A NEW coach, new players and, apparently, a new ethos yet all the same maddening antics from Hull FC.
At 34, Lee Radford may be one of the youngest head coaches in Super League but this morning the new Airlie Birds chief will surely be feeling twice that after a truly turbulent first game in charge.
Hull had fought back from trailing at the break to lead 32-16 last night and seemingly in full control with just 15 minutes remaining.
But then a period of mayhem – just the sort of madness that so often blighted predecessor Peter Gentle’s reign – resulted in the East Yorkshire side clinging on for dear life at the end.
They could only watch and hold their breath after Zeb Taia had scored his second try with just 53 seconds remaining and Catalan’s Thomas Bosc lined up a kick that could level the game at 36-36.
Fortunately for Hull, the French stand-off failed with the difficult attempt. Even more fortunate was that he had also fluffed a far, far easier conversion to Morgan Escare’s try just a couple of minutes before as the hosts imploded wildly.
But, then again, it was a night for failed marksmen; Hull should have been well in front by the end but managed to improve only two of their eight tries.
Joe Westerman kicked just two from six and, when Ben Crooks took over, he failed with both his attempts as well.
Hull, so desperate to improve on last year’s disappointing finish under Gentle, certainly missed the accuracy of Danny Tickle, the prolific goalkicker who departed for Widnes Vikings at the end of last season.
That said, there were plenty of positives amid all the chaos, not least the form of Jordan Rankin, one of six debutants on show.
The latest player charged with the unenviable task of filling Hull’s long-standing problematic half-back issue, he started his Black and Whites career with what looked like being a match-turning display last night.
Hull had already endured real issues in defence, especially out wide, and were duly 16-12 behind after 50 minutes.
But Rankin, the powerful 22-year-old brought in from Gold Coast Titans, stepped up to take full control for the hosts as they rattled off three tries in a blistering seven-minute spell.
First, it was the Australian’s cut-out bullet pass to deliver Kirk Yeaman’s second try that levelled the game and then, in the next set, he raced 70 metres himself for a quality individual score to hand Hull the lead.
It was Richard Whiting, the versatile Hull player who had an unusually mixed evening, who squeezed out an offload for Rankin to speed onto. He busted two attempted tackles through the middle before showing impressive pace to round Escare, the French full-back who had caused so many problems for the hosts in the first half.
Soon after, Damien Cardace messed up Rankin’s high kick to the corner to gift Tom Lineham – playing for the first time since injuring his ankle last August – a simple try and Radford’s side eased clear. Well, in theory anyway.
Jordan Thompson, a utility signing from Castleford Tigers, scored with his first touch as he waltzed through some awful visiting defence and Richard Horne supported Ben Crooks’s break to add another.
Taia responded with his first but Crooks hit straight back only for that implosion to strike.
Cardace completed his hat-trick, Escare scampered over too and then Taia again in a dramatic finish to leave Hull fans inside the KC Stadium fuming.
Earlier, Garreth Carvell, whose switch from Bradford Bulls this week has caused such a fuss, started the game despite the impending threat of legal action from his former club,
He was solid enough up front which is more than can be said about Hull’s defence on the fringes where Escare’s passing twice caught out Lineham to furnish Cardace with a first-half brace of tries.
In between, Bosc’s kick was plucked out of the air by Elliott Whitehead for another as Catalan impressed, showing no signs of missing the likes of Steve Menzies and Remi Casty, who have retired and headed to the NRL respectively.
Whiting’s score off Horne’s smart pass got Hull up and running and it was Whiting who later fed Yeaman for his first. But the real drama was to come later.
Radford, meanwhile, was incensed by a an ‘ankle roll’ tackle from Olivier Elima on Aaron Heremaia.
That penalty led to Hull – and Rankin – taking charge.
But the Hull coach said: “If he has gone to roll his ankle that’s a cowardice act. Our boys have every entitlement to run in like they did.
“The game’s tough enough, you don’t need incidents like that,” he said.
Hull FC: Shaul, Talanoa, Crookes, Yeaman, Lineham, Rankin, Horne, Paea, Houghton, Carvell, Ellis, Whiting, Westerman.Substitutes: Thompson, Bowden, Paleaaesina, Heremaia.
Catalan Dragons: Escare, Oldfield, Pomeroy, Millard, Cardace, Pryce, Bosc, Paea, Henderson, Lima, Taia, Whitehead, Mounis. Substitutes: Elima, Pelissier, Fakir, Baitieri.
Referee: B Thaler (RFL).