With a mounting injury list that ironically started the last time Hull FC faced Wigan in Wollongong, it’s a pretty commendable feat that Lee Radford’s battered and bruised troops could end up within two points of second spot on the Super League table with an eighth home win of the season.
That’s the challenge awaiting the Black and Whites now, who despite having several players sat on the side-lines, are within touching distance of the top four, and dare we say, the top two. A victory would make that latter statement more of a reality, whereas a defeat leaves us playing catch up again.
It’s a decent turnaround, especially when you consider the mood post-Salford away three or so months ago, and I won’t lie, I was fuming. Hull had just served up an inadequate display to suffer their fourth defeat of their opening six matches. Since then they’ve won eight from eleven. Much more like it and a run that sees them once again within touching distance of mounting a serious enough challenge.
But to do that a win over struggling Wigan is probably a necessity. Talk of a crisis in the Pie Dome is a bit premature. They’ve only lost three consecutive games; Rovers, Warrington, and Wakefield. They still sit in second place. They have players back. Hardly catastrophic then, or is there more than meets the eye. That’s been the debate to recent life at the Warriors.
Coincidentally Wigan’s poor form comes after Shaun Wane announced his resignation at the end of the season, which came after announcements that Sam Tomkins would depart for Catalans and devils dandruff consumer Zak Hardaker will arrive as his replacement. When we’re talking about a club who stands for culture more than anyone, and who showed that by booting the Rectum of Wigan out quicker than Nigel Wood polishes off the box of Kentucky Fried Chicken, it’s certainly interesting.
So what kind of Wigan should we expect? I’d go for the one that will be hellbent on winning, the irritating tenacious sort that made our Wembley win last year so hard, and the one that has seen them build up the reputation they have today. For all their ‘crisis’ talk, I’m still expecting a tough game amongst two teams that will bring the best out of each other.
Add to that an almost sell-out crowd (something which sounds a little silly when half the ground is empty, but that’s the Allams for you), on a Saturday evening with no video ref monstrosities, and it makes for an intriguing proposition. I’m looking forward to this. It should be a cracking game and fair play to Hull FC’s off-field staff for their marketing efforts and getting us to what should be a 13k+ gate.
Also handed a massive boost with the return of both Albert Kelly and Danny Houghton, Hull should go into this game full of confidence. They’ve got two in-form wingers in Hakim Miloudi and Bureta Faraimo, and you’d imagine Jake Connor will potentially line up in the centres again with Liam Harris in the halves. Such a scenario would be tough on Jack Logan who was outstanding against Salford last week but competition for places is brutal. Whichever way Radford goes though, UTC’s full backing will go to him. It’s a squad game after all, as our younger and fringe players have exhibited all season.
And speaking on those terms, Jack Downs is likely to get another crack with Sika Manu out. The 22-year-old was brilliant last week and deserves to retain his place. Similar sentiments go out to Brad Fash and Masimbaashe Matongo, whilst Jansin Turgut could make a first appearance in what seems an eternity. Think back to that game at Wigan in the Super 8s in 2015, where all of the above featured, and it’s testament to all of the coaching and backroom staff to the way they’ve brought them on.
It’s great supporting a team that gives those regular opportunities to its local lads. Wigan showed the way on that front, and now we’re getting our own beneficiaries from it. Hull and Proud, during Hull and Proud week. It’s got a nice ring to it, let’s hope we’re celebrating with two priceless competition points later this evening.
UTC got our first taste of commentating in the Challenge Cup final last year, with Dan taking the lead calling Hull FC’s Wembley win over Wigan. What an occasion. You can relive the action here
Hull Squad: 1. Jamie Shaul, 2. Bureta Faraimo, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 6. Albert Kelly, 8. Scott Taylor, 9. Danny Houghton, 12. Mark Minichiello, 14. Jake Connor, 15. Chris Green, 17. Danny Washbrook. 20. Brad Fash, 22. Jez Litten, 23. Mickey Paea, 24. Jack Logan, 25. Jansin Turgut, 27. Jack Downs, 28. Hakim Miloudi, 29. Masimbaashe Matongo, 35. Liam Harris.
Wigan Squad: 1. Sam Tomkins, 2. Tom Davies, 3. Dan Sarginson, 4. Oliver Gildart, 6. George Williams, 7. Sam Powell, 8. Tony Clubb, 9. Thomas Leuluai, 10. Ben Flower, 13. Sean O’Loughlin, 14. John Bateman, 17. Taulima Tautai, 19. Willie Isa, 20. Morgan Escare, 22. Liam Marshall, 25. Romain Navarette, 27. Callum Field, 30. Gabe Hamlin, 38. Craig Mullen.
Last Five Meetings
2018: Wigan 24 Hull 10
2017: Hull 22 Wigan 30
2017: Hull 18 Wigan 14
2017: Hull 39 Wigan 28
2017: Wigan 20 Hull 22
Wigan are desperate for a win, whereas this is another must win fixture for Hull FC. The Airlie Birds must prevail. Hull by 7.