FEARSOME Hull FC put an abject campaign behind them with a thrilling and historic derby win last night that finally restored some pride to the west side of the city.
Disillusioned head coach Lee Radford had questioned his side’s honesty after a dismal loss at relegated Bradford Bulls had effectively ended their hopes of a reaching the Super League play-offs.
But their integrity could not be doubted last night as, led by magnificent captain Gareth Ellis, ruthless Hull produced a performance rich in character, passion and no little skill to also put a huge dent in their opponents’ own chances of making the top eight.
Furthermore, the 28-0 triumph – highlighted by Tom Lineham’s second-half brace – was the first time Hull KR had been kept pointless in this derby for more than half-a-century, dating back to 1957.
Mastering the rain-drenched rain conditions comfortably, Radford’s side were simply unrecognisable from the rabble that had stuttered along for so much of this campaign.
In front of an impressive crowd of 18,103 at KC Stadium, Hull delivered only their second win in nine games and utterly wrecked Rovers’ hopes of winning all three Super League derbies in a season for the first time.
It was a bitter pill for Chris Chester to swallow, the 35-year-old who won the Challenge Cup in 2005 with Hull FC, but was confirmed as Hull KR coach on Monday having effectively served a six-week trial after being promoted from assistant.
His dismay was heightened when seeing Widnes Vikings, who they hoped to usurp from eighth, had defeated champions Wigan Warriors while this debacle was unfolding.
But there was an urgency, energy and sheer fierceness about Hull’s defence that has rarely been there this season.
Players rattled into opponents and did not let go. And they did not just do it for three tackles before falling away or conceding penalties.
It was relentless and Rovers, clearly struggling with the physicality of the contest, had no answer, being driven back and forced to continually kick from deep.
If they did dare to get in decent position a Hull player, normally the formidable Ellis but others too, would simply produce an even bigger defensive hit to force the mistake.
When Jordan Thompson did just that on Rovers scrum-half Kris Keating in the 25th minute, his colleagues raced to congratulate him as if he had just scored the winning try in the Grand Final.
It was great to see but it left you wondering where that sort of spirit had been all season.
Regardless, Hull were penalised yet again moments later, Travis Burns blew up – it was a surprise the combustible Rovers stand-off had held his cool so long – and it was obvious who was in control.
When Adam Walker resorted to a crude attempt in trying to silence Ellis with a swinging arm, Rankin slotted the penalty with seconds of the half remaining and Hull led 12-0.
Considering their level of control, they perhaps will think it should have been more.
They had opened the scoring after just 10 minutes.
After Greg Eden, who had already wasted one overlap chance, was dumped by Ellis in a shuddering hit, the full-back lost possession, a mistake compounded by burns who quickly conceded a penalty.
From there, Richard Horne’s smart cut-out pass gave Kirk Yeaman just enough space to put Fetuli Talanoa over for the winger’s 10th try of the season.
Rankin could not convert but did so when hard-running centre Setaimata Sa arrowed back infield on a thunderous surge to go over in the 18th minute.
Rovers started the second period more directly but, once a couple of opportunities disappeared, they were back under pressure and unable to escape.
Lineham was held up initially but, when Rovers squandered possession on the first tackle, the big winger rumbled over as his side exposed some feeble defensive play out wide in the 53rd minute.
That prompted a mass brawl with angered Yeaman, at one point, in the middle of around 10 Rovers players behind the goalline.
The incident was put on report and Hull regained their composure for Thompson to waltz over four minutes later, Rankin making it 22-0. When Eden broke for Rovers only to drop the ball with no one near him it summed up their night.
Instead, after Liam Salter denied Horne with a brave tackle inches before the line, Lineham intercepted Keating’s pass to race 90m untouched, Rankin rounding off a memorable night for the Airlie Birds.
Hull FC: Shaul; Lineham, Sa, Yeaman, Talanoa; Rankin, R Horne; Watts, Houghton, Bowden, Ellis, Thompson, Westerman. Substitutes: Green, Paleaaesina, Heremaia, Paea.
Hull KR: Eden; Caro, Welham, Salter, Gardner; Burns, Keating; Netherton, J Hodgson, Weyman, G Horne, Chan, Costigan. Substitutes: Walker, Green, Larroyer, Cox.
Referee: James Child (Dewsbury).