THE WAIT for Hull FC’s first win at Emerald Headingley in more than a decade stretches on, but Lee Radford’s side will be wondering just how they did not get something out of this latest sortie.
Super League champions Leeds Rhinos demonstrated plenty of class, not least via scrum-half Richie Myler who produced some inspirational moments to unpick the visitors, and Tom Briscoe also crossed for two tries against his former club.
However, Radford’s side – who showed up well despite still being without talisman Albert Kelly and captain Danny Houghton – were seething about a couple of major decisions as they tried to ruin Leeds’s homecoming.
Although Headingley’s major renovation is still ongoing, part of the South Stand was opened to house 2,000 fans and a temporary north stand was in place allowing a crowd of 11,158.
Hull, who came from 20-6 down to leave Leeds on the ropes at the end with Jordan Abdull and Fetuli Talanoa tries, trailed just 10-6 at the break, but were furious they had not gone in at least level.
Josh Griffin crossed with just 45 seconds of the half remaining after an exquisitely timed pass from Jake Connor.
However, referee Robert Hicks called on video official Phil Bentham to look at a possible obstruction in back play and, to the chagrin of the visitors, he decided Carl Ablett had been impeded.
There was marginal contact and there was no way it truly interfered with the play.
The Challenge Cup holders were further aggrieved when Griffin was deemed to have obstructed Ryan Hall as the Leeds winger chased down a kick that Connor easily defused.
In the resulting set, Myler slipped England centre Kallum Watkins over for his second try in the 54th minute and, when Briscoe claimed his brace after a lovely flick pass from Watkins, it seemed Brian McDermott’s side would ease home.
Nevertheless, Hull – who gave a debut to local 19-year-old second-row Jordan Lane – retained hope they could still rescue a first victory here since 2007.
Connor, one of five Hull players named in the England Knights squad this week, won a short restart gaining position for Abdull to step up and muscle his way over just after the hour mark.
Sneyd and Shaul then combined to send Talanoa over for his 50th try in Black and White colours and Hull threw everything in the final stages.
However, there was not enough finesse when it mattered most and, at times, a lack of organisation near the line as they slipped to a third defeat of the campaign.
It was a fascinating Yorkshire derby, though, and, in among the era of a new stadium being built, how fitting to see two rugby legends in the main stand.
Leeds stand-off Lewis Jones, 86, and Hull hero Johnny Whiteley, 87, talked things over at half-time, the former Great Britain stars no doubt wishing they could still be out there.
Rhinos started just as Hull assistant Andy Last predicted they would, all dash and fizz, too quick at the ruck, off-loading and running the visitors ragged.
Ashton Golding was everywhere, showing why McDermott retained him at full-back despite Jack Walker being fit again, and their forwards were immense.
Hull, to their credit, did well to limit the damage to just 10 points in the opening 15 minutes – Watkins and Briscoe scoring Leeds’s tries – and they had the unlikely figure of Marc Sneyd to thank for ensuring that was the case.
Normally acclaimed for his kicking prowess and not really known for his defensive quality, the scrum-half scrambled brilliantly to deny Briscoe a second try in the 18th minute after yet another rapier thrust from Leeds.
Crucially, the intervention gave Hull a lifeline.
Soon after they had their own first real chance when Jack Logan – back for his first Super League game in two years after a serious knee injury – latched onto Connor’s remarkable chip to cross.
Although Bentham rightly ruled it out due to the 22-year-old being marginally offside they would not be denied in the 28th minute.
Sneyd was the instigator with a neat grubber between the posts catching Ashton Golding slightly out of position, industrious loose forward Dean Hadley celebrating his England Knights call-up with the try.
Sneyd converted and then made a quality break before prop Chris Green – impressive off the bench – punched further only for Jamie Shaul to waste the overlap.
Hull, despite losing both international second-rows Mark Minichiello and Sika Manu to injuries, got stronger. Brad Fash, the squat prop, barrelled close but could not find his man.,
The fightback continued in the second period, but they will head to Salford Red Devils next Friday needing a win to kick-start their campaign.
Leeds, meanwhile, will be at St Helens on the same night knowing, ominously for the rest, they can improve considerably, too.
Leeds Rhinos: Golding; Briscoe, Watkins, Handley, Hall; Moon, Myler; Garbutt, Parcell, Singleton, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Delaney. Substitutes: Mullally, Ormondroyd, Walker, Walters.
Hull FC: Shaul; Logan, Griffin, Tuimavave, Talanoa; Connor, Sneyd; Taylor, Washbrook, Matongo, Manu, Minichiello, Hadley. Substitutes: Green, Abdull, Fash, Lane.
Referee: Rob Hicks (Oldham).