Hull FC were looking to consolidate their newly acquired fourth spot in the Super League table with a home victory over the arch enemy, Leeds Rhinos, when the two sides met for a Thursday evening game at the MKM Stadium two months after their last meeting, which ended in a six point Hull victory.
The Rhinos saw the return of Mikolaj Oledzki and Zane Tetevano as well as ex-skipper Luke Gale who was dropped in controversial circumstances last week. Marc Sneyd was pulling on his Hull FC shirt for the 250th time for Brett Hodgson’s side.
The home side were narrow favourites to triumph, but the bookies had given the visitors just a two-point start on the coupon, and the pundits were struggling to choose a winner.
Joe Mellor lasted just four minutes before limping off for the Rhinos as the visitors were put under early pressure. Somehow the Rhinos withstood three consecutive goal line dropouts before excellent defence saw them regain possession on their own line. After withstanding the pressure, the Rhinos went on the offensive and after getting a penalty twenty from the line Rhyse Martin kicked the penalty to give the Rhinos a 2-0 lead on seventeen minutes.
FC were getting plenty of ball and making some decent breaks, but the Rhinos defence were up to it.
On twenty-five FC got the first try of the night with Adam Swift taking a tip pass and going ten metres down the touchline to cross in the corner and improve the angle. Sneyd was unable to add the touchline conversion, the home side ahead by two.
When Hull were called offside on twenty-nine Martin kicked a second penalty to level the scores.
After gifting a set restart, and then a penalty, the Rhinos conceded again as Marc Sneyd kicked the penalty goal with thirty-six minutes on the clock.
The Rhinos bombed a golden chance within two minutes of the restart when they put the ball to ground with the line begging. It typified an ugly start to the second half with both sides making mistakes in attack and defence.
On fifty-six Mikolaj Oledski went close but was held up short but the Rhinos forced a drop-out and on the fourth tackle Brad Dwyer dipped the shoulder with a scoot from acting half-back to run ten metres on the diagonal and score five in from the corner flag. Martin added the conversion to put the Rhinos 10-6 ahead.
Sneyd kicked a superb 40-20 on sixty-one but the Rhinos defence held firm and the Rhinos counterattacked down the centre of the field with Kruise Leeming putting Myler through a gap to score under the sticks. Martin added the conversion for 16-6.
On sixty-eight the Rhinos extended their lead as Cameron Smith spun out of a tackle to drop over the line. Hostilities broke out after the try was scored with Myler and Reynolds sin-binned for their part. Martin added the goal after the delay for 22-6, the Rhinos edging towards the win, FC heading back into fifth spot.
A Carlos Tuimavave ball steal on seventy-seven saw the centre run thirty metres to dive over in the right corner. Sneyd curled his kick between the sticks for 12-22, too little and too late for the Airlie Birds.
This is a far different Leeds Rhinos side to that which started the season so poorly and tonight was a coming of age as a cast iron defence kept FC at bay while they took full advantage of the small number of chances which Hull afforded them. Hull will wonder how they didn’t rack up more points during a first half which they dominated and be concerned that they couldn’t take the win in front of their first unrestricted home crowd for a year and a half.
Hull FC: Wynne, Swift (T), Tuimavave (T), Fonua, Faraimo, Reynolds (SB on 68), Sneyd (2G), Sao, Houghton, Satae, Lane, Ma’u, Cator. Subs: Bowden, Fash, Johnstone, Scott.
Leeds Rhinos: Myler (T, SB on 68), Briscoe T, Newman, Hurrell, Handley, Gale, McLelland, Oledzki, Leeming, Prior, Mellor, Martin (5G), Tetevano. Subs: Dwyer (T), Vuniyayawa, Donaldson, Smith.
Referee: Marcus Griffiths.
Score Progression: 0-2, 4-2, 4-4, 6-4 : HT : 6-8, 6-10, 6-14, 6-16, 6-20, (SB), (SB), 6-22, 10-22, 12-22 : FT.