Rugby League: Hull's party on ice
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
Sunday 29 June 1997
Hull strode down the Boulevard to collect the First Division championship and confirm their promotion to Super League, but had their complacency punished as they were soundly beaten by opponents who were beset by relegation worries.
Outplayed and out-fought by Featherstone, Hull now face another nervous afternoon at Huddersfield next Saturday. With the honourable exception of their prop Steve Craven, they showed little appetite for the honest hard work that was required of them yesterday and deservedly suffered their first league defeat of the season, leaving a crowd of almost 8,000 bitterly frustrated.
Although Featherstone had struggled near the foot of the First Division all year, it was a case of role reversal from the start, with Hull looking the more anxious team and Rovers going about the job as though they had nothing to lose.
Featherstone were by far the more fluent side from the hooter, as was illustrated by the sweeping move that brought the first points of the match after six minutes - Paddy Handley, Danny Evans and Shaun Irwin all handling to send Darren Hughes over in the corner.
A Hull mistake was the catalyst for that try when Andy Ireland dropped the ball, and it was another error that was partly to blame for Featherstone's second try. The Hull full-back, Steve Holmes, allowed Irwin to steal the ball from him in the tackle and, when Featherstone worked their way to the other end, an educated pass from Steve Molloy - surely too good to be playing at this level - put Eddie Rombo in the clear.
Hull, consumed by tension and badly missing the strike power of the game's leading scorer, the injured Tevita Vaikona, needed a score to settle them before half-time. They got it when a break by Holmes and Kevin Gray moved to the right end of the field where Mark Hewitt and Graeme Hallas set up a simple try for Glen Liddiard.
That did not have a noticeably calming effect on them in the second half, though, with Hull still squandering possession at every opportunity and living on their nerves whenever Featherstone got near their line.
They had numerous escapes before they were finally punished when Ty Fallins sent Davy Kimmel striding away. Hull's composure was in tatters by this stage and, three minutes later, the failure of Hewitt and Holmes to tidy up a loose ball allowed Neil Lowe to kick ahead and Molloy to drive over.
The celebratory chorus of "Old Faithful" was silenced, "Old Fallible" being more appropriate. Hull knew that they would have work to do when they got into Super League, but perhaps were not aware that there was still work to do in order to get there.
For Featherstone, the mystery is how they have failed to produce a trace of this sort of form this season. On this showing, it could have been them on the verge of the big time.
Hull: Holmes; Gray, Hallas, Liddiard, Johnson; Lester, Hewitt; Craven, Donohue, Ireland, Fisher, Boyd, Schultz. Subs used: Nolan, Wilson, Jackson, Radford.
Featherstone: Strange; Hughes, Irwin, Kimmel, Rombo; Pratt, Handley; Molloy, Chapman, Powell, Price, Lowe, Evans. Subs used: Fallins, Slater, Lambert, Baker.
Referee: S Ganson (St Helens).
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