The Debrief: Hull KR’s left-edge, Rovers’ goal-kicking, Hull FC’s familiar woes

Aaron Bower
Mikey Lewis

Hull Kingston Rovers began the new Super League season with a dominant 22-0 victory over Hull FC in a game littered with incidents. Played in front of the biggest opening-night crowd since 2007, and the second-highest opening-night crowd of the Super League era, there were no shortage of talking points for both sides.

From a plethora of cards, the new tackle laws and plenty of player debate, Love Rugby League has picked several out to try and make sense of where both clubs go from the opening night of the season. This is The Debrief.

Rovers’ desire to use the left-edge

Granted, it is only the opening night of the new Super League season – and Willie Peters admitted post-match, probably correctly, that Hull KR’s attack was ‘clunky’. But there are promising signs already with Hull KR’s left-edge in attack given how much success they had at the MKM on Thursday night.

They were visibly and notably using the left in attack more often and the stats compliment that. The left-sided wing-centre pairing of Oliver Gildart and Ryan Hall carried the ball 32 times; in contrast, the pair on the other side, Niall Evalds and Tom Opacic, carried it 19 times.

Their two most impressive tries, Mikey Lewis‘ wonderful solo effort and Kelepi Tanginoa’s debut score, both came through well-executed left-side plays, with Mikey Lewis instrumental in both. That edge comprising of Lewis, Gildart and Hall could have real joy this season as the weeks go on as they start to click

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An early goal-kicking issue?

A spine comprising of Peta Hiku, Tyrone May and Lewis is understandably mouthwatering for anyone associated with Hull KR – and when they click with ball in hand, they will certainly win more games than they lose.

But you did wonder if there was one potential issue given the departure of Jordan Abdull – and Lachlan Coote before him – in that there was a distinct lack of a prominent goal-kicker in Rovers’ ranks.

Hiku kicked just one from five on Thursday night, with one of his four misses a quite staggering slice from in front of the posts – but he has only kicked three goals before in his entire career, with his conversion of Lewis’ try only his fourth.

Lewis has kicked only 20 goals in Super League, and May has only kicked two. James Batchelor took the tee for the final goal attempt of the night on Thursday – but he hasn’t kicked a goal since 2018.

Robins boss Peters admitted post-match that Rovers are working with a specialised goal-kicking coach – and it’s clear that his side needs a regular and competent man from the tee.

It wasn’t an issue on Thursday – but it could well be in the months ahead in tighter contests.

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A familiar feeling around Hull

It may only be game one, but it’s not hard to shake a feeling of same old, same old for Hull FC.

Once again, their off-season recruitment has been pinned in significant spend in attempting to upgrade their pack with overseas signings.

And it was far from an accomplished start in that regard, with an off-colour display by so many of their big performers. The headline in that regard of course, was Franklin Pele‘s moment of madness that saw him sent off on his debut.

Their cause wasn’t helped by injuries and illness, but that would be sugarcoating what was a significantly under-par performance from the hosts. They have now been nilled in the last two Hull derbies at home: a point no FC supporter will need reminding of.

The Black and Whites will have to improve fast, because a slow start can prove damaging – as Hull found out to their detriment last year when they lost seven games in a row after winning their first two.

FC simply cannot afford to do that again – or the pressure will be on.

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