Rugby League: Faith is restored at Hull

Hull Sharks 33 Sheffield Eagles 16
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THEY CELEBRATED at Hull last night as though it was the early 1980s and they were winning trophies once more.

In its way, avoiding relegation from Super League was as important as anything they achieved in that golden era. A resounding victory over a below-strength Sheffield side that showed only an intermittent ability to counter their passion, coupled with Huddersfield's defeat by Castleford, ensured that they have at least another season to set their house in order and give this city the team it deserves.

It could have been a nervous night on both scores, but Hull had the benefit of a flying start to help them take command of the side of the equation they could control. They took the lead with Sheffield's assistance after seven minutes, Waisale Sovatabua knocking on and Rob Nolan picking up the ball to send Gary Lester away.

Sheffield's defence then opened wide for Ian Pickavance to sell a dummy and score with a 50-yard run that was well outside a prop forward's job description.

Leicester's break then set up Karl Harrison, playing his last game in Super League and Rob Roberts' 40-20 kick created the position from which Lester and Steve Prescott moved the ball from the scrum base for Paul Parker to score.

Even when the Eagles got over the line, thanks to Mark Aston's pass to Jeff Hardy, Hull replied immediately through Logan Campbell, with Prescott adding his fifth goal for a half-time lead that was all the more reassuring for the news that Castleford were pulling away at Huddersfield.

Young Chris Thorman was the catalyst for a small revival that rung a few alarm bells. His clever kick set up one try for Bright Sodje and he added a solo effort of his own, both of them improved by Aston. But Prescott steadied the ship with a penalty and Roberts put over a drop goal 10 minutes from time to complete the biggest as well as most significant win of Hull's precarious season.

All that remained was a rendition of "Old Faithful" as heartfelt as anything in their glory years and a wait for confirmation of Huddersfield's fate at the McAlpine Stadium.

The former Great Britain coach Mal Reilly has confirmed that he will quit the Giants if they fail to earn a reprieve, an unlikely event as Widnes have been told they will join Super League provided they win the Northern Ford Premiership.

Hull: Prescott; Baildon, Campbell, Parker, Poucher; Nolan, Lester; Harrison, King, Pickavance, Smith, Roberts, Purcell. Substitutes used: Ireland, Fletcher, Barrow, Schultz.

Sheffield: Watson; Sodje, Lovell, Sovatabua, Crowther; Stephens, Aston; Molloy, Lawless, Molyneux, Baldwin, Jackson, Hardy. Substitutes used: Cooper, Thorman, Pearson, Slicker.

Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).