Hull FC head to Leeds tonight fresh from another historic Wembley win last weekend. Hull secured back to back Challenge Cup triumphs with an excellent display in the Capital led by the magnificent Marc Sneyd. 25,000 fans flocked to celebrate with the team in Queen Victoria Square on Monday which made for a spectacular homecoming for the Black and White heroes. This squad is arguably FC’s best ever as they have done what no FC side has done before and the players have written themselves into the folklore of this great old club.
The Challenge Cup Trophy is securely back in the KCOM Stadium trophy cabinet and now attention has to turn back to the Super 8’s campaign. Hull lost ground on tonight’s opponents the week before Wembley when they were humbled by Huddersfield which has piled even more importance onto tonight’s game. If Hull win they will be back within a point of Leeds in the race for a home semi final in the playoffs, lose and they will be 5 points adrift with only 6 to play for making a second place finish almost impossible.
The timing of this fixture certainly isn’t ideal. The powers that be have seen fit to send Hull to Headingley, a ground where they famously struggle, on a Thursday night after a titanic battle of a Wembley Final. It’s not exactly fair but that’s the RFL and Sky for you and Lee Radford and his side have to get on with it.
Hull lost a hard fought game at Headingley last month as they fell to a narrow 10-7 defeat. A certain Mahe Fonua try was somehow disallowed which denied Hull the win so they should take some comfort from the fact they came very close to winning at a ground that has been a bogey ground for a decade. Yes the excuses for defeat in this game are ready made and can be easily trailed out after the game but Hull want to make the Grand Final so they will be desperate to get a win against the odds. To do it they will need to dig very deep after last week’s battle with Wigan. If they do they may well have a chance to beat Leeds who despite sitting three points above Hull have already showed their vulnerability in this Super 8’s campaign when they were battered at Wakefield.
Where will the game be won and lost?
For Hull to have any chance of coming away from Headingley with a vital two points they need to show they have learned lessons from last year. After their historic cup win in 2016 their season tailed off as they lost 4 out of their final 5 games including the Playoff Semi at Wigan. All the right noises have been made about how Hull have learnt from their mistakes last year when in reality they over celebrated the cup win. That was forgiven last year but this year the club’s owner, coach and fans want more and can see the bright lights of Old Trafford in the distance.
If Hull want to get to the showpiece final they can’t afford to have the same post Wembley form as they did last year. They have to turn up with the right attitude tonight and if they do that they may well come away with pivotal win in the race for second place and a home semi final, lose and we may have to go to our bogey ground again in September with a Grand Final place on the line.
Despite having only four days rest between last week’s Wembley win and tonight’s clash at Headingley Lee Radford has named a strong squad for the game against the Rhinos. He has been forced to make three changes to last week’s squad though with Liam Watts, Mark Minichiello and Josh Griffin dropping out to be replaced by Brad Fash, Jack Downs and Jansin Turgut.
Leeds have made one change to the squad that beat St Helens with Ashton Golding replacing Jordan Lilley.
Hull FC: 1. Jamie Shaul, 2. Mahe Fonua, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 5. Fetuli Talanoa, 6. Albert Kelly, 7. Marc Sneyd, 8. Scott Taylor, 9. Danny Houghton, 13. Gareth Ellis, 14. Jake Connor, 15. Chris Green, 16. Jordan Thompson, 17. Danny Washbrook, 19. Steve Michaels, 21. Sika Manu, 22. Josh Bowden, 25. Jansin Turgut, 27. Jack Downs, 28. Brad Fash.
Leeds Rhinos : 1. Ashton Golding, 2. Tom Briscoe, 3. Kallum Watkins, 4. Joel Moon, 5. Ryan Hall, 6. Danny McGuire, 7. Rob Burrow, 9. Matt Parcell, 10. Adam Cuthbertson, 11. Jamie Jones-Buchanan, 12. Carl Albert, 13. Stevie Ward, 14. Liam Sutcliffe, 15. Brett Delaney, 16. Brad Singleton, 17. Mitch Garbutt, 18. Jimmy Keinhorst, 20. Anthony Mullally, 31. Jack Walker.