Hull derby pits two of games's historical heavyweights against each other

Photo by Ashley Allen

17 April 2019 - Written by Zack Wilson

Hull Kingston Rovers make the short trip across their home city to face neighbours Hull FC on Good Friday.

The clash is Super League’s only true city derby, and it possesses a unique dynamic as a result.

There was a time in the early 1980s when this game was arguably the biggest in British rugby league.

Hull FC were champions in 1983, and won the Challenge Cup in 1982.

They also claimed the John Player Trophy in 1982, and won three successive Yorkshire Cups, in 1983, 1984 and 1985.

Rovers also won their fair share of trophies during that era.

They were champions in 1979, 1984 and 1985, and won the Premiership in 1981 and 1984.

The Robins also won the John Player Special Trophy in 1985.

The clubs also famously met in the 1980 Challenge Cup final, when Rovers won 10-5.

The number of Rovers fans who continue to use that scoreline as the basis for tattoos or social media handles is testament to its lasting impact on the sporting culture of Hull.

Until Wigan started to dominate in the latter half of the 1980s, there was a serious case to be made that Hull was the capital city of British rugby league.

Things are looking pretty positive for Hull KR at the moment, who edged past Leigh Centurions last week in the Challenge Cup.

Rovers are having to cope with a few injuries at the moment, and the game could have been a banana skin for the Rovers.

At times on Thursday evening, it was tricky to work out which players were actually playing in their favoured positions, such was the disruption caused by injury.

More confidence was generated by the recent win over Leeds Rhinos at KCOM Craven Park. The Rhinos may be struggling right now but they are still a notable scalp.

Rovers beat them properly as well – this was not a fortuitous or narrow victory.

Inspired by Josh Drinkwater’s organisation and Kane Linnet’s graft, the Robins outplayed Leeds, for whom only Konrad Hurrell looked really threatening.

Hull FC head into Friday’s game on the back of a golden point win in France over Catalans Dragons.

Given the cripplingly long injury list that the Airlie Birds have, that victory is a tremendous credit to the players.

Lee Radford’s squad is particularly depleted in the pack, with back rowers having to play as props.

Of course, coping with a single away game with a depleted squad is very different to managing the testingly busy Easter period.

Debutant Jack Brown came off the bench to score a try, and there were other encouraging displays from youngsters Levy Nzoungou and Connor Wynne.

This week’s edition of the derby might not seem to have too much riding on it, but it is the kind of game where victory could inject serious momentum into a team’s season.

This fixture is never just another game – there is always more at stake than mere league points.

Neither team is likely to be challenging for a place in the Grand Final this year, but victory in this game could be the trigger for a positive and relatively successful campaign.

Whatever the outcome, there is sure to be drama and incident, and all rugby league fans should make sure they’re watching on Friday.

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