Creativity of Hall returns to haunt struggling Hull

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SO, what is all this fuss about Michael Dobson? Or Travis Burns, for that matter?

Hull KR fans must have been crying into their beer yesterday when they realised their talismanic scrum-half Dobson was missing the derby for the first time in his six years at the club.

When their fellow high-profile Australian playmaker Travis Burns trudged off with a shoulder injury early in the second half, they may have truly feared the worst even though they were leading 12-4 at the time.

Yet no one really counted for Craig Hall, the tall, local winger who first came on to the scene with Hull FC seven years ago but came of age yesterday to help guide his boyhood team to a famous victory with tries from Dave Hodgson (2), Josh Hodgson and Kris Welham.

Since moving to east Hull in 2011, he has shown his versatility by playing throughout the three-quarters and sometimes at stand-off but rarely will he have felt pressure like that placed on him here given such testing circumstances.

However, the 25-year-old rose to the challenge brilliantly in the chief playmaking role and how Hull – whose dire need for a half-back with Daniel Holdsworth and Brett Seymour sidelined indefinitely has never been more chronic – must have wished they still had him on their books.

The deflated hosts, who have now won just once in seven games, were already in trouble when ever-present prop Andy Lynch called in sick yesterday morning. A lot of his team-mates played like they were struggling with something too.

They had no answer to Rovers who, with such a commanding pack, kept things simple and then defended for their lives whenever called upon.

That was never more so than towards the end of the first half and perhaps the defining moment of this 218th city derby when resilient Rovers doggedly protected their line for four consecutive sets.

They continually frustrated the hosts with some spirited line defence though critics will argue it says more about that continued dearth of creativity in Hull’s ranks.

A sign of that was when they took one last possession with just 15 seconds remaining of the first period after Hall -with one of Rovers’ few errors in the half - had spilled on the 40m line.

However, rather than put pressure on with an attacking kick, the clueless hosts took in one drive and then hooker Danny Houghton got caught trying to run it with no options around him.

All of this was with Rovers’ Graeme Horne having also just been yellow-carded for persistent infringing as the visitors scrambled to hold on.

It was just one example of dodgy decision-making and, so, Craig Sandercock’s side remained 12-0 ahead.

Hull, having messed with their half-back combination again did finally break them just 78 seconds into the second period, Richard Whiting coming into the line and finding just enough space to put Ben Crooks haring for the corner.

The teenage centre touched down, but Rovers full-back Greg Eden seemed to have dragged his legs into touch just beforehand.

Video referee Ian Smith, however, did not think so and awarded the score.

Danny Tickle failed to convert from wide out but when Burns departed injured in the next set and with Rovers still down to 12, the hosts had every reason to think they could take a grip.

They didn’t. Instead Rovers, despite being bereft of their main orchestrators and under-manned, somehow managed to create an overlap with consummate ease, Hall’s cut-out pass swiftly handed on by Welham for Dave Hodgson to almost walk over the line for his second.

Hall curled a conversion over from wide out and, as he ran back to his half, was welcomed by the sight of Horne returning.

Hull pushed hard but kept coming up with the wrong option and it was left to stand-in captain Welham to finish them off with another smartly-taken try in the 64th minute.

He thought he had another soon after but was brought back for a knock-on although Hall’s drop goal, to add to his three kicks, sealed the victory.

Things had not started well for Hull and especially their second-row Ben Galea, the ex-Rovers captain making his first appearance against his former club since switching last sides last winter.

Inside just three minutes, and right in front of the elated Rovers fans, he fumbled Tom Briscoe’s offload just five metres from his own line.

When Hull infringed soon after, the visitors ignored the chance for two points and it paid dividends as ex-Hull hooker Josh Hodgson burrowed over from close range.

Hall added the extras and, after Liam Watts hit Mickey Paea high, extended their lead with a 16th-minute penalty.

When Richard Horne spilled Burns’ grubber, Tickle picked up the loose ball in an offside position, but Rovers once more chose to run the penalty and a wonderfully constructed move saw Dave Hodgson cross on 24 minutes.

Burns was lucky to stay on – especially as Steve Ganson was referee – when he hit Crooks high after Joe Arundel made a rare breakaway.

That sparked a traditional derby melee but it only served to inspire Rovers in that excellent defensive spell and they have now won four of their last five games.

Hull FC: Horne; Lineham, Arundel, Crooks, Briscoe; Westerman, Whiting; Bowden, Houghton, Watts, Galea, Tickle, O’Meley. Substitutes: Heremaia, Green, Johnson, Pitts.

Hull KR: Eden; Brown, Salter, Welham, D Hodgson; Burns, Hall; Paea, J Hodgson, Walker, Paterson, G Horne, Mika. Substitutes: Lovegrove, Tuimavave, Griffin, Carlile.

Referee: Steve Ganson (St Helens).

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