Hull FC and Leeds Rhinos go head to head at The Keepmoat Stadium, with a place in the Challenge Cup final at Wembley at stake.
ROAD TO THE SEMI-FINALS
Hull FC may have only had to defeat two sides to reach the final four of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup, however they had to overcome Super League’s best in the previous round. In their Round six fixture they brushed aside Catalans Dragons 62-0, but then drew Castleford Tigers in the quarter-finals. A brilliant display from Lee Radford’s men, where they flew out of the blocks, led to a 32-24 triumph which booked their place in the semi-finals.
Leeds Rhinos have enjoyed a reasonably comfortable route to the semis, having defeated League One and Championship outfits, before drawing the Airlie Birds. Having finished in the bottom four of Super League last season they entered at round five, where they defeated Doncaster 64-28. Next up was Barrow Raiders, who they brushed aside 72-10, with their last cup fixture ending in a 58-0 thrashing of Featherstone Rovers. It will be a bigger task this time out, as Hull stand in their way of a trip to Wembley.
The key to Hull’s top four finish and Challenge Cup run has been their backline, with Mahe Fonua, Carlos Tuimavave and Fetuli Talanoa providing some blockbusting power and pace on the edges. Leeds have the players to match their opponents out wide, with Kallum Watkins, Ryan Hall and Stevie Ward likely to line-up out wide.
The halfbacks of both teams will be crucial too, as Danny Maguire will be looking to bow out with the Rhinos by picking up some silveware, and his partnership with Joel Moon has proved fruitful. Jake Connor and Marc Sneyd have struggled of late for the black and whites though, but they could be boosted by the return of Albert Kelly. If the Aussie is back in the starting line-up he may provide the spark which could ignite their attack and prove to be the difference.
With only one place separating these side in the league table, this is set to be an intriguing encounter with a place in the one of the biggest games on the calendar at stake. They met just two weeks ago, with Leeds edging a tight battle 10-7, and that victory could give them the mental edge. It could be just as close this time out, and Hull will be looking back to their quarter-final win over Cas hoping they can replicate it.
Leeds Rhinos by 7
Hull FC head coach Lee Radford:
“I’m not concerned about their run against us. What’s done is done. We are very much looking forward to this Saturday and getting the job done.
“It’s the second time we have played them in the last three weeks so a lot of the stuff we have done prior we have just touched base on.
“We have tweaked one or two things and hopefully they will be beneficial come Saturday.”
Leeds Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington:
“It is up to us to maintain that and there’s also added interest in the [Ladbrokes] Challenge Cup.
“It is a big test on Saturday. Hull are in a similar position to us, having finished third, but it is certainly an exciting time for us.
“Players are coming back from injury at the right time and we will be going into the Super-8s with probably our strongest available squad.”
Lee Radford names an unchanged side from the one that beat Huddersfield Giants 14-12 last week at the KCOM Stadium. Scott Taylor is set to make his 200th career appearance and Gareth Ellis keeps his place after making his long-awaited return last week.
Brian McDermott makes an expected nine changes to the side that lost 34-0 down at Wigan last week – with Kallum Watkins, Ryan Hall, Danny McGuire, Adam Cuthbertson, Stevie Ward, Liam Sutcliffe, Brad Singleton, Brett Ferres and Josh Jordan-Roberts all coming into he squad.
Hull FC: Jamie Shaul, Mahe Fonua, Carlos Tuimavave, Josh Griffin, Fetuli Talanoa, Albert Kelly, Marc Sneyd, Scott Taylor, Danny Houghton, Liam Watts, Mark Minichiello, Gareth Ellis, Jake Connor, Chris Green, Danny Washbrook, Sika Manu, Josh Bowden, Brad Fash and Masi Matongo.
Leeds Rhinos: Ashton Golding, Tom Briscoe, Kallum Watkins, Joel Moon, Ryan Hall, Danny McGuire, Matt Parcell, Adam Cuthbertson, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Carl Ablett, Stevie Ward, Liam Sutcliffe, Brad Singleton, Mitch Garbutt, Jimmy Keinhorst, Brett Ferres, Anthony Mullally, Jordan Lilley and Josh Jordan-Roberts.
Referee: Phil Bentham
Venue: The Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster
Date/Time: Saturday 29th July 2017 – 14:30pm BST