Hull FC 20 Huddersfield Giants 14: Tony Smith sees green shoots as Davy Litten upstages Jake Connor

After maintaining that Hull FC would come good throughout the club's wretched seven-match losing run, Tony Smith saw the first green shoots on Sunday afternoon.

Super League's most experienced coach spoke with positivity in the build-up to the home clash with Huddersfield Giants, stating "if you ask me about our future, it's going to be bright, both this year and beyond".

Hull responded to Smith's upbeat tone to deliver their best performance of the season.

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Whereas the early wins over Castleford Tigers and Leeds Rhinos could have been described as unconvincing, there could be no doubt that they deserved to beat Huddersfield after outmuscling and outenthusing Ian Watson's men.

Liam Sutcliffe will steal the headlines for his two tries either side of Chris Satae's powerful effort but young full-back Davy Litten was the star man to upstage Jake Connor on his return to the MKM Stadium.

Huddersfield's search for consistency goes on after going down to their fifth defeat in nine games.

Against a team with the worst defensive record in the competition going into the game, the Giants had only tries from Chris McQueen and Esan Marsters to show for their efforts.

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Hull benefited from some luck along the way – not least when Sam Halsall lost the ball over the line – but they were full value for a win that pushes winless Wakefield Trinity closer to the Championship.

Liam Sutcliffe celebrates scoring a try with team-mates. (Photo: John Clifton/ Sutcliffe celebrates scoring a try with team-mates. (Photo: John Clifton/
Liam Sutcliffe celebrates scoring a try with team-mates. (Photo: John Clifton/

It was an inauspicious start by the Black and Whites, Jordan Lane knocking on in the first set before Jake Clifford got a short drop-out all wrong to gift Huddersfield a penalty in front of the posts.

Curiously given Hull's fragile form and confidence, the Giants opted to go for goal rather than test the home side's resolve.

Connor, who had forced the drop-out with a neat grubber, duly knocked over the fourth-minute penalty but the Giants quickly found themselves under pressure.

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Perhaps wary of getting into an arm wrestle with the methodical Giants from the start, Hull moved the ball from left to right and back again and found the opening they were searching for.

Chris McQueen slides over to score Huddersfield's first try. (Photo: John Clifton/ McQueen slides over to score Huddersfield's first try. (Photo: John Clifton/
Chris McQueen slides over to score Huddersfield's first try. (Photo: John Clifton/

Josh Griffin surged through a hole in the Huddersfield defence and found Jake Clifford who gave Sutcliffe a clear run to the line.

The early try – converted by Clifford – got the Hull fans onside and the hosts visibly began to grow in confidence.

Adam Swift found himself crowded out after breaking into space down the left but there was plenty to encourage the Black and Whites in the opening quarter, not least their aggression and intent in defence.

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The key for the hosts was maintaining it, an issue for Smith's men all season.

Hull FC players celebrate at the end of the match. (Photo: John Clifton/ FC players celebrate at the end of the match. (Photo: John Clifton/
Hull FC players celebrate at the end of the match. (Photo: John Clifton/

The tide turned after an error by Ligi Sao on his own 40, which was quickly followed by a penalty to give Huddersfield perfect field position.

Connor forced another repeat set with a deft kick and after Clifford failed to claim his own short drop-out, Hull buckled.

McQueen took a routine drop-off from Tui Lolohea 10 metres out and benefited from a soft effort by Griffin to coast over.

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Connor made no mistake from the tee to edge the Giants back ahead but any hopes they had of applying sustained pressure ended when Halsall made a mess of the restart.

Instead it was Hull that turned the screw, Danny Houghton forcing Halsall to knock the ball dead to give the home team a look at the Huddersfield line.

When they were awarded a penalty for a late hit, Clifford did not hesitate to lock up the scores at 8-8.

Aside from Connor's kicking game, the Giants had little in the way of control in the first half.

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The playmaker forced another drop-out with a kick from a scrum play inside his own half on the stroke of half-time but saw a drop-goal attempt charged down in the next set by desperate Hull defence.

The Black and Whites left the field to huge cheers, an appreciation of their first-half efforts.

Hull rode that wave of optimism on their return to take a firm grip on the contest.

Satae stormed over under the posts from Houghton's pass to take the volume up another notch and Clifford converted to give the hosts a bit more breathing space.

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Houghton raced clear as Hull went in search of a decisive score but they found themselves under the pump after conceding back-to-back penalties.

They benefited from a huge slice of fortune when Halsall lost the ball sliding over in the corner and made the most of the reprieve.

A break from Swift took Hull deep into Huddersfield territory and Sutcliffe was celebrating his second try after Litten smuggled away an offload.

Clifford maintained his perfect record from the tee to give the Black and Whites a healthy 20-8 lead heading into the final quarter – but it was never likely to be straightforward.

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Huddersfield chanced their arm and began to stretch Hull with their offloading game.

The hosts did not help themselves, failing to get a kick away on the last tackle inside their own 40 to invite incessant pressure.

The Giants eventually found a way through when Marsters was first to Connor's deft grubber.

Connor knocked over the conversion to set up a grandstand finish but Hull held their nerve to secure two precious points.

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Hull FC: Litten, Scott, Tuimavave, Sutcliffe, Swift, Clifford, McNamara, Fash, Houghton, Sao, Griffin, Lane, Cator. Substitutes: Satae, Gardiner, Taylor, Dwyer.

Huddersfield Giants: Pryce, McGillvary, Marsters, Naiqama, Halsall, Connor, Lolohea, Hill, Peats, English, McQueen, Livett, Yates. Substitutes: Rushton, Ikahihifo, O'Brien, Wilson.

Referee: Liam Moore.

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