Huddersfield Giants 12 Hull FC 31: Hull hit back from Covid in style

AS BAD as his first experience as interim Hull FC head coach was, rarely could Andy Last ever have imagined his second would be quite this good.
Hull FC man of the match Albert Kelly celebrates his opening try. (SWPIX)Hull FC man of the match Albert Kelly celebrates his opening try. (SWPIX)
Hull FC man of the match Albert Kelly celebrates his opening try. (SWPIX)

Having been embarrassed 54-18 by Salford Red Devils in that maiden appearance, and then seen his squad self-isolating for a fortnight after nine players tested positive for Covid-19, you feared they would be considerably rusty on their return.

Throw in the fact seven first-team regulars were absent here, and plenty were still recovering from the debilitating effects of enduring the virus, it is easy to understand why many supporters, too, did not hold out much hope.

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Yet Hull - only back in squad training on Tuesday - were immense and had rattled up a 28-0 lead after barely half-an-hour.

Huddersfield, whose battling qualities were illustrated in only losing by a solitary point in both their last two outings, were not necessarily poor.

It was just that their gnarled opponents - tough, solid and so efficient - were so relentless in how they went about their business, a young and athletic pack, in particular, gratefully taking on the challenge.

Captain Danny Houghton even started on the bench - it is hard to remember when the tireless former Man of Steel winner last did that - but Last did not need to call on the hooker’s experience until the 52nd minute, Jordan Johnstone enjoying a fine afternoon.

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Even when the East Yorkshire club saw playmaker Marc Sneyd need to be helped off with a worrying ankle injury in the 27th minute, it did not halt their progress.

Centre Carlos Tuimamave seamlessly moved into the halves and, moments later, young prop Jack Brown stormed over from 20m out with his first touch.

Inevitably, they could not carry on their scoring at the same prolific rate, a combination of their own expected fatigue and Huddersfield, to a degree, sorting themselves out ensuring a far more competitive second period.

But after the debacle of their previous two matches - head coach Lee Radford was sacked after the last game before lockdown in March - this was just the sort of positive response that had been demanded.

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Albert Kelly, who bobbed and weaved wonderfully from the off, got them up and running after darting late behind the ruck in the 11th minute before Sneyd pounced when Jordan Turner spilled, the Lance Todd winner racing in from 55m.

When Turner conceded a high tackle, it invited Hull in once more, this time Sneyd sliding in a grubber that sat up perfectly for Josh Griffin to score.

Already 16-0 down, when Tom Holmes sailed the restart out on the full, Huddersfield coach Simon Woolford’s heart must have sunk as deep as the Halliwell Jones Stadium’s foundations.

In fairness, he always knew his own side would have their issues here, given they were missing both half-backs Aidan Sezer and Lee Gaskell, plus a raft of first-choice forwards which saw Turner shunted into second-row.

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Yet he will be disappointed with how they splintered too easily in Hull’s brilliant purple patch - all five of their tries essentially came in a blitzing 21 minute spell - and this proved a fourth successive defeat.

Johnstone’s clever grubber close to the line saw Mahe Fonua score the last of those but they made their first real error when Chris Satae spilled charging back from the restart.

From there, Holmes produced some ingenuity to skilfully put Ashton Golding over with an inside pass, Olly Russell leaving them 28-6 down at the break.

But it was one of limited chances; Leroy Cudjoe spilled one pass close to the Hull line earlier in that first half and they did not cross again until Turner scored in the 62nd minute, Russell improving.

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When Fonua was sin-binned for a high shot on Darnell McIntosh just a minute later, the West Yorkshire club might have fancied their chances of possibly retrieving the situation at 28-12.

But Holmes threw an intercept pass against 12-men Hull in the very next play to immediately relieve the pressure and, instead, Griffin slotted a penalty.

To make sure, in Sneyd’s absence, Jamie Shaul struck a drop-goal to confirm arguably one of the most important wins in the club’s recent history.

Huddersfield Giants: Golding; McGillvary, Cudjoe, Jake Wardle, McIntosh; Holmes, Russell; English, O’Brien, Matagai, Edwards, Turner, Lawrence. Substitutes: Gavet, Wilson, Hewitt, Wood.

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Hull FC: Shaul; Naulago, Tuimavave, Griffin, Faraimo; Kelly, Sneyd; Ellis, Johnstone, Fash, Ma’u, Lane, Cator. Substitutes: Houghton, Satae, Fonua, Brown.

Referee: Chris Kendall (Huddersfield)

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Thank you

James Mitchinson

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