It’s almost time Hull FC fans! The Black and Whites will go head to head with the Cherry and Whites at Wembley tomorrow looking to make more history under Lee Radford. If Hull win tomorrow they will retain the Challenge Cup for the first time in their history and will take another step towards a dynasty that could see Hull dine at Rugby League’s top table for years to come.
We all know what happened last year as Hull dramatically came back to beat Warrington to get the Wembley monkey of their backs. That was the greatest day in Hull’s history in many fans eyes but a win tomorrow will go close to matching that.
Hull have had fleeting successes in the Super League era but have never managed to sustain a period of trophy winning dominance, tomorrow is an ideal opportunity to rectify that. The final is set up perfectly as Hull face Wigan. The clubs have met three times before in Wembley finals with Wigan winning all three. The two historic clubs played out the best ever Challenge Cup Final in 1985 and arguably the worst ever final in 2013. Hull were nilled by Wigan that day and revenge will certainly be on their minds.
Lee Radford was part of the coaching staff on that rainy day in 2013 and he will want to set the record straight tomorrow. Hull were awful that day but hopefully they will be far better tomorrow and go into the final as favourites in the eyes of several pundits. Last Year’s final was the first “classic” at the new Wembley and many are tipping tomorrow’s final to be just as gripping. While that will shred the nerves of both sets of supporters it would be great to see.
Talking of revenge the last time these two teams met in the cup Hull came out on top in a nail-biting Semi-Final in 2016. Both teams played well on the night but Hull came out on top and Shaun Wane will no doubt have been using that as motivation for his side this week in the build up.
Hull couldn’t have picked a much tougher opponent to face in the Cup Final. As Martyn Sadler so rightly pointed out on Rugby League Backchat this week Wigan are a team for the big stage and never know when they are beaten so Hull will have to come up with a complete 80 minute performance to beat them. We all know Hull are capable of that though, you only have to look at the last two rounds of the cup to see that. Hull were excellent against Castleford in the Quarter Final and they were simply superb against Leeds in the Semi. Replicate that semi-final performance and Gareth Ellis will be lifting the Challenge Cup aloft again come 5pm tomorrow.
Where will the game be won and lost?
Cup Finals are a different kettle of fish to normal Super League games we all know that. It’s usually down to who performs better on the day especially when two evenly matched sides like Hull and Wigan are facing each other.
The battle of the forwards will be a key element and Hull should have the upper hand in this department. Liam Watts and Scott Taylor will need to set an early platform while Mark Minichiello and Sika Manu will have to keep the destructive Wigan back rowers John Bateman and Liam Farrell quiet. The battle of the captains will be mouth-watering as veterans Gareth Ellis and Sean O’Loughlin look to guide their teams to victory.
An “X Factor” player providing a moment of magic may unlock this final and both clubs have players of that calibre. For Hull it’s Albert Kelly who will be looking to provide a spark to Hull’s attack while Marc Sneyd guides the team around the pitch. Kelly has unfinished business with Wembley after being part of the Hull KR side who were humiliated by Leeds in 2015. He has been magnificent since switching red and white for black and white and if he plays like he did in the semi-final Hull will take some stopping.
Wigan will be hoping for a similar performance from Sam Tomkins who is almost back to his best form following his long injury layoff. He is a key maverick player for Shaun Wane’s side and Hull have to shut him down.
Lee Radford has a fully fit squad to choose from ahead of the final which is a massive blessing for Hull. Of the 19 selected it’s likely that Steve Michaels and Jordan Thompson will be the two unfortunate players to miss out.
Wigan have been riddled with injuries all season but they have most of their star troops back now and that’s reflected in their squad selection for the final
Hull FC: 1. Jamie Shaul, 2. Mahe Fonua, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 4. Josh Griffin, 5. Fetuli Talanoa, 6. Albert Kelly, 7. Marc Sneyd, 8. Scott Taylor, 9. Danny Houghton, 10. Liam Watts, 12. Mark Minichiello, 13. Gareth Ellis, 14. Jake Connor, 15. Chris Green, 16. Jordan Thompson, 17. Danny Washbrook, 19. Steve Michaels, 21. Sika Manu, 22. Josh Bowden.
Wigan Warriors: 1. Sam Tomkins, 3. Anthony Gelling, 4. Oliver Gildart, 5. Joe Burgess, 6. George Williams, 7. Thomas Leuluai, 8. Frank-Paul Nuuausla, 9. Michael McIlorum, 11. Joel Tomkins, 12. Liam Farrell, 13. Sean O’loughlin, 14. John Bateman, 15. Tony Clubb, 16. Sam Powell, 17. Taulima Tautai, 19. Ryan Sutton, 21. Willie Isa, 35. Liam Marshall, 36. Tom Davies.