INEVITABLY, in a wretched game littered by so many penalties, it was a moment of ill-discipline that cost Hull FC last night.
Liam Watts, who actually won their man-of-the-match for an otherwise fine effort, was the proverbial hero turned villain.
He had helped put Lee Radford’s side ahead after ripping possession from the Catalans centre Krisnan Inu to score in the 61st minute and Marc Sneyd celebrated his new contract with the club, by adding the extras for a narrow 14-12 lead.
Scott Taylor had put a thunderous hit on Inu to initially halt the former Kiwi centre coming away from his own line but, after he fell off, Watts applied the crucial finishing touch.
However, barely a minute later, Taylor was then penalised for hitting Jason Baitieri late after the tackle to gift Luke Walsh a simple two points to level.
Worse, though, was to come. Given the way referee Robert Hicks had officiated – there were 23 penalties here – Watts must have endured a moment of madness when swiping away with his foot at the standing leg of Baitieri in the 64th minute.
It was an obvious foul, even if many of Hicks’ previous decisions were not, and Walsh could not believe his luck as he slotted his fifth penalty of the night.
Baitieri had been highly involved given, in the 58th minute, the French forward was put on report for allegedly making contact with Hick, an offence which seems to be de rigeur currently.
Nevertheless, Hull, who beat Catalans on all four occasions they met last season, had no way back into it and, therefore, lost their opening home game of the new campaign.
They did not start well with Jake Connor – given his first start at stand-off with Albert Kelly suspended – watching the kick-off bounce dead and, soon after, dropping a hanging kick on his own line.
Jodie Broughton went close, too, but, in fairness, the hosts defended well to see off the early pressure.
After that? Well, not much rugby broke out in all honesty in and amongst the countless penalties.
Sneyd and Walsh exchanged penalty goals in the first quarter as referee Hicks looked to control the ruck from the off but the teams simply did not heed his warning. Time after time players laid on too long or messed around in the tackle and the official continually penalised them.
That said, a number of those offences did look on the pedantic side and it made for an awful spectacle with the ‘game’ continually stop-starting; there was 15 penalties in the first half alone.
Catalans were given a team warning inside 20 minutes but, just two tackles later, Greg Bird was yellow-carded for messing around with Josh Griffin.
That was the only blot on the veteran Australian’s copybook; Bird was otherwise outstanding in leading Dragons to a second win after defeating Warrington in their opener.
His side actually went ahead, too, while he was off, Walsh adding a penalty before Hull finally found enough rhythm to score a try.
Inu was held up at one end – he thought he had crossed – and moments later FC went down the other end for Sika Manu to produce a brilliant flick pass to send Carlos Tuimavave over, Sneyd improving for an 8-4 interval lead.
The second period started with a bang, although not the sort Hull had hoped for.
Just 42 seconds had passed when Richie Myler scampered in, the Catalans scrum-half finishing after Thomas Bosc had supported Bird’s initial break from deep.
Walsh improved to nudge the visitors ahead and, even though Connor’s desperate push prevented Iain Thornley from scoring, the visitors would not be denied.
Hull undoubtedly missed Gareth Ellis’ presence in the middle, their captain helped off after just 15 minutes and unable to return due to a concussion.
Kiwi prop Sam Moa, the former Hull cult favourite making his first return since leaving for Sydney Roosters at the end of 2012, hit the loose forward late with a swinging arm although it was to the body. Ellis was injured, though, his head hit the floor heavily afterwards and he will be a doubt for their game at Huddersfield next Thursday.
Hull had a made a huge effort to build the attednance for the game and the crowd 13,541 was their biggest ever for a home fixture with Catalans.
But Radford admitted: “It’s a massive missed opportunity.
“It was a real chance to get fans on our side with more than 13,000 here but to sling that performance in, especially with ball in hand, was unbelievably frustrating.
“Some of it was painful to watch; whether you’re playing Catalans or West Hull you just can’t win games like that.
“I thought physically we were as good as we’ve been for a long time but we’ve got to be better with the ball. We looked as bad as we’ve had with ball in hand.”
Hull FC: Shaul; Fonua, Tuimavave, Griffin, Talanoa; Connor, Sneyd; Taylor, Houghton, Watts, Manu, Minichiello, Ellis. Substitutes: Green, Thompson, Washbrook, Bowden.
Catalans Dragons: Bosc; Broughton, Inu, Wiliame, Thornley; Walsh, Myler; Moa, Aiton, Casty, Garcia, Horo, Bird. Substitutes: Anderson,, Bousquet, Baitieri, Da Costa.
Referee: Robert Hicks.