As knockout and derby games go, they don’t come much bigger than this. It’s do or die for the Black & Whites tonight if they are to reach their first Old Trafford Grand Final in 11 years. Lee Radford’s men will have to overcome one of the club’s biggest hoodoos, and beat old foes Leeds Rhinos at Headingly. If they manage to accomplish it, it will be the first time in a decade.
Despite early season inconsistencies, Hull have flourished in the Super League. Alongside their Challenge Cup final win over Wigan Warriors at Wembley at the end of August, it has left the team confident ahead of the much anticipated clash.
The Black & Whites have the luxury of having a fully-fit squad at their disposal. Centre Josh Griffin, returns after missing last week’s victory over Castleford, replacing Steve Michaels, who has likely played his last game for the club, with the Aussie heading home at the end of the season.
— Hull FC (@hullfcofficial) September 29, 2017
Albert Kelly is fit to play after being taken off as a precautionary measure in the last round of the Super 8s. Following the announcement of his Man of Steel nomination, and his inclusion in the Super League Dream Team, he’ll be hoping for a blinder of a performance, to help earn his side a spot at the Theatre of Dreams.
Hull FC Squad: Jamie Shaul, Mahe Fonua, Carlos Tuimavave, Josh Griffin, Fetuli Talanoa, Albert Kelly, Marc Sneyd, Scott Taylor, Danny Houghton, Liam Watts, Mark Minichiello, Sika Manu, Gareth Ellis, Jake Connor, Chris Green, Josh Bowden, Danny Washbrook, Jordan Thompson, Brad Fash,
Club stalwarts Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow for the Rhinos, are included, as they prepare to make their final appearances at Headingley. While Brett Ferres, Brad Singleton and Stevie Ward return after missing out on last week’s win over Huddersfield. Brett Delaney misses out through injury.
Leeds Rhinos Squad: Ashton Goulding, Tom Briscoe, Kallum Watkins, Joel Moon, Ryan Hall, Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow, Matt Parcell, Adam Cuthbertson, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Carl Ablett, Stevie Ward, Liam Sutcliffe, Brad Singleton, Mitch Garbutt, Jimmy Keinhorst, Brett Ferres, Anthony Mullally, Jack Walker.
The Ones To Watch?
Hull FC – Jamie Shaul
Hull’s own ‘Wonderwall’ was in sparkling form last weekend with two fantastic tries against Castleford. They displayed two of his key attributes; raw pace and footwork. The Tigers simply couldn’t handle him and this coupled with a strong defensive game makes him a dangerous figure. Let’s not forget that Jamie is blessed with a natural support game, always eager to break the line and run onto any pass that he can.
Leeds Rhinos – Danny McGuire
Unsurprisingly the veteran is hitting peak form as he draws the curtain on 16 trophy-laden years with the Rhinos. Injuries have restricted him in recent seasons but his instinctive attacking game remains as potent as ever. Kicker, provider and creator of tries; Danny has it all and his natural ability has gone a long way to extending his career. Him and Rob Burrow have a wealth of experience between them and will draw upon this for these big-game occasions.
The end of an era, for someone…
Which ever way tonight’s result goes, it’s going to be the end of an era for the losing club. With Hull FC captain Gareth Ellis calling time on his career, and illustrious Leeds duo Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow both departing the club (Maguire leaving for Hull KR, Burrow retiring), both sides will be determined to give their club legends one more shot at a Super League Grand Final.
Form and Previous Meetings
On previous meetings, the Rhinos have the edge. Although Hull claimed a spot in the Challenge Cup Final against the Rhinos in Doncaster earlier this year, Hull haven’t beaten the West Yorkshire side in the league in 10 games, going all the way back to 2014. You’d have to go all the way back to 2007 to see when they last won at Headingley.
However on form, FC and the Rhinos are matched. Hull and Leeds have both only been defeated once in their last five games to Wigan and Castleford respectively. The Black & Whites have learnt from their post-Wembley woes from 2016 and have still looked promising until the end this season.
Word in the Camp
Hull Central spoke to Hull FC’s Media Executive Tom Gooch ahead of tonight’s huge semi-final clash…
“It’s a huge game. Our season is on the line and potentially a career for Gaz. So ahead of anything we want to make sur he gets the send-off he deserves with a Grand Final appearance.
“We know how tough it’s going to be. We haven’t won at Headingley for over ten years now. But Lee Radford’s managed to get his boys to turn up on the big occasions and it really doesn’t get much bigger than this.
“We broke them down easily in the cup and ran them off the park, but as we’ve learnt twice already this season, it’s a different story on their own patch.
“There’s some real quality in both sides. Whether it be their senior figures in Burrow and McGuire, or their dream team man in Matt Parcell. We have the likes of Mahe Fonua who will certainly want to end his spell at the Black & Whites by lifting the trophy at Old Trafford so there is sentiment on both sides.
“We’ll have over 3000 Black & Whites behind us and everyone is confident we can get over the line.”
“We’ve got to expect a close affair between two teams who finished 2nd and 3rd in the league. In terms of personnel, both sides possess a wealth of talent but I can’t help but feel FC will edge this battle. Team chemistry for the Black & White’s has been pivotal and results on the pitch recently speak volumes.
A perfect blend of youth, experience and departing stars striving for the same goal of a Grand-Final victory has seen FC rediscover their groove. While Brian McDermott’s side always pose a threat, along with the infamous ‘Headingley Hoodoo’ dating back to 2007, Hull want this badly. With that in mind, they should have enough power and panache to edge an intriguing encounter, and earn a spot alongside Castleford at Old Trafford
Hull FC by 6 points.s