SIX days after their home defeat by Catalans Dragons, Hull FC produced an outstanding defensive performance, particularly under heavy pressure in the second half, to secure a hard-fought, but well-earned 18-12 win at Leeds Rhinos.
Hull’s character was tested when, in front of Headingley’s first crowd for 14 months, they trailed twice in the opening period.
But a try just before the interval established a 10-point lead and Hull dug deep to keep the hosts out until the final three minutes.
Against a team who had two days’ more rest, Hull took their chances in the first half and scrambled superbly in the second, when Leeds received all three of the six-agains and seven penalties to the visitors’ two.
There was an element of controversy to Hull’s crucial third try, which came after Rhinos full-back Richie Myler was dragged back in goal to concede a drop out.
Leeds felt they should have had a penalty, but in the resulting set Josh Griffin, who had a fine game, went over from Jake Connor’s pass and Marc Sneyd’s third conversion made it 18-8 and gave Hull crucial breathing space.
Hull coach Brett Hodgson felt it was a “tough game to watch”, but said: “Our resilience, our willingness to defend our try-line was outstanding.”
He added: “I’m really happy with the result.
“Our willingness to fight for our try-line was unbelievable, the team effort was excellent.
“Obviously we’re not happy with our completions in that second half.
“We had to be good defensively and thankfully we were.
“It is a big win, and in the context of last week’s result we wanted to make sure we got back to that winning form.”
Leeds defended solidly for most of the game, but were caught out wide for Hull’s tries and struggled for ideas when they got close to Hull’s line.
Liam Sutcliffe did come up with a fine finish to stretch over, from Luke Gale’s pass, for the opening try, which Rhyse Martin converted, but Hull were quickly level when a superb long ball from Connor gave Adam Swift a walk in.
Martin booted a penalty when Hull were caught offside, but – after Leeds’s Alex Mellor had a touchdown ruled out by video referee James Child for a knock-on – the rest of the half belonged to the visitors.
Swift scored his second, from Griffin’s pass, in the set following the no-try and Griffin’s touchdown proved a big moment in the game. Aided by a series of penalties, errors by Hull and six-agains, Leeds did most of the attacking in the second half, but managed only one try, when it was too late, Tom Briscoe coming up with a nice finish following decent play by Gale and Brad Dwyer.
Rhinos should have made more of their territory and possession, but had two touchdowns ruled out in the same set midway through, Child backing up referee Marcus Griffiths’s initial feeling that Tom Briscoe had been held up by Carlos Tuimavave; then overruling the match official after he thought Myler had touched down from Gale’s cross kick, having spotted a knock-on by Sutcliffe.
In between times, a huge melee erupted after Briscoe thought he had scored.
No action was taken by the officials, but the incident will be studied by the RFL’s match review panel.
Rhinos coach Richard Agar said: “I felt we did a lot of things right, we got our defence organised really well, but we had a couple of one-on-one misses that really hurt us on the scoreboard.
“The game got really error-strewn and messy in the second half, for a number of reasons, but I think we will look back on a couple of missed opportunities.
“I thought we played all right through the field until we got to the last 20.
“It was a game of a couple of chances, a couple we let in and a couple we didn’t take offensively.”
Leeds Rhinos: Myer, L Briscoe, Hurrell, T Briscoe, Handley, L Sutcliffe, Gale, Oledzki, Leeming, Prior, Mellor, Martin, Tetevano. Substitutes: Dwyer, Vuniyayawa, Donaldson, Gannon.
Hull FC: Connor, Fonua, Tuimavave, Griffin, Swift, Reynolds, Sneyd, Sao, Houghton, Satae, Savelio, Ma’u, Lane. Substitutes: Cator, Faraimo, Fash, Johnstone.
Referee: M Griffiths (Widnes).
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