IT WAS great to see all those smiles at Headingley the other night after our victory in the Carnegie Floodlit Nines.
Overall, it’s been a disappointing season, but at least we can look back on collecting a trophy and reflect on becoming the first winners of a competition which we hope will grow bigger and bigger.
We were fully behind the Nines idea – as we showed with the strength of the squad we fielded – and we’re already looking forward to defending our trophy in 2009.
Because of our Super League commitments we had very little time to prepare for the event, but we adapted to it well and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
In a way, it did help to make up for the bitter disappointment we felt at the end of last week’s game against St Helens.
After a campaign that produced more lows than highs we were desperate to mark our final home game of the season with a victory over Saints.
We obviously started the contest confidently with that early try, and even when Saints hit back to level the scores after 10 minutes we still felt we were in control.
But then the two decisions against us well and truly knocked the stuffing out of us and gave St Helens the upper hand.
It goes without saying that the two decisions – or lack of them – were the calls by referee Ben Thaler that went against us and led to Saints scoring their other two first-half tries.
For one of the scores, there was a forward pass and for the other there was a knock-on. During a game you can instinctively feel when the opposition has produced such an error, and that’s what happened at the weekend.
On occasions like this, you automatically switch off for a split second waiting for the referee to blow his whistle, and when you do that against a side like St Helens and the call doesn’t come it can be fatal – as was proved on Sunday.
I know you should always play to the whistle, but when the instinct kicks in that’s almost impossible.
So, from being 6-6, we found ourselves 18-6 down and forced to play catch-up.
Unfortunately, those decisions also had a negative effect on the way we played, and that added to our disappointment. It shouldn’t have affected us the way it did.
However, at the start of the second half we were getting back to our best and had soon closed the gap to 18-16. Again our confidence was up.
But on this occasion, there was no-one to blame but ourselves for the way we let Saints regain control.
Just when our tails were up we conceded a soft try and then made a mess of a play on the sixth tackle, and the game had gone.
Disappointment only just starts to describe how we felt.
However, now it’s a case of having to wait until next Saturday and the trip to Warrington for our final League game of the season.
To be honest, because of this weekend’s break, I wish the season was out of the way now.
There’s obviously the delay because of tomorrow’s Challenge Cup final between St Helens and Hull at Wembley.
Hopefully, it’ll be a cracking contest, with the game attracting a national audience.
Obviously Saints will start as massive favourites, and it’s pretty clear it’s going to take a massive effort from Hull to match them.
This season they have clearly under-performed, albeit on the back of an injury-hit year.
But some of their key players are returning now and in recent weeks they have been putting some better form together, so they aren’t totally without hope.
With a bit of luck, their preparation will be good and they can build on their excellent win over Harlequins last Friday. If they can do that, there’s always a chance.