TOM LINEHAM secured his second hat-trick in two weeks for Hull FC – and this time savoured victory as well.
The winger scored a treble against Castleford Tigers a fortnight earlier but his side frustratingly actually finished up losing that game 20-14 at Wheldon Road.
That unusual quirk did not occur again last night, however, as Lineham – now Super League’s leading try-scorer with 10 in nine matches – produced a stellar display of finishing to help defeat Widnes Vikings.
Maybe Hull’s season can turn positively after all; they move from 11th above Widnes and level with Huddersfield Giants in seventh after backing up Easter Monday’s spirited victory at champions St Helens to claim successive wins for the first time this campaign.
One thing is certain, after an injury-hampered last season, the 22-year-old Lineham is undoubtedly beginning to recapture the form that saw him make Super League’s Dream Team in 2013.
The strong-running wideman looks full of confidence once more though, admittedly, he was twice literally given a helping hand by Widnes last night, running in spectacular 90-metre interception tries in both halves of a game which otherwise largely failed to light up.
That was perhaps no surprise given it came so soon after their Easter double-headers but Widnes definitely had more reason to be jaded.
For any of their dedicated fans who had soaked up some sun in the south of France on Easter Monday and then suddenly found themselves in west Hull last night, it must have all been a little surreal.
It remains a mystery how the one, solitary game selected for the Friday evening after the full Easter Monday programme, saw the same side who travelled to Perpignan actually on the move again.
Common sense would suggest Widnes should have been the one club guaranteed a Sunday afternoon kick-off after the ordeal of playing in Catalans but no, here they were, playing their third game in eight days as broadcasters Sky got their Friday fix.
Granted, Denis Betts had rested a raft of his top stars for the French test, recalling Kevin Brown, Joe Mellor and Rhys Hanbury among others last night.
But the benefits of that exercise must have felt utterly futile when the Widnes coach then lost three other players to injury inside the opening 25 minutes against Hull; his side were up against it however you looked at it.
All three went off dazed, Chris Dean and Stefan Marsh after an almighty clash of heads, Lloyd White joining them soon after when the hooker dared to get in the way of fit-again Setaimata Sa as the former Kiwi charged in from a penalty tap.
Sa’s return will be a big plus for coach Lee Radford, who had been under pressure after a dismal derby loss to Hull KR nine days ago, as will the performance of Jamie Shaul who brought some extra creativity to the full-back role in the continued absence of injured scrum-half Marc Sneyd.
Hull should really have had a far greater interval advantage than just 10-4.
Widnes’ only score, Brown’s 21st-minute try, should have been disallowed after Patrick Ah Van appeared to knock forward when challenging for a high kick in the build-up but, furthermore, the hosts had the superior chances.
Lineham had put them ahead inside nine minutes following a smart move, Leon Pryce linking with Shaul, who spun out of a tackle and then found his winger with a difficult pass.
They repeated the same ploy soon after but this time Ah Van, Widnes’ left winger, gambled and came in to palm down Shaul’s delivery.
Lineham then charged down his right flank with another try looking certain but his inside pass to Danny Houghton was crucially snapped up by former team-mate Aaron Heremaia and Widnes scored in that set.
But, Lineham snaffled ex-England stand-off Brown’s long pass in the 28th minute for his second try, Rankin’s kick stretching the lead, and Shaul produced a vital tackle to deny Danny Galea and send them in six points ahead.
Hull were rightly aggrieved early in the second period when White lost possession trying to pass under pressure on his own 20m from Rankin, the scrum-half who picked up and raced untouched between the posts.
But referee Richard Silverwood somehow deemed the home player had fumbled in the contact. However, it mattered little as in the next set, as Betts’ side attacked, Lineham plucked out Hanbury’s pass from the air and raced 90m again for his treble.
Rankin made it 16-4 but Widnes, to their credit, battled on, Gil Dudson almost barrelling over. Rankin missed a penalty but when his grubber bounced back off a post, Shaul was on hand to score a deserved try, the provider converting to make sure of victory with 13 minutes remaining. Ah Van pulled a try back but it did not take the gloss off Hull’s night who now prepare to take on in-form Championship side Sheffield Eagles in the Challenge Cup at Bramall Lane a week tomorrow.
Hull FC: Shaul; Lineham, Michaels, Talanoa, Naughton; Pryce, Rankin; Paea, Houghton, Bowden, Sa, Minichiello, Westerman. Substitutes: Paleaaesina, Thompson, Cunningham, Howarth.
Widnes Vikings: Hanbury; Owens, Marsh, Phelps, Ah Van; Brown, Mellor; O’Carroll, White, Dudson, Dean, Galea, Gerrard. Substitutes: Heremaia, Joseph, Manukafoa.
Referee: R Silverwood (Mirfield).