WHEN the biggest cheer of the night emanates due to a 12-year-old child kicking a ball into the back of a white van you know you are in trouble.
Moments after Hull FC had been booed off at the interval last night, after another largely unedifying display, the KC Stadium erupted as the schoolboy completed a half-time challenge that had eluded all-comers for the last two-and-a-half years.
After the elation died down there was the inevitable muttering from sage supporters about maybe signing him up for the first team. You can understand their wit.
Even though champions Wigan Warriors were missing seven first-team regulars and fielded a raft of youngsters – no one, mind, as young as 12 – they were far too fast, strong and skilled for their troubled hosts who endured a fourth home loss of the year already.
They had far more determination, too.
At least Hull had forged 16-0 ahead here against Wakefield Trinity on Sunday to offer some hope before squandering that lead.
Last night, though, they were behind inside eight minutes and, despite some lively efforts from Jamie Shaul – the full-back who, it was announced pre-match, has signed a new five-year deal – Lee Radford’s fragile and brittle side never recovered.
In fairness, most of Hull’s eight losses this term have come from narrow margins.
However, this sobering defeat was as convincing as it comes and their biggest since last September’s play-off exit at Huddersfield; Hull KR, who they face at Magic Weekend in a week’s time, will be licking their lips.
Dan Sarginson, the England Knights centre playing his first game at full-back after Wigan were missing regular No1 Matt Bowen and his deputy Ryan Hampshire, excelled amid all the freedom and open space, scoring a well-taken hat-trick of tries.
Anthony Gelling, the often maligned New Zealand winger, was allowed to look as cultured as Dean Bell in Wigan’s centre, helping himself to two tries too as lacklustre Hull invited them in again and again.
They now go on their travels for two months given the KC Stadium pitch is due to be dug up for the FA Cup finalists Hull City.
Worryingly for Radford, though, they have not prospered away from home in more than eight months since, co-incidentally, winning at Wigan last August, straight after their Challenge Cup final defeat to the same opponents.
The signs looked ominous last night when Hull’s suspect defence splintered all too easily, Kirk Yeaman and Garreth Carvell left beaten by Sarginson as the ex-London Broncos player scooted over from 10m out.
Matty Smith added the first of his six conversions and, though Hull offered a couple of decent attacking raids, there was no finish.
Yeaman was pulled down just short before Ben Crooks hurriedly threw one ball into touch under pressure and it was all too excitable.
Instead, Wigan furthered their lead when Gelling ran through more weak defence from opposite centre Crooks in the 16th minute, Smith again improving.
He added a penalty soon after and, though Hull reacted with a try from captain Gareth Ellis after Dominic Manfredi spilled Richard Horne’s kick, there was no sustained response.
Jacob Miller – Hull’s fifth different goalkicker this season – converted but Smith slipped through a huge gap down centrefield from halfway to send Jack Hughes over for Wigan’s third try just before the break and Smith’s conversion made it 20-6.
The defence was non-existent, too, when Joe Burgess scurried over seven minutes after the restart when Michael McIlorum fired out a pass down the blindside on the last tackle for Gelling to usher over his winger.
Burgess was almost in again after Gelling had run rings around Joe Westerman but there was no denying Sarginson as he sped beyond Yeaman for his second in the 52nd minute.
Shaul showed great pace to angle over for his eighth try of the year when Hull did finally get in Wigan’s 20 soon after only for Manfredi to score all too easily with a rudimentary handling movement.
Gelling left Horne sprawling for his second and Sarginson completed his hat-trick for Wigan who, with this win, usurped Castleford Tigers from third courtesy of a superior points difference.
Hull did get the last score of the night via Fetuli Talanoa’s sixth try of the year, Miller converting off the post.
However, it still did not get a louder cheer than that bit of half-time relief.
There is plenty of hard work – and soul-searching – to be done at Hull FC.
One bright spot was news of Shaul’s new deal. “I wanted to be able to continue that for a longer period of time and this new deal will allow me to do that,” he said. I’m happy the head coach has shown the faith in me.”
Hull coach Lee Radford added: “We are delighted to have tied Jamie down to a new long-term contract. He could become a centre-piece to this Hull FC squad for years to come.”
Hull FC: Shaul; Crookes, Crooks, Yeaman, Talanoa; Horne, Miller; Paea, Houghton, Carvell, Ellis, Whiting, Westerman. Substitutes: Thompson, Bowden, Paleaaesina, Heremaia.
Wigan Warriors: Sarginson; Manfredi, Goulding, Gelling, Burgess; Green, Smith; Taylor, McIlorum, Dudson, Bateman, Hughes, Clubb. Substitutes: Crosby, Williams, James, Sutton.
Referee: R Hicks (Oldham)