FRUSTRATIONS continue to fester for Hull FC after they slipped to another Super League defeat last night.
Whereas the previous week Lee Radford’s spirited side were unfortunate to be edged out at champions Leeds Rhinos, here there was little to be positive about in a poor and lacklustre return.
Both sides needed a victory, but it seemed like Salford Red Devils needed – possibly wanted – this one more.
Admittedly the game was only decided in the final eight minutes when, leading 14-8, the hosts scored back-to-back tries via the excellent Robert Lui and then, after a botched short kick-off, Greg Johnson.
But for all they were in touching distance for long periods the Black and Whites never really looked like threatening.
Still without injured stand-off Albert Kelly and captain Danny Houghton at hooker they found themselves getting in all sorts of messes at times and have now won just two of their opening six games ahead of next Friday’s visit from Catalans Dragons.
Both sides sold players during the week, for differing reasons, with Hull allowing Liam Watts to join Castleford Tigers and Salford – who continue to be dogged by speculation about their financial state – seeing full-back Gareth O’Brien move to Toronto Wolfpack.
However, it was the home side who emerged from their difficult week with a more positive finish, delivering only a second win of the campaign.
Radford said: “They had a bit more zip offensively than we did.
“Our effort in defence was good in the main, but there was some critical ones (mistakes) – Johnson skipping through our markers was tough to take.
“Salford asked more questions with their kicking game.
“At the other end they’ve conceded more tries than any other team from kicks so I asked our boys for every one of them to be a competition.
“But the percentages showed they weren’t.
“The feeling is of real disappointment.
“I said beforehand it was a hugely important game, but there’s no issues from me; we were second best.
“We need our spine back. Again that’s not an excuse. We had a good one out there, but ultimately we couldn’t get the job done.”
Hull did lack invention in attack, especially when their main threat Jamie Shaul departed with a head knock just after the hour mark.
The full-back, with his rapier thrusts from dummy-half, was their best hope of success and – despite carrying a separate leg injury – he had also made a midfield break shortly before his eventual departure.
That said, Shaul was also easily swatted aside by Jack Littlejohn, the Australian scrum-half who finished off a break in the 61st minute to give Salford that initial 14-8 advantage.
FC’s only try came in the 15th minute, admittedly a smartly-executed play as Jake Connor’s pinpoint grubber sat up perfectly for Dean Hadley, the back-row who continues to excel after a season-long loan at Wakefield Trinity.
Marc Sneyd converted and added a penalty in the 28th minute, but that was it.
With Sika Manu missing due to a calf injury, Hadley had switched back to second-row with Jordan Abdull – impressive off the bench in Hull’s narrow defeat at Leeds – gaining a well-deserved start at No 13.
With Abdull’s more creative approach it seemed Radford’s side would have more attacking options, but he was never truly able to make his mark on the contest.
When the visitors did find some space in the first period Josh Griffin was brought down by a crude high tackle from Ben Nakubuwai, one of their few chances.
Salford went in narrowly 10-8 ahead, but, even then, they had needed a flurry of points towards the end of the half to gain that slim advantage.
Radford will have been disappointed with the manner in which his side conceded a 35th-minute try.
Up to then they had rarely been troubled yet they were unable to tie-up former Hull KR back-row Tyrone McCarthy between their posts.
The Ireland international squeezed out a scruffy offload for Nakubuwai, the Fiji prop, who fell over the line for his first try in Salford colours since joining from Gold Coast Titans.
But it was the rangy forward who then got them in motion in the restart set, too, the hosts alarmingly making easy metres through Hull’s middle before Kris Welham’s clever kick forced a drop-out.
They did not score from that, but Danny Washbrook infringed at the play-the-ball – he furiously argued otherwise – and Lui slotted the goal to add to his earlier conversion and a seventh-minute penalty.
It was enough to give Ian Watson’s side the edge and, as it turned out, the victory as well.
Salford Red Devils: Evalds; Johnson, Sa’u, Welham, Bibby; Lui, Littlejohn; Mossop, Tomkins, Kopczak, Jones, Hauraki, Flanagan. Substitutes: Tasi, Nakubuwai, Wood, McCarthy.
Hull FC: Shaul; Faraimo, Griffin, Tuimavave, Talanoa; Connor, Sneyd; Taylor, Washbrook, Green, Hadley, Minichiello, Abdull. Substitutes: Matongo, Fash, Bowden, Lane.
Referee: Scott Mikalauskas (Leigh).