07 July 2023

Willie Peters: Big win at MKM Stadium counts for little in Hull derby rematch

07 July 2023

Hull KR coach Willie Peters knows any lingering memories of his side’s emphatic 40-0 derby win at the MKM Stadium in April will count for little when the city rivals meet again in a potentially pivotal Betfred Super League clash at Craven Park on Sunday lunchtime.

Rovers’ win gave Peters a best possible first taste of the derby drama whilst piling more misery upon Hull FC, who looked abject as they surrendered to a sixth straight defeat that appeared to leave the position of experienced head coach Tony Smith under serious threat.

Fast forward three months and it is injury-ravaged Rovers who are feeling the heat, scrabbling to cling onto a top-six slot while Smith’s men have belatedly stirred, their recent statement win over St Helens steeling them for a late play-off push that looked wholly improbable amid the wreckage of April.

Just as telling as the two sides’ form-lines this season are the respective attitudes of the two coaches as they head into a game that could go a long way towards defining their respective seasons, and for which the ‘sold-out’ signs have been hung over KR’s home for over a week.

Peters is intent on living and breathing every moment of his first home derby, which he describes as a “special occasion”, and which he firmly believes is precisely the right fixture to rejuvenate his ailing squad after last week’s disappointing reversal at Leigh.

But for Smith, who the baggage of being sacked as KR coach last season with him across the city, it is nothing to get excited about.

“Defeats all hurt,” insisted the 56-year-old veteran. “I’ve played against a lot of former clubs, and I was no more upset (after the derby) than some of the other games I’ve lost. What hurts is the manner in which you lost, and if we are not giving a good account of ourselves.”

Peters experienced a number of NRL derbies as a player and maintains there is nothing to rival the passion and noise levels of the east Yorkshire showdown, not least one which promises to shape the season run-in for both clubs so significantly.

“When I first came over here I was always told this was a special game and I experienced it first-half at FC’s stadium – obviously for the result but also the atmosphere and the build-up and everything the derby stands for,” said Peters.

You can play it down and say it's just another game but it's not, it's a special occasion

“I knew it would be passionate but whilst I’ve experienced some great derbies, including the Roosters and the Rabbitohs, and the Dragons and Sharks, the crowd here is two or three times as loud.

“You can play it down and say it’s just another game but it’s not, it’s a special occasion. When you look back at your career you look at those moments that stood out the most and these are the moments – there is no doubt that performance we had last time is the best moment for the team this year.”

Both sides face selection dilemmas, with FC bolstered by the prospective returns of the likes of Tex Hoy and Liam Sutcliffe, whilst KR must reshuffle due to the absence of loose forward Eliot Minchella and the returns to Catalans of loan pair Tanguy Zenon and Fouad Yaha.

Smith’s return to Craven Park for the first time since his controversial departure is sure to give an already tasty tie an extra dimension but the veteran Black-and-Whites coach is unconcerned by the fiery welcome he can expect to receive.

“It’s the least of my concerns,” added Smith. “During my time, I have given my all to all of the clubs I was in charge of. For those who remember that, great. For those who don’t, that’s fine, I don’t care.

“I hope it’s a fantastic game that both sets of supporters can enjoy. I’m not one to encourage that rivalry to boil over into bitterness. I want people to enjoy rugby league for what it is. Whoever wins, the other tips their hat, and we move on.”

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