ELUSIVE Kieran Dixon proved the inspiration as Hull KR continued their impressive Super League revival last night and heaped more pressure on Hull FC head coach Lee Radford.
There were some fears that the former London Broncos full-back might have lost some of his devastating pace following a serious knee injury suffered while on England Knights duty 18 months ago.
Struggling Hull defenders will attest otherwise this morning after the 22-year-old – who switched clubs during the winter – produced some dazzling running to score one try and create another as Rovers comfortably came home in the 224th derby between these two fierce rivals.
The triumph, their maiden away victory of the season and one which also saw them post successive wins for the first time this year, means Chris Chester’s side have risen up to fourth ahead of Easter Monday’s visit from Huddersfield Giants.
It was also a perfect antidote to their previous visit to the KC Stadium, a sobering 28-0 defeat last August, and a result which leaves dismal Hull joint-bottom with Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, Radford’s one-dimensional side having now lost six of their opening eight games.
The joyous chants of “You’re getting sacked in the morning” from delirious Rovers fans may be a little premature – chairman Adam Pearson has publicly backed him if that means anything – but with a trip to champions St Helens on Monday, their bid for the top eight is already looking onerous and avoiding relegation must be a bigger target,
There is mitigation, of course; already devoid of injured Gareth Ellis, Marc Sneyd, Setaimata Sa, Kirk Yeaman and Chris Green, they lost prop Liam Watts after only 12 minutes last night to add to Radford’s woe.
It was in this fixture three years ago that the then Hull assistant came out of retirement to aid them during an injury crisis and actually scored as they destroyed Rovers 36-6.
Even now, at the age of 36, the former prop must have felt like doing the same again last night to try and bring some fire to proceedings.
In truth, and unlike Rovers who had Terry Campese and Albert Kelly to hand, it was ingenuity they lacked here. The visitors, fresh from defeating leaders Saints, led 18-6 at half-time despite their hosts having most of the attacking play.
But Hull just had no answer to Hull KR’s defensive resolve, whether defending their line close in as Kevin Larroyer did brilliantly to somehow deny Dean Hadley, or when their outside men perfectly picked their moments to come inside and cut down the home side’s wide-runners.
Chester’s side were disciplined and well-organised and so Hull, lacking the creative edge of injured scrum-half Sneyd, were left limited.
Their only breakthrough came courtesy of a rare gaffe from Dixon, the full-back proving misguided as he tried to stretch back over his own goalline under pressure from Jamie Shaul to prevent a drop-out. All he did do, though, was spill the possession allowing Leon Pryce the simplest try he will ever score on the half-hour, Jordan Rankin converting.
It was the one blot on Dixon’s copybook. He was sensational at times, his blistering pace often catching Hull leaden-footed.
It was his searing break down the middle as early as the fourth minute that eventually led to Campese capitalising on Hull’s ragged defensive line as he punched onto Shaun Lunt’s short ball.
Josh Mantellato converted and, although Radford’s side steadied initially, it was the visitors who scored next, Dixon this time doing all the work himself in the 25th minute.
He accelerated onto Kelly’s pass to arc through again and then showed confidence to take on the similarly quick Shaul, taking the Hull full-back over the line with him as he applied the fend.
Mantellato once more improved the score and Darrell Goulding almost added another down the same right channel only to be denied at the death by Jack Logan’s desperate tap tackle.
Hull were handed that gift by Dixon, but it proved a false hope.
After Larroyer’s timely tackle, Dixon picked up Danny Houghton’s dangerous grubber on the run to turn defence into attack and, soon after, down the other end, Fetuli Talanoa dropped Kelly’s hoisted kick to see Lunt score his third try in four games since joining on loan from Huddersfield Giants.
Mantellato slotted his third goal and when Rankin sailed the restart dead it highlighted the sort of basic error that is undoing so much of Hull’s work.
They were fortunate that Lunt wasted an overlap opportunity in the resulting set, although it was a rare mistake from the former England hooker whose arrival in east Hull last month has really acted as the glue Chester needed to then bring all of his talents together.
The second period was tryless, Rovers easily absorbing FC’s futile attempts to break them down meaning, even with 23 minutes still to go, Mantellato’s penalty seemed certain to be enough to see Chester’s side home.
With towering prop Dane Tilse on his way from Canberra Raiders soon, they will surely only get better.
Hull FC: Shaul; Lineham, Michaels, Logan, Talanoa; Pryce, Rankin; Paea, Houghton, Watts, Hadley, Minichiello, Westerman. Substitutes: Bowden, Paleaaeasina, Thompson, Cunningham.
Hull KR: Dixon; Mantellato, Welham, Goulding, Sio; Campese, Kelly; Walker, Lunt, Allgood, Blair, Horne, McCarthy. Substitutes: Cockayne, Larroyer, Donaldson, Burke.
Referee: R Silverwood (Mirfield).