HEAD COACH Lee Radford celebrates his 37th birthday this morning having seen his Hull FC side create derby history with a remarkable comeback against fierce rivals Hull KR.
They were staring at an embarrassing defeat at KC Lightstream Stadium yesterday after trailing 20-0 against hosts Rovers and looked utterly clueless in the process.
However, the visitors – despite losing stand-off Carlos Tuimavave to an early concussion – somehow rallied with four tries in 15 stunning minutes to edge home 22-20.
It marks the biggest fightback in the 117-year history of the city’s famous fixture and also sends Hull into Super League’s top four ahead of Monday’s home game with leaders Warrington Wolves.
For Radford, who hails from east Hull, it marked one of the most crucial wins of his young coaching career.
“It is massive to do that as we know how important this game is,” he said.
“I only live over there (points over the stand) and to get bottles thrown at the glass – the windows coming in on the bus on the way in – it just adds to it all.
“It’s an electric atmosphere here and it was again (yesterday). There’s not many better places to win in a regular season.
“We were very one-out with the ball in that first hour, something we spoke about not doing.
“But, when we were forced to play with some freedom in that final quarter due to the scoreboard, we looked a far better team.
“We took charge of the game and that’s what’s pleasing for me as a coach.
“We are where we want to be now; we want to be in the four and we are now.”
It was a second successive win for Hull after a three-game losing streak and it said plenty about their character.
Marc Sneyd successfully negotiated the difficult conversion of Steve Michaels’s 74th-minute try to clinch Hull’s fourth win of the year, his side’s relentless offloading quality finally leaving gutted Rovers in pieces.
“He did it in typical Marc Sneyd fashion,” added Radford.
“He missed the one prior to add a little more pain for 10 or 15 minutes, but that one was really smooth how he stroked the ball.
“To do that in those circumstances was fantastic.
“There was the ecstasy at the end but there was some frustration with how we were in the first half.
“At half-time we spoke about the penalty count being 7-3 and that that would turn itself around.
“We knew we’d have some opportunities down their end and it’s what we did with those.
“Approaching an hour, though, and I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I told (prop) Liam Watts to start pushing the ball a little.
“We usually tell him to rein it in.
“But I thought he made a big difference when he came back on with Scott Taylor.”
Hull owner Adam Pearson was said to be close to tears at the final hooter.
“He’s been in tears all day,” joked Radford, about the chairman who has hired a cryo chamber for the weekend to aid Hull players’ recovery in time for that Warrington test.
“Having to sit in front of me kicking the chair, too, I think he’ll have whiplash as well.”
For James Webster, the Hull Kingston Rovers coach who looked set for his second successive win after taking over just three games ago, the result was heartbreaking.
However, despite the calamitous collapse and still having just one win to their name, he remained unbowed.
“I’m extremely proud of my players,” said Webster.
“For 60 minutes we did what we wanted to do, but we had nothing left.
“We had no fit players left on the bench for the last 11 minutes of the game.
“I felt sorry for those players who were screaming to come off, but had to stay on.
“I’m very disappointed we lost the game.
“People might have expected me to blame the players, but I’m not going to.
“We showed improvement and I can see we are moving in the right direction.”
Rovers lost John Boudebza (hip), Chris Clarkson (shoulder) and James Green (concussion) to injuries with all three unlikely to play at Wigan on Monday.
Teenage three-quarter Joe Wardill could make his debut while prop Kieran Moran is in line for only his second senior game.
Hull, meanwhile, had seen in-form second-row Sika Manu pull out yesterday morning due to illness but he could return against Warrington when Jordan Abdull is also expected to replace Tuimavave.
Reports: Pages 6 and 7