Jack Harbidge previews this week’s first play off as Warrington Wolves host Hull FC at the Halliwell Jones Stadium. This is what we have to look forward to.
Warrington come into this on a three-game winning streak following wins against Salford, Huddersfield, and Leeds. Last time out, Salford were unable to fulfil the fixture between the two sides: as a result, Warrington were awarded the game 24-0. Having last played at the back end of October, the Wolves are well rested with a two-week layoff.
Similarly, Hull come into this one off the back of a 15-day layoff, having won four of their last five games in a late run that saw them take the final (revised) play-off spot. They too come into this off the back of three consecutive wins, the most recent of which coming in the Hull Derby. The black and whites have been in serious attacking form, scoring 151 points in their previous five fixtures (30.2 ppg average).
Warrington will be without Tom Lineham and Sitaleki Akauola through suspension, making room for Matty Ashton, Eribe Doro, and Jake Mamo to come back into the squad.
21-man squad: Ashton, Austin, Charnley, D Clark, J Clark, Currie, Davis, Doro, Gelling, Hill, Hughes, King, Mamo, Murdoch-Masila, Patton, Philbin, Ratchford, Robson, Thewlis, Walker, Widdop.
Hull have made one change to their squad, with Josh Griffin returning after serving his time under the league’s track-and-trace protocol.
21-man squad: Faraimo, Tuimavave, Griffin, Connor, Sneyd, Taylor, Houghton, Satae, Jones, Ma’u, Sao, Cator, Johnstone, Fash, Lane, Bowden, Savelio, Fonua, Scott, Naulago, McNamara.
Warrington have had the edge over Hull in recent years, having won 11 of the last 20 fixtures between the two sides. Hull have taken eight of the renewals, however, and only once could the sides not be separated.
BATTLE TO WATCH
Jake Connor vs Stefan Ratchford
With Jake Connor projected to play full-back after a stellar performance in the position against Hull KR, his likely presence in the No.1 jersey provides a huge match-up with Warrington’s Stefan Ratchford.
Both players possess game-breaking quality and, while Connor is not the archetypal full-back, his recent displays in the position have seen him excel further and play with more freedom from the back. Ratchford, on the other hand, is exceptionally familiar with his position in Warrington’s structure and his support through the middle will be essential in the Wolves producing a clinical performance from the number three seed slot in the play-offs.
While by no means are the two sides solely reliant on their respective full-backs, the pair have a massive hand in their sides’ attacking performance and the player coming out on top is likely to be bringing his team with him.
Date: Thursday, November 12
Venue: Halliwell Jones Stadium
Referee: L Moore