This meeting between two of the biggest sides in Yorkshire and indeed English Rugby League is always a big one but after last week’s result’s the game has even more riding on it. Hull were humbled last week at home to Salford as they went down to a hefty defeat in front of the Black and White faithful. The warning signs had been there in the previous two weeks when Hull almost surrendered a healthy lead against Wigan before squandering another decent lead to draw with Warrington. Their defence was beginning to look weak at key moments and Salford took full advantage last week.
The 18-54 score line looks horrendous from a Hull perspective but it should also be noted that Hull were missing several key players, Danny Houghton, Gareth Ellis, Scott Taylor, Albert Kelly and Carlos Tuimavave. Salford however played to the old sporting cliché and played what was in front of them to some avail. They were far too good for Hull on the night and took them to the cleaners in the first half. Hull rallied slightly at the start of the second half but Salford then began to dominate again and ran in ten tries on a night to forget for Lee Radford. He was critical of his side afterwards and rightly so but they have troops back this week and must bounce back as we head into a pivotal part of the season.
If losing last week was bad enough Hull now have to face a side who really seem to have something over them. It’s widely accepted amongst the Hull FC faithful that they never beat Leeds, except in one pretty big game in 2005 of course, and the Rhinos were the only team Hull failed to beat last year despite the dreadful year Leeds endured. With Leeds now back in and amongst the top four elite it makes this game even more mouth-watering.
After last week’s disappointing defeat Lee Radford will be pleased to have several top quality players back this week. He welcomes Albert Kelly, Scott Taylor, Gareth Ellis and Carlos Tuimavave back into his squad this week as he looks to mastermind a win against Leeds which always seems to be an impossible task for a Hull coach. Josh Griffin is also named in the squad despite suffering what looked like a serious ankle injury last week against his former club Salford.
Leeds have a mixed bag of team news this week. They welcome back Stevie Ward and Keith Galloway to their forward pack but they have also lost influential players Carl Ablett and Jimmy Keinhorst to serious injuries. They are also without Brad Singleton and Brett Ferres as they continue to serve their respective 6 games suspensions.
Where will the game be won and lost?
Defence: Hull’s defence was nowhere near good enough last week. Salford almost walked through them at times and that is simply not good enough. Granted Hull had key players missing but squad players have to step up when called upon and Hull will have to improve across the board in the defensive side of the game to have any chance against Leeds. Leeds have some dangerous strike players and Hull will need to be wary of that throughout the game.
Mentality: As mentioned earlier Hull have a shocking record against Leeds. They very rarely beat them and couldn’t even manage it last season when Leeds had their worst season in years. Hull are a point behind Leeds having played a game fewer so a win against them tomorrow would be huge. IF Lee Radford’s side are to start Easter with a bang they have to believe they can bounce back from last week and get one over on their Yorkshire rivals.
Returning Players: To have Albert Kelly, Scott Taylor, Gareth Ellis and potentially Carlos Tuimavave back to face Leeds is a huge boost for Hull. They won’t play as badly as they did last week especially with 4 players of that calibre returning to the squad. Albert Kelly’s influence could be a real game changer if he continues the scintillating form he has shown so far this season. One moment of magic from him could swing what is likely to be a tight game and the defensive prowess of Taylor and Ellis will also be a big factor in the game.