Hull fired by damnation

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The Independent Online

If Widnes's players were in any doubt that their performance at Hull on Monday represented an historic low point for a proud club, then they had the point hammered home forcibly the day after.

If Widnes's players were in any doubt that their performance at Hull on Monday represented an historic low point for a proud club, then they had the point hammered home forcibly the day after.

Instead of having their scheduled day off, the disgraced squad were hauled in, not just for extra training but also to be paraded at the regular weekly press conference; not just extra sweat, but also the burden of having to explain away their 70-4 humiliation.

Players tend to be fairly honest with themselves and they already knew that their effort at the KC Stadium had been right off the bottom end of the graph. "For the first 25 minutes, everything looked rosy, but then a decision went against us and the wheels fell off," said the stand-off, Jules O'Neill, the nearest thing this squad have to a leader. "We let ourselves down mentally and there's no excuse for that."

Like most of the 17 implicated in the Hull débâcle, O'Neill has never had a worse day in rugby league, but he remains a fierce defender of the beleaguered Widnes coach, Neil Kelly. "We're being coached in a great way, with everything done right for us," O'Neill said. "Neil gave us a great gameplan. All the blame has to go to the 17 players, and I feel sorry for the man. I think that he is doing a great job. Coaches don't coach players to cross the whitewash and perform like we did at Hull."

There had been a vague assumption that talk of a new contract for Kelly and a couple of wins meant that things were basically OK at Widnes. Monday's performance showed that that was something of an illusion.

Kelly still has no new deal and, on Monday's showing, admits that he is not likely to get one. Apart from Craig Weston, who has hardly played for two years, there are no new players to strengthen the squad and it will only take Castleford to win a couple of games to drag Widnes deep into relegation trouble.

The one saving grace for the club and the players is that they get an immediate chance to redeem themselves when they play their local rivals, Warrington, today. Widnes had been hoping for a sell-out crowd at the Halton Stadium. Their feeble effort at Hull has probably cost them their chance of that, and it will need a massively improved performance if they are to avoid further embarrassment. "We owe it to Neil and we owe it to ourselves," O'Neill said.

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