GRAFT, determination and pride in their defensive performance were some of the things Lee Radford demanded from his Hull FC side yesterday and he got them all in this important win.
This victory at Salford before Easter may not seem too crucial just now, but as the season pans out it could be seen as one of those sliding door moments.
Hull were abysmal the previous week when Warrington casually put 63 points past them and there had to be a positive reaction from the East Yorkshire club.
Granted, the response was far from vintage fare, but it mattered not. It was the right response.
On the back of Josh Griffin’s hat-trick against his former club, the Black and Whites showed great resilience and fortitude – characteristics clearly missing against Warrington – to hold off a Salford side that had ample opportunities to strike.
A combination of the visitors’ desperation in defence, denying Salford players over the goalline on numerous occasions, and some poor execution by the hosts meant Radford saw his side deservedly hold out for a hard-earned success.
For all there have been question marks over his side again this term, suddenly they are up to fifth and level with Wakefield Trinity in fourth after 10 games; it will be interesting to see them in action when they really get firing.
Aside from Griffin’s treble there was plenty of other encouraging performances, not least from Connor Wynne, an 18-year-old academy product who – with Jamie Shaul still missing due to concussion issues – gave a mature display on debut at full-back.
Scott Taylor, too, was immense up front and Marc Sneyd directed affairs well from scrum-half.
It was a fourth successive away win for FC, who will look to make that five when they head to Perpignan on Saturday, and the only negative was the sight of Andre Savelio leaving the field clutching his left knee in the 79th minute.
Thankfully, it was not the same knee the forward, making only his second appearance since joining from Brisbane Broncos, had reconstructed last year.
Hull led 10-6 at the break, but had twice denied Salford tries only by virtue of a flailing hand just as the hosts looked to score.
First, Jack Logan – a young winger making his first appearance of the season after returning from a loan spell at Toronto Wolfpack – made a timely intervention when the visitors were stretched.
He could not hold on to the ball, but Carlos Tuimavave did the next time Salford’s raid down Hull’s right was thwarted and he turned defence into attack.
Still, the home side really should have had some success at the start of the second period, but this time Jake Bibby’s final pass to Derrell Olpherts went forward.
It was a costly miss; Hull had still been down to 12 men at that point after Logan’s yellow card for a professional foul in the 32nd minute, but their line was never broken during his absence.
Instead, soon after his return Griffin went in for his second try after Bureta Faramio challenged for Sneyd’s high kick.
When former Hull back-row Jansin Turgut spilled, Griffin quickly completed his treble with some clever interplay down the left and his side were 20-6 ahead in the 51st minute.
Niall Evalds, impressive for Salford at full-back, responded in the corner as the home side responded with some pressure of their own, but they struggled to break down Radford’s well-organised team.
Sneyd – one of three former Salford players in Hull’s side – added his third penalty after captain Danny Houghton was high-tackled in the 65th minute, but they still had work to do.
Although on a three-game losing streak, Salford have been competitive in each of those defeats and it showed as they hit back again when dangerous Australian stand-off Jackson Hastings finally stepped through some tiring goalline defence for Ed Chamberlain to see them trail by just six points heading into the last 11 minutes.
Fortunately, for Hull at least, Olpherts fumbled in the restart set allowing Sneyd to show all his game-management quality by slotting a settling drop goal.
Griffin, the 28-year-old centre who spent three seasons with Salford before joining Hull in 2017, got his side off the mark with a fine angled run in the fifth minute, Sneyd converting and adding the first of his penalties.
Once they had sorted their early discipline issues Salford became more of a threat and Josh Jones responded as he latched onto Hastings’s grubber, Chamberlain improving.
They thought they had gone ahead when Evalds weaved over, but there had been a foul in back-play.
When Logan was yellow-carded they should have capitalised but, instead, Sneyd slotted another penalty after the hosts had criminally sailed a drop-out out on the full. It kept Hull out in front and, in this mood, they were never going to let things slip.
Salford Red Devils: Evalds; Inu, Chamberlain, Bibby, Olpherts; Lui, Hastings; Walker, Lussick, Dudson, Jones, Griffin, Flanagan. Substitutes: Burke, Wleham, Nukubuwai, Turgut.
Hull FC: Wynne; Logan, Griffin, Tuimavave, Faraimo; Kelly, Sneyd; Taylor, Houghton, Paea, Minichiello, Manu, Westerman. Substitutes: Savelio, Lane, Ellis, Washbrook.
Referee: Gareth Hewer (Whitehaven).