Hull FC host the Wigan Warriors this Saturday in what is now a must-win game for Shaun Wane and his team. Hull go into this game on the back of three straight defeats against St Helens, Leigh and Catalan. While Wigan are without a win in their last five league games, having lost four and drawn one. Both are in desperate need for a turnaround.
LAST TIME OUT
Hull FC come into this game on the back of a narrow 23-18 defeat against Catalan in the South of France. It was a real brutal game, and one in which saw an unbelievable penalty count, that stood at 15-13 in FC’s favour. James Child was blowing his whistle more than sets were being completed, it was crazy. It was Catalan who got off to the best of starts, when Sam Moa went over after just seven minutes. Albert Kelly responded before Luke Walsh kicked a penalty and drop-goal towards the end of the half to give the Dragons a 9-6 halftime lead. It was a tight game throughout, and no one could really get too far ahead before the other hit back. Walsh would kick another penalty to give Catalan an 11-6 lead. Then, Hull started to play some rugby, and were rewarded with two tries through Nick Rawsthorne, and suddenly Hull lead 18-11 with just over 10 minutes to go. Hull seemed in control at this stage, and looked favourites to hold on to their lead and see out the game for the vital two points. However, Catalan wasn’t done, and ran in two tries of their own within the last 10 minutes through Fouad Yaha and Tony Gigot. They snatched the win late on and broke the travelling Hull fans’ hearts, as they ran out 23-18 winners.
Wigan come into this game on the back of a 42-30 defeat, at home to the hands of Wakefield Trinity. Wigan led 20-0 at one stage, only to suffer a Wakefield fightback, one which saw them run in 36-unanswered points. As I said, it was Wigan who got off to an absolute flyer, as they ran in four tries through debutant James Worthington, Lewis Tierney, Liam Marshall and Thomas Leuluai to take a 20-0 lead after just 19 minutes. Wigan were in full control, and it looked set to be a rather comfortable afternoon for the Warriors. However, Wakefield refused to lie down, and the fightback began in the 25th minute with a Bill Tupou try. This was followed up by three more tries from Mason Caton-Brown and another two from Tupou, who completed a first half hat-trick, and sent Trinity 22-20 up into halftime. Wakefield continued their dominance in the second half as they ran in for another two tries through Danny Kirmond and Liam Finn. They were on the either side of a Finn penalty-goal as Trinity led 36-20. Worthington got his second of the game, right before Jacob Miller ultimately sealed the win for Wakefield. Wigan had the last say with a Liam Marshall try, but it was too little, too late, as Wigan were defeated 42-30 in what was a real disappointing afternoon for the Warriors.
Jamie Shaul vs Lewis Tierney
Shaul is having a good season, without really making the headlines. He’s already scored 10 tries, which is only four behind last season’s total. His running statistics are brilliant. However, after being left out of the England Elite camp earlier this week, he now has a point to prove to Wayne Bennet and the rest of the England setup. As for Tierney, he’s only playing at the minute because of injuries. With Morgan Escaré and Sam Tomkins out, he’s having to step in and make his own mark on that position. He’s not had the best of times in recent weeks, but he has been popping up with a few tries.
Albert Kelly vs George Williams
Kelly has been my favourite non-Wigan player to watch this season. He’s by far the buy of the season in my eyes, and already proved his worth to the black and whites. Like Hull themselves, Kelly’s form has dipped in recent weeks, but he’s still getting tries and assists in their defeats. Williams has had an up and down season to say the least. He started on fire, then when all the contract news started making the rounds, he dipped. However, since signing his new long-term deal, he’s been back to his best, and in the defeat to Wakefield last week, he was tremendous in the opening 20 minutes.
Sean O’Loughlin vs Game Management
In the last few weeks, Wigan have let winning leads slip and then gone on to lose or draw their games. What is clear to see is that their game management has been rather poor, and it all seems to fall apart when Sean O’Loughlin leaves the field. Wigan were 20-0 up against Wakefield, they conceded two tries, O’Loughlin was subbed off, and they just completely crumbled. Wigan do well in games when he is playing, it’s as simple as that. Now everyone at Wigan knows he can’t do a full 80 minutes, so why haven’t they learned how to cope without him, and get another strong leader on the field, for when he’s off.
I feel like I’ll be writing this a lot in the remainder of the season, but this is simply a must-win game for Wigan, it really is. They cannot afford to lose another game to a side that’s above them in the league. Hull are short on numbers, and don’t have enough quality to come into the side, unlike Wigan. That’s what I believe will be the difference.
Wigan by 14
Hull FC head coach Lee Radford:
“Our effort was fantastic but our smarts, say no more. We had an ample amount of chances to win that game but we didn’t.
“I applaud the effort but I’m so frustrated with how it panned out. There was certainly an improvement from when we lost to St Helens and the Leigh game on Friday.
“We had nothing to lose in a way because their starting 13 was almost out there today, only Justin Horo was missing. You look at ours and we had guys missing and some patched up.”
Wigan Warriors head coach Shaun Wane:
“The fact is no matter what the injuries are we want to be known for our good defence. I don’t like losing but it’s not through a lack of effort.
“We had a day off in defence against Wakefield and it wasn’t good enough. I look at the big picture and think we’ll be ok.
“We enjoy going there (Hull), it’s a great ground and they’re a good team. If you don’t turn up physically then you’ll get beaten.”
Lee Radford makes three changes from the side who lost to Catalans on Monday evening. Josh Griffin, Liam Watts and Gareth Ellis all make way for Connor Bower, Jordan Thompson and Masi Matongo.
Shaun Wane makes three changes from the side that were beaten by Wakefield last Monday. Liam Forsyth, Joel Tomkins and Gabe Fell all come into the squad in place of Nick Gregson, Romain Navarrete and James Worthington.
Hull FC: Jamie Shaul, Carlos Tuimavave, Fetuli Talanoa, Albert Kelly, Danny Houghton, Mark Minichiello, Jake Connor, Chris Green, Jordan Thompson, Danny Washbrook, Steve Michaels, Sika Manu, Josh Bowden, Nick Rawsthorne, Jansin Turgut, Jack Downs, Brad Fash, Masi Matongo and Connor Bower.
Wigan Warriors: Joe Burgess, Tom Davies, Liam Farrell, Gabe Fell, Callum Field, Liam Forsyth, Willie Isa, Thomas Leuluai, Liam Marshall, Michael Mcilorum, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Sean O’Loughlin, Sam Powell, Ryan Sutton, Taulima Tautai, Lewis Tierney, Joel Tomkins, Jack Wells and George Williams.
Referee: Phil Bentham
Venue: KCOM Stadium, Hull
Date/Time: Saturday 3rd June 2017 – 17:00pm GMT