With three wins to their name, it’s been a solid start to the 2021 season for Hull FC, who face their first challenge against one of the so called Super League big boys this weekend.
‘Only Huddersfield’ and ‘Only Salford’ has been the defence from those looking to critique the Black and Whites this year, and with Warrington coming to the KCOM Stadium this Sunday afternoon, it’s a chance to lay down a marker against a top six rival.
The two sides have developed a healthy rivalry in recent years. From Wembley 2016 to Wire winning the hubcap at Hull a month later, to record defeats and the end of Lee Radford, the fixture hasn’t been short of entertainment, drama, and the odd horror story. These days there’s always a score to be settled, with both the last fixture at this venue and the play-off tie that saw the best of Hull last year needing no reminder.
Warrington, thanks to an indifferent start, have done enough already to convince many that this one might not be their year after all. Beaten by Castleford in the opening round, they eased past Leigh, but found life difficult at Swinton in the Challenge Cup last week. They have already announced that head coach Steve Price will leave the club at the end of the year, with many of their fans underwhelmed by early results and the brand of rugby their side play.
Yet, and as results over recent years back up, Warrington tend to save some of their best for games against Hull, who can’t afford to let their guard down.
This is by far the toughest fixture of the season to date, especially with Ligi Sao and Manu Ma’u ruled out with injuries. Reshuffling the side, it’ll be a big glimpse into not only Hull’s strength in depth, but with some of the big boys out, their attitude and mentality as well.
Troubles with the SMC are well-known, but hopefully for a Hull side that aim to keep on improving, it’ll be a good homecoming at a venue that they’ve only played at once since impact of coronavirus over a year ago. Bring it on.
The second half at Featherstone was just the latest example to how vital Marc Sneyd is to this Hull FC team, and he didn’t even play.
Sneyd is the calm head that steers the Hull side around the field when the going gets tough. His kicking game is the best in the competition by far, but from first receiver he has also looked tidy this year, linking up well with Jake Connor and co.
Returning to the side for Sunday’s game, he will likely partner Ben McNamara, who showed some nice touches last week continuing his promising start to his Hull career.
Josh Reynolds may be out, but as long as Sneyd and McNamara stick to the new shapes and structures installed by Hodgson, then Hull can’t go far wrong.
Defence, defence, defence
It’s been the buzzword ever since Hodgson came to the club and it’s been the foundation to everything good about Hull so far this year.
To only concede 14 points in the first two Super League games says everything. Hull have been resilient and tough to play against. Opposition teams haven’t had a look in. This Hull side are getting in the faces, working together, and hitting hard as a unit.
Their defensive attitude has been brilliant this year. Long may it continue.
The Lane Train
Jordan Lane will make his 50th Hull FC appearance against Warrington. Starting at loose forward in the opening three games, he’s been brilliant so far, punching holes in the line and making an impact in defence too. Part of a chunkier starting middle, Lane and co have set their authority with the likes of Joe Cator creating havoc off the interchange when running at fatiguing defences.
However, both players could have to adapt their game against Warrington. An injury to Manu Ma’u means Lane will likely move to the back row, with Cator starting at loose. Hull have a skinny squad this year and players will have to be versatile. This is a big challenge for them.
Up the Fash
Coming into the side for the past two games, Brad Fash has been immense, and with Ligi Sao out, that form must continue against Warrington.
Rocking the ‘Papenhuyzen’ hair do, Fash has been the foil for the likes of Scott Taylor, whilst remaining solid in the tackle and carrying with a punch as well. He’s usually error free too and he doesn’t let many go through him. He, along with Josh Bowden, will need to have a big impact from the bench.
Hull FC have announced the signing of Mitieli Vulikijapani after a successful trial period with the club.
The Fijian outside back is comfortable on the wing or at centre, and signs a one year deal with the club having an option to extend.
A current member of the British Army where Hull spotted him playing rugby union 7s, Vulikijapani has been granted a release from active service in order to play professional rugby league. Known as Mitch, he is reportedly taking to the technical side of the sport really well, getting squad number 27 for the rest of the 2021 season.
Hull: 1. Jake Connor, 2. Bureta Faraimo, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 4. Josh Griffin, 5. Mahe Fonua, 7. Marc Sneyd, 8. Scott Taylor, 9. Danny Houghton, 10. Chris Satae, 11. Andre Savelio, 14. Jordan Johnstone, 15. Joe Cator, 16. Jordan Lane, 17. Brad Fash, 19. Ben McNamara, 20. Jack Brown, 21. Adam Swift, 22. Josh Bowden, 24. Cameron Scott, 26. Jude Ferreira, 27. Mitieli Vulikijapani.
Warrington: 1. Stefan Ratchford, 4. Toby King, 5. Josh Charnley, 6. Blake Austin, 7. Gareth Widdop, 8. Chris Hill, 9. Daryl Clark, 10. Mike Cooper, 11. Ben Currie, 12. Jack Hughes, 13. Joe Philbin, 14. Jason Clark, 15. Matt Davis, 16. Danny Walker, 17. Matty Ashton, 18. Jake Mamo, 19. Robbie Mulhern, 20. Sitaleki Akauola, 21. Rob Butler, 23. Josh Thewlis, 27. Connor Wrench.
Josh Reynolds remains sidelined with a hamstring injury. His original diagnosis was four to six weeks. This is week two.
Ligi Sao is missing again with an ankle injury, but he should be okay for Wakefield next week. Manu Ma’u will be missing for three to four weeks with a calf tear.
Long term absentees Jamie Shaul and Masimbaashe Matongo are still recovering from their knee injuries.
Warrington are still without Greg Inglis who is yet to debut for the club. Former Hull winger Tom Lineham is suspended.
Last Five Meetings
2020: Warrington 14 Hull 27 (play-off)
2020: Warrington 37 Hull 12 (at Headingley)
2020: Hull 4 Warrington 38
2019: Warrington 22 Hull 14 (cup semi final at Bolton)
2019: Warrington 12 Hull 19
Super League Head to Head
Played 54 – Hull wins 22 – Warrington wins 30 – Draws 2
Hull under Hodgson have been a different beast so far. The home side by seven points.