Hull FC have started the 2020 Super League season with two wins but coming up against the Champions St Helens is a whole different proposition.
St Helens are an outstanding club with a fantastic side. They are the blueprint for everyone in the competition right now and Hull, who have showed different qualities in each of their victories so far, will have to combine the two to beat them.
The Saints won the competition by a mile last year. They got the hubcap with Hull closer to relegated London than knocking the table toppers off their perch, and they continued that dominance in the play-offs, hammering local rivals Wigan before beating Salford at Old Trafford, all whilst playing a brand of rugby league that was both exciting, dominant and clinical. That’s the aspiration for the Black and Whites now, to match that success. The Hull squad has been revamped with additional quality brought in, and whilst some of that is unfortunately unavailable due to injuries picked up, there’s a chance for the next player to stake a claim. There are no excuses – not at least when we’ve all waffled on about squad depth and options for the past couple of months.
In the two wins this year Hull were outstanding at Headingley and resilient in the Derby. The opener was a masterclass but the last outing against the noisy neighbours was gritty. Hull had to come back from deficits three times and showed a lot of character. They’ll need that same desire to beat Saints, combined with the professionalism they showed at Leeds. There’s no room for error here.
Hull’s new look pack has been superb so far this year and the signing that probably went under the radar in Ligi Sao has been at the forefront of that. Sao, together with Scott Taylor, Gareth Ellis, Josh Jones and co. will look to get their side on the front foot again. Hull battered Leeds and had the quality to go up a gear when required in the Derby. That go-forward and punch will be massive against the Champions, but don’t rule out the weapons from the backs either, particularity centres Carlos Tuimavave and Josh Griffin who have started the year like a house on fire, and who will need to stretch St Helens as much as possible.
Hull will be going for broke, make no mistake. A win would set down a massive marker that this side can go places this year, regardless if the Saints are under-strength or with one eye on next weeks World Club Challenge against Sydney Roosters. It’s an opportunity for Hull to show what they’re about, and prove that they have what it takes to dine at the top table. It’s also Sunday rugby league, and hopefully with that a big crowd. Come on you Ull.
Hull Squad: 1. Jamie Shaul, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 4. Josh Griffin, 5. Adam Swift, 6. Jake Connor, 7. Marc Sneyd, 8. Scott Taylor, 9. Danny Houghton, 11. Josh Jones, 13. Ligi Sao, 16. Jordan Johnstone, 19. Masimbaashe Matongo, 20. Brad Fash, 21. Jordan Lane, 22. Josh Bowden, 24. Mahe Fonua, 25. Connor Wynne, 26. Kieran Buchanan, 29. Gareth Ellis, 33. Ratu Naulago, Charlie Patterson-Lund.
Saints Squad: 2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Kevin Naiqama, 5. Regan Grace, 6. Jonny Lomax, 7. Theo Fages, 8. Alex Walmsley, 10. Luke Thompson, 11. Zeb Taia, 12. Dom Peyroux, 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 14. Morgan Knowles, 15. Matty Lees, 16. Kyle Amor, 17. Jack Ashworth, 18. Joseph Paulo, 19. Aaron Smith, 20. James Bentley, 21, Matty Costello, 22. Jack Welsby, 27. Lewis Dodd, 30. Tom Nisbet.
The Saints, who have beaten Hull on the past six occasions in all competitions, play the game fast. They get quick play of the balls and look to stretch you. In some respects it will be a similar sort of game to the Derby, but against much better opposition. These boys don’t get cup final hangovers, miss two bus loads of tackles and concede fifty points after all. Saints, who were well beat by Warrington last week, are without the likes of Lachlan Coote, Mark Percival and James Roby, but it’s still going to be tough, especially in what will no doubt be rancid conditions given persistent wind and rain overnight. Storm Dennis? Do-one.
Last Five Meetings
Hull 6 St Helens 22
Hull 12 St Helens 40
St Helens 62 Hull 16
St Helens 38 Hull 12
Hull 18 St Helens 34
Super League Era – Played 55 – Hull wins 17 – Draws 3 – St Helens wins 35
Coming up against the champions is going to be tough but Hull have something about them this year. The Black and Whites by seven, with Marc Sneyd to break Gary Pearce’s drop-goal record.
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