This Friday, Wigan Warriors and Hull FC face off in the 1st semi-final of this weekends Challenge Cup down in Doncaster at the Keepmoat Stadium. Wigan will be looking to replicate the 2013 Final, when they defeated FC 16-0 to claim their 19th Challenge Cup. Hull will be looking to reach their 3rd Cup Final in the last 8 years.
LAST TIME OUT
Wigan come into this game on the back of a devastating defeat at the hands of their fierce rivals, St Helens. Wigan were never in the game, and where easily beaten by an excellent Saints performance. Saints opened the scoring early on through a Mark Percival penalty, his kicking throughout was flawless. Wigan replied through a Lewis Tierney try after the winger pounced on the end of a Williams grubber into the corner. This was to be Wigan’s first and last points of the game as they never looked to improve on their score. Saints would score two tries in an 8 minute period just before halftime through Lomax and Knowles. This would give Saints a deserved 16-4 lead at halftime. Wigan improved a little in the second half, having the majority of the ball in the first 20 minutes. However, Saints’ defence was as stubborn as they come. They stood strong and pulled off a couple of sensational try saving tackles through Joe Greenwood and Jack Owens to keep Wigan out. Saints ended the game on a high, as following a Luke Walsh drop goal, hooker, James Roby went over to wrap the game up and seal a memorable 23-4 victory in front of a Super League seasons best attendance of 20,049.
Hull come into this game on the back of a hard fought 28-20 victory away at Salford. In what was a cagey 1st half, Hull were the first to score. Abdull and Naughton combined to put Michaels in for the opening try of the game. Salford responded after nearly scoring through Catin-Brown, however, a few minutes later Salford got their try from a Ellis error as Dobson pounced on the opportunity to level the scores. Hull made sure to take a lead into halftime when substitute and returning Frank Pritchard scored with his first touch of the game after powering through the Salford line. Hull led 12-6 at halftime. The next score was to be crucial in this tight game, and Salford were the ones to get it. Catin-Brown wasn’t to be denied this time as after some great handling, he was sent into the corner for the try. Right on the hour, Green blasted his way through the Hull defence to extend FC’s lead to 18-10. Salford didn’t give in, and their persistence payed off with back to back tries through Evalds and the ever impressive Robert Lui to give Salford the lead for the first time with just over 10 minutes to go. The never beaten Hull bounced back, with back to back tries of their own through Sneyd and Fonua to finally see off Salford in what was a pulsating game.
Hull FC have one of, if not the, biggest pack in Super League, and they’ll be looking to utilise it when they meet Wigan on Friday night. The Warriors have shown fantastic effort this season, going through it without being able to play their best 13 at any stage. They have had key personnel missing throughout the season. However, on their 8 game unbeaten run, Wigan showed great resiliancy to win those games, some of them from losing positions. These games where won through their forwards. it will be a very interesting battle on Friday to see if Wigan can outmuscle and overpower the FC forward line.
Last week, the halfback pairing of Smith and Williams had one of their worst games together in a very long time. They just couldn’t get anything going, then following Powell’s injury, Williams moved to hooker and Smith was forced to partner with young Shorrocks. It was definitely a night to forget for the pairing. Both will be looking to turn their form around, and they’ll need to against a hungry FC side. In the last 2 weeks, Hull FC have had the pairing of Abdull and Sneyd in the halves, and its seemed to work a treat. Sneyd has been sensational for FC all season, their most influential player without a doubt. Wigan will be looking to keep him quite if they are to win on Friday.
The battle of the full-backs will be an exciting one. While Sam Tomkins, rather like the rest of Wigan Warriors, had his worst game in a Wigan shirt last week, he still is a very influence player. He can change a game in an instant and relishes these big occasions and is definitely a big game player. Leading Wigan to multiple titles in the past. On the other side, theres Jaime Shaul. Who without doubt has been the best full-back in Super League this season. This will be a big test for him, in what is Hull’s biggest game of the season so far. Whereas Sam has been there and done it before, there will be huge pressure on the likes of Shaul at FC to repeat the form they’ve shown us so fiercely all season.
Wigan Warriors coach, Shaun Wane warns that the Cup game will be a different sort of challenge. Wane said:
“We will look at Hull in detail this week and it’s a different challenge to everyone else,” he said. “They are the form team at the moment and they have big middles. We’ll need to break that down. He added: “We’ve still got players out but we’ve had that all year and it’s not going away.
“It’s down to luck and we’ve had to bear the worst brunt of it – but we’ve managed it really well and are still high up in the league and in a Challenge Cup semi-final. We’ll be going early. We’ll be in a hotel for the afternoon so the players can have a swim, relax and a sleep before the game.
“We can’t take any chances with our preparation because of what the outcome of this game means. It’s in a different place but I’m sure it will be a great atmosphere and I’d like as many Wigan fans as possible to get over there because it really does make a difference.”
Hull FC’s Mark Sneyd want to bury his Challenge Cup demons. Send said:
“For the club it would be a huge achievement. The fans absolutely adore the Cup and making the final would get us one step closer to creating some history. The Challenge Cup is held in high regard and for us to get back to Wembley would be amazing. On a bit of a personal one, last time I went there it wasn’t a very good experience, so I’d love to get back there and right a few wrongs. Hopefully I can walk away with a better medal.
“It was a difficult day for me but it’s one of those things in sport you’ve got to deal with it and move on. We’ve still got a big step to take before we can dream of Wembley though. You are never guaranteed to get to finals so that’s why you hold these opportunities so high,” said Sneyd. “We need to seize the moment because you never know what’s around the corner. You don’t know whether you’d even get the chance again. You have to just try and take it while it’s there.”
“We have to be pretty tough during the game because they are a relentless and physical team defensively.” Sneyd added: “They like to get the numbers in and dominate you. We have got to be dead on the money against Wigan in a game like this and take near enough every chance that we can create.”
This is all set to be a fantastic game of rugby league and a proper cup tie. Hull are the team who people don’t want to face at the minute, however Wigan are the Challenge Cup specialists, winning it a record 19 times. It really is tough to pick a winner in this game, however, I feel that Wigan will show their Challenge Cup experience and get the win.
Wigan Warriors by 4
Wigan Warriors 19-man squad: John Bateman, Joe Bretherton, Dom Crosby, Ben Flower, Oliver Gildart, Willie Isa, Dom Manfredi, Lee Mossop, Sean O’Loughlin, Sam Powell, Dan Sarginson, Kyle Shelford, Jake Shorrocks, Matty Smith, Ryan Sutton, Taulima Tautai, Lewis Tierney, Sam Tomkins, George Williams.
Hull FC 19-man squad: Jame Shaul, Mahe Fonua, Carlos Tuimavave, Fetuli Talanoa, Marc Sneyd, Scott Taylor, Danny Houghton, Liam Watts, Gareth Ellis, Mark Minichiello, Jordan Abdul, Chris Green, Jordan Thompson, Steve Michaels, Sika Manu, Josh Bowden, Frank Pritchard, Kirk Yeaman, Danny Washbrook.
Referee: Ben Thaler
Venue: Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster
Date/Time: Friday 29th July 2016 – 20:00pm GMT