For the last two years the Challenge Cup Trophy has been adorned with the Black & White ribbons of Hull FC and they began their defence tonight with a potential ‘banana skin’ of an away trip to Featherstone Rovers to take on one of the side who are heading for the middle eights.
It’s almost three years since Hull FC last lost a Challenge Cup tie, a game against eventual winners Leeds Rhinos, on the 26th June 2015.
Featherstone Rovers were looking to capitalise on the absence of Airlie Birds stars such as Marc Sneyd, Jordan Abdull and Albert Kelly and spring a surprise on the Super League side in front of the SKY TV cameras. Their side was full of players with Super League experience including Luke Briscoe who was aiming to equal Leeds 1930’s phenomenon Eric Harris’s record of scoring a try in seventeen consecutive games.
A Josh Griffin line bust and thirty metre run created the first try on four minutes when he found Jake Connor in support to go over next to the right upright. Connor converted his own try for the ideal start for the visiting side.
There was a long break in play on eight minutes as Josh Bowden was helped off the field after sustaining an awful looking knee injury and he was replaced by Danny Washbrook.
Within a minute Sika Manu wasn’t held in the tackle close to the line and regained his feet before stretching out and scoring one-handed on the line. Connor added the extras for a 12-0 lead, Featherstone unable to make any headway whatsoever.
Hull were way too fast and expansive for the Championship outfit and on twelve Joe Westernam put Connor through a big gap in the defence to walk over for his second. Connor was again accurate with the boot for 18-0.
On twenty Martyn Ridyard kicked a 40/20 for Rovers and a minute later Ridyard found Anthony Thackeray who span out of the tackle and went five metres to score the home sides opener. Ridyard was unable to add the extras but Fev’ were on the board.
It was normal service resumed on twenty-five when Josh Hardcastle lost the ball close to the Hull line and it was picked up by Jamie Shaul who went ninety metres to score behind the sticks. Connor added the goal for 24-4.
On thirty-two Griffin got due reward for his hard work as he pushed aside the Rovers tacklers to drop over the line and ground from ten metres out. Connor kicked his fifth goal of the evening to bring up the thirty.
On thirty-five Luke Briscoe got the record equalling try as he flew in down the right wing to score one handed while airborne. An eighty-two year record was equalled thanks to a Thackeray pass. Ridyard kicked the extras to bring up double figures for Featherstone.
Tuimavave was helped off the field just before half time as FC started to run out of players.
Four minutes after the restart Briscoe got his second spectacular try as he again flew in at the corner off a high looping pass from Tom Holmes. Ridyard drilled the conversion between the uprights from the touchline to narrow the margin to fourteen points.
On fifty it was normal service resumed from Hull when Bureta Faraimo ran down the wing before stepping inside to score five metres in from the touchline. Connor slid his conversion attempt in front of the uprights.
On fifty-five Briscoe held down in the tackle and saw yellow from referee Mikalauskas.
Just after the hour Faraimo picks up a loose Featherstone pass on his own ten metre line and he went the length of the field to score. Connor was unable to convert but Hull were into the quarter finals with a 38-16 lead and just sixteen minutes remaining.
On sixty-six John Davies was sin-binned for a high tackle, condemming his side to play with twelve men for another ten minutes.
As the game slipped from Featherstone tempers frayed and the game became scrappy with frequent warnings issued by the referee to players and captains.
On seventy-four minutes Danny Washbrook was sin-binned for using his knee in the tackle and on the resulting set of six Gareth Hock took a short pass from Tom Holmes to go in for Featherstones fourth try of the night. Ridyard was off target with the boot for a scoreline of 20-38
Two minutes from time Brad Knowles and Jake Connor were also shown yellow and in the last minute Jamie Shaul was sin-binned after pulling back and delaying a restart to bring the yellow tally to six.
As the final hooter sounded Faraimo was red-carded for a high tackle around the head to finish off a bad-tempered game and give the referee plenty of homework with seven disciplinary reports to write.
Hull were back on the road to Wembley and into the quarter finals but they could pay the price for a rough and tumble game of attrition with a Featherstone side who weren’t left wondering what might have been. The injuries to Bowden and Tuimavave looked as though they may take some healing and they will join an ever increasing Hull injury list. Featherstone will go back to focussing on achieving a top four place and making the middle eights with a shot at Super League for 2019.
Rovers: Thackeray (T), Briscoe (2T, SB on 55), Hardcastle, Taulapapa, Robinson, Ridyard (G), Holmes, Wheeldon, Carlile, Knowles (SB on 78), Farrell, Davies (SB on 66), Lockwood. Subs: Wildie, Hock (T), Cooper, Brooks.
FC: Shaul (T, SB on 79), Faraimo (2T, SO on 80), Griffin (T), Hadley, Talanoa, Connor (2T, 5G, SB on 78), Tuimavave, Green, Houghton, Bowden, Manu (T), Minichiello, Westerman. Subs: Matongo, Washbrook (SB on 74), Litten, Lane.
Referee: Scott Mikalauskas.