ONE of the principal reasons Hull FC signed Jamie Foster on loan from St Helens was his prolific goal-kicking – something they will be reminded of tomorrow.
A Catalan Dragons side arrive in East Yorkshire fresh from beating Hull 44-14 on their own ground just four weeks ago.
On that day, with regular Black and Whites marksman Danny Tickle ruled out for the season, Joe Westerman struggled badly with place kicks, missing two of his three attempts.
There is nothing to suggest Hull would have emerged victorious then if they had possessed someone of Foster’s calibre.
However, coach Peter Gentle, fully aware of how tough the battle for Super League wins currently is, was not going to run the risk again and made the out-of-favour Saints winger his No 1 target.
Foster has now played three games, retaining a 100 per cent record with the boot as he helped secure much-needed victories against Hull KR and Salford, although he was off target once at leaders Wigan when the Airlie Birds were swept aside 48-10.
Clearly that indiscretion – it is his only failure in 15 attempts since debuting – was of little relevance given the size of that defeat.
The biggest cost though for Hull, who could close the gap to fourth-placed Catalan to just two points with a win tomorrow, was the loss of three players through injury, adding to their already deep casualty list.
England centre Kirk Yeaman, former Leeds Rhinos back-row Jay Pitts and recent acquisition from Hull KR Liam Watts are all set to be sidelined but Foster will feature in what could be his final game of a one-month loan spell.
“We found it very tough last week, on the back foot with Wigan rolling forward, Mickey McIlorum then jumping out and bringing their big guys on,” he admitted to the Yorkshire Post.
“It just felt like we were playing tig and pass with them half the time.
“We didn’t do what we wanted to and I don’t want to make excuses but we had three injured players on the bench who couldn’t come back on.
“It’s going to be similar against Catalan, though, a really, really big test.
“They are a fantastic team who I’ve played a few times in my Saints career.
“We struggled to beat them and it will be tough but that is what you want going into the end of the season.
“You don’t want to be putting 40 points on teams, not getting any real momentum and then coming up against a top side in the play-offs and being surprised.
“You need to build and, after Wigan, we’ll have another proper test with Catalan.
“No matter which way it goes, it will put us in really good stead for the play-offs and, then, 80 minutes in the play-offs... anything can happen.”
Foster, 22, knows all about knockout football, having reached the Grand Final in each of the last two seasons with St Helens.
Along the way, he has scored not just goals aplenty but tries too, which made it all the more surprising when he was ditched by coach Mike Rush in March and relegated to the reserves.
Admittedly, the England Knights international had endured a particularly shocking error-strewn performance at Bradford – a defeat which effectively cost then coach Royce Simmons his job – and he has been unable to force his way back in since.
The loan move to Hull is designed to improve those chances and home-town Saints are never far from his thoughts.
“It’s not like they’ve put me through the door and turned their back on me,” he said. “I’m in contact with Mike and Keiron Cunningham three times a week – they told me they were coming down to watch at Wigan – and are really positive.
“I’m not here (at Hull) because I’m leaving the club. I’m here to benefit myself because, no disrespect, scoring three or four tries in the Under-20s every week and not feeling the contact of the tackle means you have to pinch yourself when you come playing at Super League level.
“I’m just trying to work on all aspects of my game and make the most of this time at Hull.
“They wanted me until the end of the year but Saints said a month.
“I said ‘yes’ as I just wanted to play some kind of Super League to prove to Saints I’m ready to get back in the mix.
“I’ve had 11 weeks off now and it’s been killing me sat in the stands watching the boys.
“I just want to get back out there and have that feeling again with them. To do that, I’ve got to come here and perform.
“The loan’s up after this Catalan game but I’m really enjoying it – Hull’s a club going places – and Mike says it might be carried on on a week-to-week basis.”
Young Hull winger Ben Crooks returns from injury tomorrow, though, to perhaps ease their problems and also fresh from signing a new, improved deal at the KC Stadium.
Although another year was left on the player’s contract, Gentle has tied down the teenager until 2015 following some impressive displays this term.
Hull’s Super League encounter at Widnes Vikings has been rescheduled for next Saturday (6.15pm) as it will be broadcast on Sky Sports.
Catalan have full-back Clint Greenshields back after a month’s injury absence in place of Cyril Stacul.
Second-row pair Setaimata Sa and Louis Anderson also return from injury, but prop Lopini Paea misses only his second Super League match of the season through injury.