THE only point at which Hull FC coach Lee Radford looked exasperated after his side’s impressive Challenge Cup quarter-final win over Catalans Dragons – a 10th straight victory for the Super League leaders – was the mention of England.
Now, it was not due to any political EU withdrawal questions, or the like, but whether Scott Taylor, the rangy Hull prop in the form of his life, would make Wayne Bennett’s Four Nations squad at the end of year.
Taylor’s marauding break had set up Danny Houghton’s second-half try that essentially killed off Catalans on Saturday, one of countless positive impacts, and, undoubtedly, the uncapped 25-year-old is currently a force to be reckoned with.
He was included in Australian Bennett’s 31-man get together recently but, surprisingly, with just one other club-mate, Marc Sneyd, the left-footed half-back whose kicking tormented Catalans and helped set up a semi-final meeting with Wigan Warriors.
However, asked if Taylor has to be named come the autumn if he continues in this rampaging form, delighted Radford’s expressions changed markedly.
“I’m bewildered with the England thing, if I’m honest,” he said
“From what I’m led to believe, everyone has almost been guaranteed a spot who plays in the NRL so whether Scott gets in – or anyone else from this club – I don’t know.
“I might have to send him on a month’s loan to an NRL club just to secure selection!”
The inference is that Bennett, the Brisbane Broncos coach who has replaced Hull’s own Steve McNamara as national chief, will go with what he knows best – English players based in the NRL competition.
Admittedly, there are a lot of good props operating there, five if you include Sam Burgess in that position alongside his twin brothers George and Tom plus James Graham and Mike Cooper.
In a squad of 24, it is easy to see how Taylor, for all his finery in his first term with the Airlie Birds, might not make the cut if Bennett does lean towards those NRL residents.
That does not make it any more appeasing for Radford, though. Surely form should rule?
Furthermore, he must be “bewildered” considering his similarly effective front-row Liam Watts, the industrious hooker Houghton and Jamie Shaul, such a revelation for the vibrant table-toppers this term, were somehow not considered worthy of an invite to a group of 31 players that did not even include perhaps another nine located in Australia.
Someone who knows what it takes to be a top-class international forward is Frank Pritchard, the former Kiwi second-row and current Samoa captain, who, following his switch from NRL side Canterbury Bulldogs last winter, has helped turn Hull from perennial under-achievers into comfortably the competition’s leading side.
Asked if he thinks Taylor is good enough to represent England, the 32-year-old admitted: “Of course he is. The way he’s been playing he should warrant a spot in that team.
“If anyone is going to pick a squad they should pick on form.
“I think a few of our team-mates also deserve a spot in that top 31 squad that got named the other day. But I think it’s just important for us to worry about what we do at the club.”
Given what they are presently doing, and the manner in which they methodically picked apart a talented Catalans team, you could easily see this treble-chasing Hull side going on to achieve plenty.
They could certainly emulate the FC side who garnered 13 successive victories when reaching the club’s solitary Grand Final in 2006. They lost that definitive match to St Helens, mind, and the endgame now is to actually win at Old Trafford or Wembley.
The semi-final against Wigan, a re-run of the 2013 final Hull lost 16-0, will be played at Doncaster on Friday July 29.
Inspired as ever by captain Gareth Ellis, they largely withstood Catalans early pressure on Saturday, conceding just a solitary try to Benjamin Garcia before responding with scores of their own from Steve Michaels and Pritchard who bulldozed over to set up a 12-4 interval lead they never looked like squandering.
“For me I was probably just in the right place at the right time I guess,” said the man they call Frank the Tank, omitting that his immense power also played a part. “For myself and a few others who came off the bench, like Chris Green and Josh Bowden, it was important to bring good energy.
“We knew it was going to be tough and Catalans had a big pack; it was a tough game to win.”
Houghton benefited from Taylor’s charge in the 50th minute and though Fouad Yaha hit back, Hull never lost control, Sneyd adding two penalties to his three conversions.
Hull FC: Shaul; Michaels, Fonua, Yeaman, Talanoa; Tuimavave, Sneyd; Taylor, Houghton, Watts, Manu, Minichiello, Ellis. Substitutes: Green, Bowden, Pritchard, Washbrook.
Catalans Dragons: Escare; Broughton, Garcia, Richards, Yaha; Carney, Albert; Mason, Pelissier, Casty, Stewart, Horo, Baitieri. Substitutes: Taylor, Bousquet, Mounis, Bosc.
Referee: B Thaler (Wakefield).