The Rugby League Jamboree rolls into Newcastle this weekend as Hull FC take on St Helens in game 2 of the Dacia Magic Weekend 2017. Despite the carnival atmosphere and the neutral stadium Lee Radford will be keen to see his side continue their excellent run of form as they look to make it 6 wins in a row in all competitions. Hull hammered Catalans 62-0 as they began the defence of their Challenge Cup title last week and will be brimming with confidence going into tomorrow’s game with struggling St Helens.
St Helens were hammered in the Challenge Cup as they conceded 53 points against the league leaders Castleford last which led to Jon Wilkin admitting this is the worst St Helens team he has been part of in 15 years at the club. Once again the challenge for Lee Radford will be to stop complacency creeping in. Hull will be heavy favourites to win and go top of Super League for at least 24 hours and if they have the right attitude and desire St Helens probably won’t be able to stop them.
It’s mixed news for Lee Radford this week as he welcomes Carlos Tuimavave, Sika Manu and Fetuli Talanoa back into his squad while Josh Griffin is included again despite going off last week with a head knock. It’s not all good news though as Mahe Fonua and Jake Connor are missing after picking up knocks last week while Gareth Ellis is still not ready to return from a sternum injury.
St Helens have named an unchanged 19 man squad from their hammering at Castleford last week with Jonny Lomax their only real injury worry. Justin Holbrook will have arrived in the UK in time to observe his team for the first time but Sean Long and Jamahl Lolesi will remain in charge of the side.
Where will the game be won and lost?
Exposing Oppositions Weakness: It’s fair to say St Helens are having a poor season by their standards. Hull already sit 8 points ahead of the Saints and a win tomorrow would probably mean St Helens won’t catch them this season. Saints are low on confidence but a wounded animal can be dangerous and Hull will have to be wary of that. The St Helens players will be keen to impress in front of their new coach and Hull will have to have the right attitude to win. If Hull get on top early they will have a much better chance of winning because the St Helens heads may drop quite easily after their poor run of form.
Outside Backs: Hull are missing a couple of their three quarters this week while St Helens are virtually at full strength in that area. Mahe Fonua has been in sensational form recently but he is missing this week and he may be replaced by Fetuli Talanoa who has missed a few games through injury. St Helens may well look to target him hoping he is rusty but he certainly has the ability to combat that. Hull may well target youngster Regan Grace and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him peppered early on by Marc Sneyd and Albert Kelly. If Hull can get on top in this area they will have a fruitful afternoon.
Discipline: Robert Hick’s is the referee tomorrow and as Hull know to their detriment he can be very whistle happy. He heavily influenced Hull’s second round defeat to the Catalan Dragons as he gave penalty after penalty against both sides. The game had no rhythm and Hull will be keen to avoid that happening again tomorrow. If Hull can keep penalties to a minimum and frustrate St Helens they may well be gifted plenty of attacking opportunities by the referee. If that happens they may well have an easy afternoon against the under-par Saints.