THERE are few more teams as obdurate, dogged and determined as Hull FC.
At this time of year especially, they are qualities worth their weight in gold.
Or, to be more precise, silver if it emerges they win either or both of the two major trophies on offer in the weeks ahead.
Do not be fooled. Lee Radford’s side are capable of some stunning rugby, too, but it is their ability to dig out victories by any means, often with such an unyielding defensive approach, which is the bedrock of their success.
Hull were at it again on Friday night when, in filthy conditions, they battled their way to an 8-6 victory at St Helens which could yet prove priceless.
If they can repeat the result when hosting Huddersfield Giants this Friday, they will head into the following weekend’s Challenge Cup final against Wigan Warriors having won all three Super 8s games so far leaving them well on their way to securing a Super League semi-final spot.
The rain-lashed Langtree Park success not only left them in third but also four points ahead of fifth-placed Saints, potentially a huge margin for Radford’s side to play with.
It was easy to understand why he was so chuffed with the result especially after seeing four players pull out for injury, illness or personal reasons on the eve of the game or, in the case of a sick Fetuli Talanoa, on the morning of the fixture itself.
Admittedly, Saints coach Justin Holbrook described it as probably the worst rugby league match he had ever seen and many will have left wondering the same.
However, it mattered little to Hull whose prop Chris Green said: “It wasn’t one for the DVD, definitely not, but it was still all the same really pleasing.
“We stuck in there mentally especially; mentally it was a really tough game as in the second half we had a lot of defending to do.
“We took our points when needed to do and saw the game out quite well.
“It was a massive win and a really, really pleasing one; something we talked about during the week was the conditions and we played them as best we could.”
On their never-say-die attitude in defence – Saints could not penetrate them for 76 minutes after Regan Grace’s early opener – the rangy front-row added: “I’ve said this before, sometimes, when our skill game is off, we tend to come through with our mental approach.
“It’s something that played a big part in that result – we are really strong like that – and it is a long old season.
“It will happen like that sometimes and we’ll be taking it forward into Huddersfield.”
When they host Giants, whose semi-final chances were realistically ended at Wigan on Friday, they will be seeking a fifth successive win which would be a perfect final preparation for their forthcoming Wembley date.
It remains to be seen who will feature for Hull against Huddersfield given Albert Kelly – dragged off the treatment table to fill in at the last minute with Jamie Shaul and Mahe Fonua also pulling out with Talanoa at Saints – left the stadium with his arm in a sling.
You would think Radford would wrap the Australian playmaker up in cotton wool between now and August 26 but Green believes defending the Challenge Cup they famously lifted last year is only going to heighten performances throughout the squad.
“There’s a massive carrot dangled isn’t there with Wembley on the horizon and the business end of the year,” he said.
“Everyone wants to play the big games. I thought a few blokes stood up at Saints with a bit of adversity during the week so it was really pleasing.
“It was a real four-pointer but if we don’t back it up against Huddersfield it’s a missed chance.”
Wakefield Trinity have confirmed the signing of front-rower Jordan Baldwinson on a two-year contract beginning next season.
Leeds-born Baldwinson made his Rhinos debut in 2013, but left the club at the end of that season to join New Zealand Warriors.
He returned to England in 2014 and had a spell in Super League with Bradford Bulls before joining Featherstone Rovers for the 2015 campaign, being named Championship young player of the year.
He played most of last year on dual-registration with Rovers, making one appearance for Leeds. He has played 12 times for Rhinos this year, scoring one try and has turned out 14 times for Featherstone.
Baldwinson - whose move was predicted by the Yorkshire Evening Post last week - told the club’s website: “I’m extremely excited to have signed a two-year deal at Wakefield Trinity. I know from past experiences the fans are really passionate so I can’t wait to get out on the field and play in front of them.
“The team are improving season after season and I’m keen to be a part of the journey and to add to what is already a very good bunch of players.
“When I spoke to Chris [Chester, Trinity’s coach] and Michael [Carter, the chairman] they explained to me how passionate the club is and what they are looking to achieve.
“Straight away that made me want to be a part of this great club. I can’t wait to work with Chris and the rest of the coaching staff as of next season.”
He added “I would like to thank Leeds and wish them all the best. It is a great club and I’ve enjoyed every minute, but I feel the time is right for me to move on to my next chapter.
“I also have to say a special thank you to Featherstone Rovers for giving me the game time I needed and making me feel welcome from the start.”
Chester said: “We’re delighted to sign a young, British and hungry front-rower in Jordan Baldwinson.
“Jordan’s a player we’ve been keeping a close eye on for a while now and to get him on board for the next couple of seasons is great news for us.
“He’ll add some extra competition and quality into the forward pack and he’s only 22 so he has a big future ahead of him. Myself and the coaching staff are looking forward to working with Jordan and seeing him develop here at Wakefield Trinity.”