Leigh Centurions 22 Hull FC 64: Connor Wynne makes successful switch in 12-try romp

WHEN Hull FC coach Brett Hodgson lost not one but three centres to injury in the space of six days, it must have caused him a considerable headache.

Hat-trick star: Andre Savelio celebrates the second of his three tries for Hull at Leigh Centurions. Pictures: Bruce Rollinson

England hopeful Josh Griffin was ruled out for the season by a torn Achilles tendon in the Challenge Cup semi-final loss to St Helens and, in the following fixture, Kiwi Carlos Tuimavave and Cam Smith both succumbed, too.

Admittedly, there was an obvious option available on Saturday when Hodgson took charge of his first game without all three.

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Switch full-back Jake Connor to centre – a position where he has represented both England and Great Britain – to operate alongside Mahe Fonua, the former Melbourne Storm winger who could easily move infield.

Certainly, Hull had another able understudy at full-back in the shape of exciting Academy product Connor Wynne.

Yet Connor has been in devastating form at No 1 since covering himself for Jamie Shaul, so much so that many onlookers are wondering why he is not involved there in Shaun Wane’s England squad against the Combined Nations All Stars on Friday.

With that in mind, Hodgson instead picked 20-year-old Wynne to play centre against Leigh Centurions and it proved an inspired decision as the dynamic visitors racked up their biggest Super League win since 2013.

Connor, of course, gave a master-class with his trickery and subtleties causing havoc for winless Leigh, who remain rooted to the foot of the table following 11 straight league defeats.

Answering the call: Hull FC's Connor Wynne celebrates his try.

But Wynne, making his first league appearance of the season, thrived, too, looking a natural in his new position where a couple of early weaving runs left Leigh defenders clutching at shadows.

He also showed wonderful swift hands to catch and pass to supply winger Bureta Faraimo one of the club’s dozen tries before supporting Connor’s break at the start of the second period to score a try of his own.

Defensively, he handled former Wigan Warriors’ Grand Final winner Iain Thornley – whom Hodgson had earmarked as Leigh’s main threat – with impressive authority.

If Hodgson had worries about what he will do for the next three weeks or so as Tuimavave and Scott continue to recover, they were quickly assuaged here.

“I was a bit nervous coming into the game,” insisted Wynne, who was playing on loan for York City Knights against Swinton Lions and Dewsbury Rams a few weeks ago.

“I’ve never played centre professionally in first-grade. But when you get that first touch of the ball, you feel good and I did.

“I felt like I gave him (Thornley) a good battle if I’m honest. Brett spoke to me before and just said ‘make sure you’re up in front and you’ll make the right decisions.’

“I thought I was up in front and in my position and I did make the right decisions.

“Whenever you come into the team, you have just got do your job wherever you go whether wing, centre or full-back.

“Obviously, Jake’s killing it at full-back and, obviously, Brett doesn’t want to move him for that reason. I wouldn’t either.

“I’m happy to fill in anywhere and do my job for the team which I felt I did.”

As Hull secured a sixth league win of the season, he certainly did enough to cement his place for Friday’s home game with Huddersfield Giants.

However, Hodgson’s dominant side were awash with stellar displays as they produced their best football of 2021.

Second-row Andre Savelio scored his first professional hat-trick, in-form winger Adam Swift added another two tries to his tally while rampaging prop Chris Satae, fresh from signing a new two-year deal, spent most of the afternoon bullying the bewildered Leigh pack.

Ligi Sao was similarly forceful up front and, if that duo ever needed a breather, Hull just shifted a little further wider for Manu Ma’u to unload his bombs, the Tongan second-row also scored as did Jack Brown, Fonua, Connor and Satae.

On the back of those pack efforts, Hull’s playmakers, Marc Sneyd, Josh Reynolds and Connor, strode around almost doing whatever they wanted, looking for ways to unpick befuddled opponents.

Hull-born Wynne, who has only made sporadic appearances since debuting in 2019, also enjoyed all the open space. “That’s just my game, to be honest: my running game, my footwork.

“Last year I lost it a bit but I think I’ve brought it back into my game now and I do feel very confident in myself. It was really good to be back with the boys.”

Leigh Centurions: Brierley; Mullen, Hellewell, Thornley, Sa’u; Reynolds, Mellor; Mason, Hood, Ioane, McCarthy, Gee, Bell. Substitutes: Peats, Peteru, Wildie, Russell.

Hull FC: Connor; Faraimo, Wynne, Fonua, Swift; Reynolds, Swift; Sao, Houghton, Satae, Savelio, Ma’u, Lane. Substitutes: Johnstone, Fash, Brown, Vulikijapani.

Referee: J Child (Dewsbury).