HULL FC must surely have winced last night when they saw Craig Hall’s name unexpectedly included in Hull KR’s starting line-up.
This is because they know their former player has a habit of popping up and causing all sorts of carnage to them.
True to form, Hall did it again as the 26-year-old – showing his vast versatility once more having come in after scrum-half Kris Keating failed a late fitness test – held his nerve to coolly slot a drop-goal with just 47 seconds remaining in one of the finest derbies in recent memory.
Referee James Child and, in particular, video official Richard Silverwood must be thankful that he did settle a remarkable game in Rovers’ favour given they had combined to produce some highly contentious decisions which left the home side incensed.
Graeme Horne thought he had initially won it for Rovers.
He has spent recent weeks on compassionate leave while his five-year-old son battled a benign tumour which saw him have part of his stomach removed.
The 29-year-old returned from that traumatic experience in the win over Warrington Wolves on Sunday and followed up with a crucial involvement here.
The game was locked at 10-10 when Horne surged onto Hall’s short pass and stretched out to score his first try one-handed in the 57th minute.
After Travis Burns converted, Horne added another on the hour mark after an impromptu kick ahead and so they led 20-10.
However, Silverwood – who had earlier harshly ruled out three Rovers efforts – awarded a highly contentious score to Danny Houghton in the 64th minute when the hooker seemed to have been held up.
Richard Whiting converted and, after Rovers youngster James Green had his head in his hands after spilling Josh Hodgson’s pass with the line at his mercy, it was all square when Kirk Yeaman raided down the left and furnished Fetuli Talanoa with the winger’s fifth try of the season in the 75th minute.
Whiting’s kick from wide out was just the wrong side of the upright, setting up a fittingly tense finish.
Burns lined up one drop-goal attempt but Whiting – living up to his ‘Superman’ moniker – dived acrobatically to tip it wide.
However, Hall took on the next one and this time there was no mistake as Craig Sandercock’s side secured their fourth successive Super League win and helped ease the memory of losing their last two derbies here at Craven Park.
Rovers’ fans celebrated so wildly you would have thought they had won the actual title, such is the level of fervour when it comes to this contest.
Hull did, however, strike first when Jordan Rankin sped onto Joe Westerman’s pivot ball and spotted half a gap to fend Horne on a 15m diagonal to the line for the 12th minute score.
Whiting failed to land the conversion and the hosts responded swiftly after Burns’s 40/20 kick saw the excellent Australian put Kevin Larroyer over untouched.
Like Whiting, Burns too was unable not improve, but it was his side who largely had the better of the half and deservedly went in 10-4 ahead.
Yeaman was initially penalised for having a second dig at the lively Burns and, from there, Josh Hodgson’s fine cut-out pass from between the posts posts saw Weyman – revived after a well-earned rest – rumbling over, proving just too powerful for Jacob Miller and Hadley.
Burns converted, but Child left his side seething again just three minutes into the second period when he missed a blatant forward pass from ex-Hull KR prop Liam Watts that sent Josh Bowden crashing over between the posts.
Whiting converted to level before Rhys Lovegrove thought he might have marked his 150th game for Rovers with a try in the 50th minute.
That was ruled out, though, and then, in the next set, a brilliant run from Jamie Shaul saw the visitors’ full-back go over only for this effort also to be denied.
From the very next play, Larroyer believed he had his second after Miller knocked on but Silverwood again harshly brought it back for a late tackle from Burns on the scrum-half.
It mattered little in the end, though, as Horne and Hall combined to get Rovers home.
Hull KR: Cockayne; Gardner, Salter, Welham, Caro; Burns, Hall; Poore, Hodgson, Weyman, Larroyer, G Horne, Costigan. Substitutes: Netherton, Green, Lovegrove, Cox.
Hull FC: Shaul; Colbon, Whiting, Yeaman, Talanoa; Rankin, Miller; Paea, Houghton, Carvell, Ellis, Hadley, Westerman. Substitutes: Watts, Bowden, Thompson, R Horne.
Referee: James Child (Dewsbury).