As Hull FC and Warrington Wolves were battling out what would end as the first drawn Super League match since golden point extra-time was instituted for regular-season games in 2019, Black and Whites co-captain Danny Houghton had no idea he was on his way to setting a record.
As usual, the hooker was at the forefront of Hull’s defensive efforts in Sunday’s 14-14 draw at the KCOM Stadium and, from his point of view, it did not seem like he was doing anything out of the ordinary facing down everything the Wolves had to throw at them.
Indeed, it was not until Sunday evening when it began to dawn on Houghton that he had racked up a rugby league record by making a staggering 85 tackles across what ended up being a 90-minute long stint in the middle of the park to help his team earn a share of the spoils.
Danny Houghton made a colossal 85 tackles during @hullfcofficial match against @WarringtonRLFC yesterday 💪#SuperLeague pic.twitter.com/pvvVHejtjq
“I didn’t even know I’d done it,” Houghton said. “A couple of people messaged me saying had I seen the stats from the game, and they told me – then I started to feel the aches and pains.
“I just feel as I would after any other game; obviously the shoulders and chest are a bit sore, but no more so than normal. During the game, I didn’t feel like I was involved in that many tackles, to be honest.
“I pride myself on that sort of area and defence is a massive part of the game now.”
Of those tackles, 67 were made during the 80 minutes of normal time followed by a further 18 during the 10 extra minutes of golden point. Perhaps even more impressively, Houghton had a 100 per cent completion rate as well.
I pride myself on that sort of area and defence is a massive part of the game now.
The 32-year-old has made over 60 tackles in a match on at least four other occasions during his career too and his defensive efforts have come to be recognised as the epitome of what is expected of the modern-day hooker when the opposition team are attacking.
Since 2011, Houghton has won Super League’s Hit Man award for most tackles made on six occasions and finished in the top 10 for the competition every year.
Even during the pandemic-disrupted 2020 season, when his playing time was also reduced by the emergence of Jordan Johnstone, he finished as Hull’s top tackler after being credited with a total of 663 in both the regular season and play-offs by statisticians Opta.
Houghton’s efforts on Sunday have vaulted him to the top of the charts after three rounds of the 2021 campaign with 177, with Wigan Warriors hooker and fellow prolific tackler Sam Powell sitting second on 160.
Danny Houghton’s Super League Hit Man awards
Catalans Dragons’ Alrix Da Costa (125) and Warrington’s Daryl Clark (123) are both in the top 10 of Super League’s leading tacklers so far this year too, and for Houghton it underlines one of the roles those who want to excel in the No. 9 role must fulfil.
“In the middle of the field playing 80 minutes – and then going to 90 – you generally make a lot of tackles anyway,” Houghton said. “It didn’t feel any different to making the standard 50 you make on a weekly basis.
“That’s just part and parcel of being in the middle of the field playing the full game. You see most hookers racking up 40, 50 or 60 tackles if they’re playing full 80 minutes.
“It wasn’t as if I was going searching for the tackles or trying to make more tackles, maybe their game-plan was to come through the middle.”
Houghton’s efforts were not quite enough to see him break the Super League record for the highest number of tackles over the course of 80 minutes. That is still held by Wigan back row Morgan Smithies, who made 72 as an 18-year-old against Salford Red Devils two years ago.
However, his number across the entire match is the most made during a game of rugby league since Opta started recording tackle stats in 2003 and is higher than the NRL record of 77 which was set by Elijah Taylor – now of Salford – for Penrith Panthers against North Queensland Cowboys in 2015.
Nevertheless, Houghton admits would quite happily make fewer tackles during matches, and not just for his own benefit but for the Hull team as well.
That’s just part and parcel of being in the middle of the field playing the full game. You see most hookers racking up 40, 50 or 60 tackles if they’re playing full 80 minutes.
“I would never have started playing!” Houghton joked when asked what he would have thought if someone had told him as a youngster he would set this record, adding: “It’s something you don’t think about.
“The fewer tackles you can do, the better – not just for me but for the team in general. If we’re doing that much defending, we’re not doing that much attacking.
“We need to look after the ball a bit more and not do that much workload.”
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