Hull FC 22 Huddersfield Giants 10: Stylish Jake Connor helps gets Hull off to winning start

The attacking class of Jake Connor will rightly gain plaudits but Hull FC started their new era under Brett Hodgson with a win built on the facet most important to the Australian head coach: defence.

For so long the Black and Whites have been held back by their weak underbelly and it was something Hodgson knew he needed to immediately address.

After an impressive 22-10 win over Huddersfield Giants at Emerald Headingley, in which their opponents were so consistently smothered and bullied into submission, it seems his squad have been listening carefully during the off-season.

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Connor brought the star quality, thriving in his new full-back role on the opening day of the campaign by scoring one try and creating another as Hull built a 12-0 interval lead to ruin Ian Watson’s first game in charge of Huddersfield.

Josh Reynolds, too, excelled, the Australian stand-off mixing his side-stepping running game with regularly getting under the skin of his opponents to the extent he made usual irritant Connor almost look like a choirboy.

But it was Hull’s pack, not least the tireless Jordan Lane, Joe Cator and Scott Taylor who laid the platform and, when tested in the first period, a resilience on their own goalline that fans will welcome with open arms.

Huddersfield did not score until Ricky Leutele crossed as late as the 68th minute, James Gavet getting their second with the final play of the game, but, on both occasions, the game had already long gone.

Garnted, Hull will not get carried away; they started last season with an impressive win at Headingley, vanquishing Leeds Rhinos 30-4, only for head coach Lee Radford to be sacked the following month.

Hull FC's Josh Reynolds on the attack. (ALLAN MCKENZIE/SWPIX)

But, with much of the build-up being centred on the two new head coaches, Hodgson has clearly enjoyed the better start.

There were selection surprises from both.

In mitigation, Huddersfield were missing Aidan Sezer, their captain and scrum-half, who is nursing a minor knock and should be fit for Saturday’s game against Catalans Dragons.

Watson said the absent Michael Lawrence, Joe Wardle and Jake Wardle are in similar positions.

Hull FC's Josh Griffin holds the ball for Marc Sneyd. (ALLAN MCKENZIE/SWPIX)

Hodgson, meanwhile, opted for back-row Lane at No13 and essentially played with just one specialist prop when loose forward Cator did come on, Lane remaining on the field, too, with Josh Bowden not returning from a HIA.

He also plumped for Adam Swift on the left wing ahead of Bureta Farimo.

Hull took control with two tries in the space of just four minutes midway through the first period.

Connor scored the first, after his side had forced a drop-out to apply some pressure.

Huddersfield Giants' Ricky Leutele is held up. (ALLAN MCKENZIE/SWPIX)

He entered the line wide right and, from 15m out, always looked likely to score once he had fooled Huddersfield’s defence with the merest of dummies.

Soon after, Cudjoe was also about 15m away for his own line when he has the ball stolen from him by the Ligi Sao.

Hull capitalised once more, Connor again to the fore, this time popping up on the left and delaying his pass just enough to create space for another former Giant - Josh Griffin - to crash through.

Marc Sneyd converted both scores and Huddersfield, although strong in many areas, were unable to force any breakthroughs of their own.

That came due to a lack of precision with some of their distribution but also a failure to get to grips with the admittedly difficult windy conditions.

The goalposts at Headingley continually wobbled yet Huddersfield persisted in kicking high into the wind, even after Lee Gaskell had seen one of his efforts blow back behind him.

Hull’s defence, too, was excellent and never truly looked threatened in the first period aside from Joe Greenwood was needed to be held up.

At one point in the first half, four defenders forced Cudjoe ten metres back behind his own line to force a goalline drop-out; there was no brittleness here.

They would generate another three at the start of the second period.

With the likes of Taylor and Lane relentlessly coming at them, not to mention the excellent Sao, there was little wonder Huddersfield struggled to get back into the contest.

Neither did being reduced to 12 men help, as happened when Edwards was yellow carded in the 48th minute for blocking as Hull chased Sneyd’s grubber near the posts.

Sneyd had already extended Hull’s interval lead to 14-0 with a penalty - Griffin had to lie down and hold the tip of the ball such was the strength of that wind - and Hodgson’s side simply suffocated their opponents thereafter.

Although they did not score while Edwards was sin-binned, the amount of work they forced Huddersfield to do was telling.

It was no surprise, then, when they were breached again, Sneyd dabbing in another grubber between the posts for Reynolds to dive over in the 61st minute.

Sneyd improved and, after Giants spilled twice more, added another penalty.

Huddersfield, at least, did avoid being kept pointless when Edwards finally found some space in the Hull defence to feed Leutele but this was Hull’s day.

Hull FC: Connor; Fonua, Tuimavae, Griffin, Swift; Reynolds, Sneyd; Satae, Houghto, Sao, Savelio, Mau, Lane. Substitutes: Taylor, Bowden, Cator, Scott.

Huddersfield Giants: Gaskell; McGillvary, Cudjoe, Leutele, McIntosh; Cogger, Russell; Yates, Cunningham, Gavet, McQueen, Greenwood, Jones. Substitutes: O’Brien, English, Edwards, Wilson.

Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham)

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