Hull FC face Wigan in the Challenge Cup knowing a win will take them eighty minutes away from a return to Wembley.
We should all be bouncing right now, but it’s not the same behind closed doors as we are all confined to our television screens without the thrills of the match-day experience, but this is biggest game of the season to date by far and Hull vs Wigan in this competition doesn’t usually disappoint.
We all know the classic 1985 final, the Peter Sterling vs Brett Kenny one with the latter just coming out on top, but it was Hull who finally got revenge for that at Wembley with the 2017 final win.
It’s a tall order for this quarter-final tie to reach the heights of those two finals, particularly the first which is still deemed to be the greatest of all-time, but there is some anticipation for Saturday’s game on the neutral territory of Salford as the competition gets near to the business end. Fixtures between these clubs have produced some crackers in recent seasons and there is a healthy rivalry developing.
Hull showed some quality to pick up two much needed wins last week against Wakefield and Castleford (Daryl Powell’s dummy remains at large) and were much better in doing so but after some of the dross on show recently that’s not exactly saying much. Still a wins a win and it’s something to build on. You know the cliches.
Wigan got a decent win at Catalans following their defeat to the Harlem Globetrotters and sit pretty amongst Super League’s elite. Wigan are Wigan. They pick up the odd defeat but they’re always up there and 2020 is no different.
Hull can’t afford to have the same lapses in concentration and error counts they had even in victories over Calder’s finest. Only a near enough perfect display will get the job done and you’d be forgiven for questioning whether that’s in Hull’s locker these days. But as the cliche goes this is the cup, it’s knockout rugby and Hull are good at that.
Being the third game in a gruelling ten day period fatigue will definitely play a part, but that’s the norm now in this disjointed and farcical season. Hull will have to find some second wind from somewhere, if they do it could turn into a cracker but without it Wigan will really fancy their chances.
Hull will line up in their irregular hooped third shirt once again after main sponsor Atropa gave up their sponsorship rights to allow the club to continue to raise funds for Rob Burrow. Great gesture from them and shows what a strong partnership they have with Hull. Also to get Jacuzzi involved shows there’s a bit of pulling power here. No advertising given away for a few free pizzas in this camp. That’s how it’s done Ralphy.
Hull are without Jamie Shaul (head), Adam Swift (back), Scott Taylor (back), Josh Jones (illness), Albert Kelly (hamstring), Kieran Buchanan (back), and Ratu Naulago (hamstring).
Connor Wynne is likely to start at full-back with Marc Sneyd coming back early from his own ankle injury to take a place in the squad. Whether he’ll be fit is it’s own question (Keith Senior 2005, anyone?) but we’ll soon find out. Sneyd’s Challenge Cup performances have been nothing short of magnificent over the years and another here will do just nicely.
Hull’s threats also come from their two centres Carlos Tuimavave and Josh Griffin and the ground they cover. Getting down the field is rarely a problem, but you have to fight that little bit harder against Wigan, and Hull’s execution when they get down their end has to be on point. Hull need to get some mileage into the ball as a wrestle/grind contest will just suit their opposition.
Wigan boast Jackson Hastings, Bevan French and players like Sam Powell who never let them down. Sean O’Loughlin is named too. They don’t necessarily play the best rugby, but they play right on the border of the games legalities and they know how to get results.
Hull Squad: 2. Bureta Faraimo, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 4. Josh Griffin, 6. Jake Connor, 7. Marc Sneyd, 9. Danny Houghton, 10. Chris Satae, 12. Manu Ma’u, 13. Ligi Sao, 15. Joe Cator, 16. Jordan Johnstone, 19. Masimbaashe Matongo, 20. Brad Fash, 21. Jordan Lane, 23. Andre Savelio, 24. Mahe Fonua, 25. Connor Wynne, 29. Gareth Ellis, 30. Jack Brown, 31. Cameron Scott, 35. Ben McNamara.
Wigan Squad: 1. Zak Hardaker, 4. Oliver Gildart, 5. Joe Burgess, 6. Bevan French, 7. Tommy Leuluai, 9. Sam Powell, 11. Willie Isa, 12. Liam Farrell, 13. Sean O’Loughlin, 15. Joe Greenwood, 17. Oliver Partington, 21. Dom Manfredi, 22. Mitch Clark, 23. Jake Bibby, 28. Harry Smith, 29. Jack Wells, 30. Ethan Havard, 31. Jackson Hastings, 32. Amir Bourouh, 33. Joe Shorrocks, 37. Harry Rushton.
Fans in grounds
Supporters will finally return to grounds on the 30th September as Super League was given the green light. Hull travel to Castleford on that Wednesday night but the 1,000 tickets up for grabs are for home fans only. Looks like we’ll have to wait until mid-October, but after weeks of uncertainty we’re finally heading in the right direction.
Last Five Cup Meetings
2017: Hull 18 Wigan 14 (final)
2016: Hull 16 Wigan 12 (semi-final)
2013: Wigan 16 Hull 0 (final)
2002: Wigan 34 Hull 10 (fourth-round)
2000: Hull 14 Wigan 4 (quarter-final)
Challenge Cup Head to Head
Played 16, Hull wins 6, Wigan wins 10
The toughest challenge of the season to date. The cup does bring the best out of Hull, but this will be difficult. Heart over head as normal. Hull by four.