Much has been made of the injury crisis that has crippled Hull FC in recent weeks. The current Ladbrokes Challenge Cup holders, after Josh Griffin exited the Magic Weekend stage with a serious looking knee injury, at now missing six of their seven recognised starting backs. Just a look at the squad numbers tells a story – Bureta Faraimo (2), Carlos Tuimavave (3), Fetuli Talanoa (5), Albert Kelly (6), Marc Sneyd (7) and now Josh Griffin (4) are on the sidelines and will be for the foreseeable future. That left many to predict that the team would struggle in their derby with KR – another team with injuries to key players – this weekend with the likes of young Cameron Scott and Kirk Yeaman, drawn out of retirement by coach Lee Radford, in the Airlie Birds’ back division.
It turned out, however, that the black and whites thoroughly dominated proceedings and their forward pack – to a man – were exceptional. Scott Taylor and Mickey Paea – both facing former employers in the shape of the Robins – managed to shake off shoulder and ankle injuries to deliver strong performances for Radford, the former scoring something of a fortunate try after a Jake Connor kick came back off the crossbar to the England forward. While those two in particular were good, recently returned Joe Westerman was exceptional in only his third appearance and second start since returning to the club he left at the end of 2015. Despite not getting the official man of the match award, many watching – including his coach – felt that Westerman was the best player on the pitch.
It is performances like that which will offer Radford encouragement going forward. While they were playing a poor team – indeed, they now sit bottom of the table – and they will face much stronger challenges than offered than their Hull neighbours, their packmen, including Masi Matongo and Chris Green, provided FC with some serious steel in the middle. With that pack setting a platform for Jake Connor to guide his team around the park and to make the play, they will certainly challenge the better clubs as the season progresses and, once they start to welcome back some more of their first choice backs, this troubling time will have them well set for the Super 8s.