15 February 2024

Niall Evalds grabs brace of tries as Hull KR put 11-man Hull FC to sword

15 February 2024

Franklin Pele and Ligi Sao were both sent off as Hull FC’s hopes of kicking off the new Betfred Super League season with a win over their derby rivals Hull KR unravelled in spectacular fashion at the MKM Stadium.

New boy Niall Evalds led from the front with two tries as Rovers cruised to a 22-0 win which was helped by their opponents’ indiscipline after debutant Pele was red-carded for a needless swing at debutant Eliot Minchella on the stroke of half-time.

With the game long gone Tony Smith’s men suffered the indignity of finishing the game with 11 players after Sao was also red-carded for retaliation after kicking out following foul play by Matt Parcell.

If it was not as emphatic as the 40-0 thrashing inflicted by Rovers last April, it strongly suggested two sides with contrasting seasons in store, with Willie Peters’ new recruits easily outshining their largely anonymous FC counterparts.

Smith’s men might have feared it was not going to be their night when Liam Sutcliffe withdrew after the warm-up due to illness, then Joe Cator was also forced to limp off early.

But for all their ill luck, the black-and-whites were emphatically also the architects of their own demise, as a series of errors and rushes of blood to the head left them 14 points adrift at the interval.

Evalds needed seven minutes to mark his Rovers debut with the opener as he took a pass from Tom Opacic on the right and stepped inside to put the first points of the season on the board.

Mikey Lewis sent Kelepi Tanginoa through a gap for the second in a move that began with an error from Morgan Smith who needlessly kicked into touch on the full.

Hull responded with an overdue spell of pressure, Jack Walker’s high kick forcing an error from Rovers full-back Peta Hiku, who was perhaps the only visiting new boy not to excel.

But errors from Jayden Okunbor and Jack Ashworth sapped most of the momentum the home side could build, and the Hull defence stood off again as the superb Lewis skipped through again to take Rovers’ lead to 12.

Hiku nailed his first and only conversion of the night before the first period ended on a desperate note for the hosts, as Pele followed up a tackle on Minchella with a needless swing towards his opponent on the ground, prompting a mass confrontation and a red card.

Cam Scott spurned a chance to reduce the deficit for Hull early in the second half after another spill from Hiku, before Rovers camped on the hosts’ try-line and after Jai Whitbread and Ryan Hall were both held up, Parcell found the inevitable gap on the last to nail Rovers’ fourth try.

Tension boiled over in the last 10 minutes as Parcell was sin-binned for elbowing Sao in the ruck, only for Sao to see red after retaliating with a kick to the head.

Evalds completed the scoring in the final minute as he raced over on the right flank to the delight of the estimated 8,000 Rovers fans in the 20,014 opening night crowd.

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