Niall Evalds brilliance, does Hull’s second half save Tony Smith? The Hull Derby Debrief


Niall Evalds of Hull KR celebrates his try during the Betfred Super League match Hull FC vs Hull KR at MKM Stadium, Hull, United Kingdom, 15th February 2024 (Photo by Craig Cresswell/News Images)

Hull KR continued their dominance in the Hull derby with a commanding victory over arch rivals Hull FC.

Leading 28-0 at half-time, a spirited second-half comeback from the Black and Whites at least added a sense of credibility to a scoreline that, at one stage, looked to be spiralling towards one of the worst defeats in derby history. Here are the big talking points from the game..

Does the second half save Tony Smith?

The noises coming from Hull’s camp all week have been united about how this is a long-term project for Tony Smith and the Black and Whites.

Smith himself delivered a steadfast response when asked what the message from owner Adam Pearson had been: essentially to carry on with his job.

At half-time however, the writing looked as though it could have been on the wall for Smith’s role, with Sky Sports pundits Sam Tomkins and Jon Wilkin admitting earlier in the week Smith himself was under some pressure.

But you wonder how the second half – an improved one on Hull’s behalf, which they actually won 10-6 – has transformed the future of Smith at the MKM Stadium. Would it be a stretch to suggest the respectability with which Hull performed effectively saved his job?

Niall Evalds is Hull KR’s number one: for now

Despite Peta Hiku wearing the number one shirt, there can be no doubting who Hull KR’s first-choice fullback is as things stand.

Niall Evalds was at his brilliant best on Friday lunchtime, scoring one try, setting up another but generally having a hand in everything the Robins did well in that near-perfect first half.

Evalds will now surely be given a permanent run in the position over the coming weeks, particularly with Hiku impressing in the centres. With Oliver Gildart available again soon too, it means the Robins have real strength in depth all across the backline.

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Will Hull FC give an actual half-back a run at half-back?

Danny Houghton’s withdrawal midway through the second half may force Tony Smith’s hand somewhat, but it did prompt an attacking reshuffle that had its moments of promise, at least.

To some observers, the notion of playing two players that have spent large portions of their career at hooker in Nu Brown and Morgan Smith as starting half-backs has been one of the major flaws in Hull’s game of late.

But when Houghton went off, Brown slotted in at dummy-half to good effect and young half-back Jack Charles once again showed some glimpses of what he could do. He could, and arguably should, have had an assist had Darnell McIntosh grounded the ball following Charles’ clever kick through in the final moments.

Will Hull now back Charles and give him a run at half-back, or persist with the Brown-Smith pairing if Houghton’s injury isn’t as bad as first feared?

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