Hull FC are just eighty minutes away from the Super League Grand Final.
To say they are fortunate to be here is an understatement, but this basket case season of 2020 is one of a kind, and Hull have only played the cards they have been dealt.
Last weeks sensational victory at Warrington was the best performance of the season bar none, and boy was it overdue. The opener against Leeds was a dream, but pretty much everything after was a nightmare. We all know the drill. The sublime to the ridiculous. How? Nobody knows, but the difference between Hull’s best and worst is absolutely staggering.
From the now infamous departure of Lee Radford, to the Salford abomination, to being the first team to contract covid-19, to being out the running and in rugby league wilderness, it’s been a rollercoaster that not even the most avid daredevil would want to ride. But here we are.
Super League may well have transcended into a complete utter farce, and the goalposts have moved not once but twice to accommodate the Black and Whites, but no-one here will care should the unthinkable occur.
Warrington brought the best out of Hull in a winner takes all scenario. They were professional, hard working, and well-disciplined throughout. It was a far cry from the last time the two sides met, and labelled by Gareth Ellis as one of the best he has seen since he joined the club.
Wigan now await. They embarrassed Hull in the Challenge Cup just two months ago. The Cherry and Whites are the League Leaders, they are pass masters at this stuff, reeked in silverware, the benchmark, and they’ll take some stopping.
Hull will have to raise the bar even further. We all know that. They will have to be pretty much perfect and show all the qualities that got them here in the first place.
The lessons of history. This side have been here before. 2016 and 2017 need no introduction but come the Super League semi-final Hull were outdone by a poor start on both occasions. They couldn’t overcome them, with defeat coming in agonising fashion.
Both the ball retention and defensive resolve were brilliant at the Halliwell Jones, and they will need to be again at the DW. Big game players need to step up. Marc Sneyd always does, but he needs help.
Talent is not an issue. Hull have players in Jake Connor, Josh Griffin, Carlos Tuimavave, Manu Ma’u and Joe Cator that are bang in form, but rugby league is a team game. To get a result at Wigan every ounce of energy will need to be given from this side. Every role and every responsibility must be for filled, all the little extras, the little percentages that aren’t sensationalised and go under the radar, will need to be on point.
If we get all that then who knows, Wigan, despite boasting Bevan French, Jackson Hastings and all their stars, might just go home with their tails between their legs.
Hull have no fresh injuries to contend with, with interim coach Andy Last making just the one change to his side. Jack Brown comes in for Josh Jones. The match-day seventeen is expected to be the same as last week.
Jamie Shaul, Adam Swift, and Gareth Ellis are still out injured. Albert Kelly has returned home to Australia.
Wigan have made two changes. Sean O’Loughlin, who will retire at the end of the season, and young hooker Amir Bourouh are brought in.
They are without Sam Powell, as well as long term absentees Liam Marshall, Jack Wells and Ethan Havard.
Hull Squad: 2. Bureta Faraimo, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 4. Josh Griffin, 6. Jake Connor, 7. Marc Sneyd, 8. Scott Taylor, 9. Danny Houghton, 10. Chris Satae, 12. Manu Ma’u, 13. Ligi Sao, 15. Joe Cator, 16. Jordan Johnstone, 20. Brad Fash, 21. Jordan Lane, 22. Josh Bowden, 23. Andre Savelio, 24. Mahe Fonua, 30. Jack Brown, Cameron Scott, 33. Ratu Naulago, 35. Ben McNamara.
Wigan Squad: 1. Zak Hardaker, 3. Chris Hankinson, 4. Oliver Gildart, 5. Joe Burgess, 6. Bevan French, 7. Tommy Leuluai, 8. Tony Clubb, 10. George Burgess, 11. Willie Isa, 12. Liam Farrell, 13. Sean O’Loughlin, 14. Ben Flower, 16. Morgan Smithies, 17. Oliver Partington, 19. Joe Bullock, 20. Liam Byrne, 23. Jake Bibby, 28. Harry Smith, 31. Jackson Hastings, 32. Amir Bourouh, 38. Brad Singleton.
Watching Hull last week was like the good old days of three/four seasons ago. Hull were miles better than Warrington and fully deserved their win. That has been followed with the great news off the pitch that main sponsor Atropa are sticking with the club for the next three years. The pharmaceutical company have produced wonders in the local community during covid-19, with 2021’s home jersey set to be released later in the week.
Danny Houghton’s new two-year deal was announced on Wednesday night. He will be at the club until the end of 2022.
Super League Head to Head
Played 57, Hull wins 12, Wigan wins 43, Draws 2
Last Five Meetings
2020: Hull 4 Wigan 36
2020: Wigan 26 Hull 12
2019: Hull 14 Wigan 15
2019: Wigan 22 Hull 23
2018: Wigan 14 Hull 12
Hull will head to Wigan with bags of confidence but they’ll need to put in an belter of a display to win. Stranger things have happened though. Hull by 2.