HULL FC may be licking their wounds after successive defeats, but veteran Australian forward Mark Minichiello says they are also learning valuable lessons ahead of their play-offs campaign.
Minichiello felt Hull “didn’t play as smart as we could have” in Thursday’s 15-14 home loss to Wigan, which came five days after they were beaten 22-14 by Warrington Wolves in a Challenge Cup semi-final.
Hull remain third in the Super League table following this week’s setback, but are now only two points ahead of Wigan.
It was a close contest throughout, settled by Zak Hardaker’s 76th-minute drop goal after Hull had hit back from 14-6 down to level the scores late on.
The hosts conceded just two tries, one from a kick, but managed just one themselves despite heavy pressure in the first and final quarters, a situation Minichiello described as “really frustrating”.
He said: “Some errors crept into our game and we gave the opposition too many opportunities with the ball.
“I thought we defended quite well, but our attack wasn’t quite on.
“We didn’t have that spark.
“We will need to work on that and bounce back.
“It’s two close losses back-to-back and it’s what semi-final football will come down to, games like that. We have got to learn to win them.”
A second close and costly defeat in such a short space of time was difficult to take. Minichiello, who has confirmed he will retire at the end of this season, reflected: “We are a little bit down, but we will take some confidence out of the game.
“We went right down to the wire and it could have gone either way.
“We have just got to learn from some errors and there’s some things we’ll look at during the week and build and improve.
“We’ve still got five games before the semi-final series and we want to hold on to third spot.
“To do that, we need to get a little bit better.”
Hull’s past three fixtures, including their two-point win at Leeds Rhinos 13 days ago, have been played at a near play-offs intensity.
While Hull have won only one of them, Minichiello reckons the past two in particular have been good preparation for the business end of the campaign.
“They have been semi-final-like football,” he recalled.
“Thursday was an intense game, it was tight and we had to graft and work hard for each other to get back into the game.
“We did that and gave ourselves a chance to win, but, unfortunately, they came up with the goods in the end.
“It is great preparation for semi-finals football and we will take confidence from that because we were right in them up until the end.
“If we play a little bit smarter with the ball and keep defending with energy for each other we will give ourselves a good chance.”