonua’s first try, but the pinpoint 40/20 which led to Fonua’s second try. He was just imperious and with Albert Kelly next to him, Hull FC have a 6 and 7 partnership that will be superior for years to come. The first outright man to win the Lance Todd Trophy two years in a row. And he plays for Hull FC. Let that sink in.
How Liam Watts is not considered for England selection is an absolute farce. He is the best prop in the competition by an absolute mile. The metres he makes drive after drive and his effort in defence is second to none. Not only that, but he also has the ability to make a break in his arsenal. He got so close to scoring in the final after an awesome line, identical to the one from which he scored in the Semi-Final against Leeds. He was the best forward on the pitch on Saturday by a mile, and does not receive enough credit for his week in week out performances.
The key question is though, is this just the start for Hull FC? The chance of a league and cup double are most definitely on, with the Grand Final certainly within their sights. Both Gareth Ellis and Lee Radford alluded to the Grand Final at the homecoming party, saying that this team is capable of achieving great things, which is absolutely true. What can’t happen though is what happened last year, when Hull FC went on to lose 3 of their remaining 4 games in Super League and missed out on the League Leaders’ Shield and eventually the Grand Final. This was due to the over-celebration of the club’s first win at Wembley. You can partly understand it, with the monkey finally being removed off the whole club’s back. This year however, the players have been allowed to celebrate, but the concentration is back on the league and tomorrow night’s crucial game against Leeds at Headingley. Winning or Losing tomorrow effectively decides whether Leeds have to travel to the KCOM for the semi-final, or whether FC have to go back to Headingley, which they really would not want to do. Really then, it could be argued that Thursday night’s game is more important than the game at Wembley was on Saturday.