Knockout rugby league has generally brought the best out of Hull FC under Lee Radford, who face Castleford in the Challenge Cup this Friday night.
The sixth round clash comes at a perfect time with the Airlie Birds struggling for consistency in the league. Here there are no second chances and only a winning performance will do.
The opposition Castleford are finding it tough too, missing key players, and are therefore finding results hard to come by. It’s got the makings of an interesting Cup clash for sure.
Sneyd and Kelly are back
Both Marc Sneyd and Albert Kelly return having missed the defeat to Catalans and you can’t emphasis enough how important they are to the team.
Sneyd in particular is arguably the clubs most influential player and that’s why he’s tied down on a new three year contract. His kicking is huge for the side and he gets Hull around the park. It was evident to see how poor the last tackle options were without him. It’s not just his kicking, but his organisational skills as well. Radford once said Sneyd is like the ‘on-field captain’, such as his bossing about of the team.
Kelly meanwhile has been in superb form. His last performance against Wakefield was as good as anything in Super League so far. Here’s hoping for some more doses of chicken nugget fuelled brilliance.
More from the interchange needed
Up front Mickey Paea is in good form of late and must maintain that level. The game can be said of Chris Green and Scott Taylor, but if selected both Masimbaashe Matongo and Brad Fash must do more.
Fash made just the three carries for ten metres against Catalans whilst Matongo wasn’t much better. Both need to offer a much bigger impact off the bench, although such a lack of metre making was a reflection too of Catalans’ dominance on the night.
That can’t happen again. The start against the French side wasn’t bad last week, but it fell away as the game went on. The pack must pull together to ensure that doesn’t happen again. You’d imagine Joe Westerman and Gareth Ellis will rotate the loose man role, so impact shouldn’t be a problem there. The onus now is on the props to maintain the bar set from the starting pack.
Romance of the Cup
There’s been no denying that the Challenge Cup has seen the best of Hull FC in recent years. Two triumphs at Wembley came in 2016 and 2017, whilst last years quarter final defeat at St Helens was arguably the best performance of the season.
Hull went down 25-22 despite having three men sent to the sin bin. They didn’t get the rub of the green, but with key men out like Marc Sneyd, gave it a bloody good go. A score to be settled then? Well produce a similar effort and they’ll only be one winner.
Hull FC’s top half back pairing Albert Kelly and Marc Sneyd come back into the side, and that obviously serves as a big boost for the Black and Whites. There’s potentially a conundrum at fullback though – do Hull play Jake Connor there or opt for a more natural runner in Josh Griffin? Connor had an indifferent game against Catalans and needs a response, and could that be in his arguable best position of centre? We know Griffin can do a job at the back and with Joe Westerman you’ve got your third pivot at loose man. Food for thought.
As for Castleford they welcome back Jordan Rankin, with Cheyse Blair set to get another run out in Tigers colours. They like Hull are missing key players, with Michael Shenton, Junior Moors, Grant Millington, Paul McShane, Oliver Holmes and of course Luke Gale all absent.
Hull Squad: 2. Bureta Faraimo, 4. Josh Griffin, 6. Albert Kelly, 7. Marc Sneyd, 8. Scott Taylor, 9. Danny Houghton, 11. Dean Hadley, 12. Mark Minichiello, 13. Joe Westerman, 14. Jake Connor, 15. Chris Green, 19. Masimbaashe Matongo, 20. Brad Fash, 21. Sika Manu, 23. Mickey Paea, 24. Jack Logan, 32. Cameron Scott, 33. Ratu Naulago, 34. Gareth Ellis.
Castleford Squad: 1. Peter Mata’utai, 2. James Clare, 3. Greg Minikin, 6. Jake Trueman, 8. Liam Watts, 12. Mike McMeeken, 13. Adam Milner, 14. Nathan Massey, 15. Jesse Sene-Lefao, 18. Matt Cook, 21. Mitch Clark, 23. Will Maher, 24. Cory Aston, 25. Tuoyo Egodo, 27. Calum Turner, 29. Jacques O’Neill, 32. Jordan Rankin, 33. Chris Clarkson, 35. Cheyse Blair.
Last Five Meetings
2019: Hull 18 Castleford 26
2018: Hull 8 Castleford 28
2018: Hull 36 Castleford 12
2018: Castleford 28 Hull 18
2017: Castleford 16 Hull 48
Last Cup Meeting: 2017, Quarter-Final, Hull 32 Castleford 24
More than not we tip Hull FC and so we will again – the home side by eight points.