Hull FC and Warrington Wolves go into battle in the first Challenge Cup semi final, as both are looking to book their place at the Wembley showcase.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Wolves come into this clash in the higher league position, however they have struggled in recent fixtures. Only two wins in their last six is a concern for Steve Price’s side. Warrington faced Castleford last Sunday and were defeated 27-18.
The Black and Whites have regained some momentum after losing back to back fixtures a month ago. A home win against London was followed last weekend with Hull losing their Headingley hoodoo. The 26-24 victory was the clubs first at Headingley since September 2007. They sit one place below Warrington in the Super League in third place.
Last week Steve Price named a 21-man squad, so there are a few players who miss out rather than being replaced. The key introduction to the squad is the return on Tongan Ben Murdoch-Masila, who will be a huge lift to the Wolves.
Warrington Wolves 19-man squad: Blake Austin, Luther Burrell, Josh Charnley, Daryl Clark, Jason Clark, Mike Cooper, Ben Currie, Matt Davis, Bryson Goodwin, Chris Hill, Jack Hughes, Toby King, Tom Lineham, Harvey Livett, Jake Mamo, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Declan Patton, Joe Philbin, Lama Tasi
Hull last weekend picked up no injuries, so Lee Radford only makes one change to his squad. Influential half-back Albert Kelly returns to the side after a hamstring injury. Dean Hadley is the player to miss out.
Hull FC 19-man squad: Jamie Shaul, Bureta Faraimo, Carlos Tuimavave, Josh Griffin, Albert Kelly, Marc Sneyd, Scott Taylor, Danny Houghton, Josh Bowden, Mark Minichello, Joe Westerman, Jake Connor, Chris Green, Brad Fash, Sika Manu, Jordan Lane, Mickey Paea, Ratu Naulago, Gareth Ellis
HEAD TO HEAD
These two sides have met twice so far this season. The first meeting was at the end of March with Hull hosting a very impressive Warrington side. Blake Austin starred on that occasion as he scored four tries. Warrington took until after the half hour mark to make a handling error. However, since then they have struggled with Hull beating them at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in May in a close affair. The 19-12 win was in gutsy fashion with Hull grinding out a victory.
Hull and Warrington have met each other before at late stages of this competition, most recently the 2016 final. Danny Houghton’s last ditch tackle denied Ben Currie what would have been the match winner. Since that meeting both sides have made it to the final. Hull won it back in 2017, meanwhile Warrington were beat last season by Catalans.
Blake Austin (Warrington Wolves) v Marc Sneyd (Hull FC)
Both half-backs are the key players to this fixture and if either performers well they may lead their side to success.
Blake Austin has had a great debut season in the Super League. The former NRL star was leading the Man of Steel standings along with fellow Australian Jackson Hastings. Austin also is joint with Niall Evalds for the top Super League scorer with 18 tries. Along with 11 try assists, Austin is a key part of the Wolves side. His short kicking game is arguably one of the best in the league. Despite he has not been in the best of form, he could return to form in this big occasion.
Marc Sneyd produced the winning kick last weekend as his conversion from the touchline secured the two league points. Sneyd has only scored one try, however 20 try assists shows how key he is to the Hull attack. Only Jackson Hastings has more assists. Sneyd compliments the game of Albert Kelly and with Jake Connor in the centre, Hull could be dangerous especially as they are begining to hit form.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday July 27
Venue: University of Bolton Stadium
Kick-off: 2:00 PM
Referee: Robert Hicks
WHO WILL WIN?
The league positions suggests that this will be a close game and I expect it to be the case. Despite Hull are in better form, I think that players such as Blake Austin, Jake Mamo and others who haven’t performed recently will be able to. That is why I think the Wolves will be victorious.