By Alan Domville
Hull FC are in town this Saturday and they will be determined to put up a better show than they have displayed in our last two encounters.
In our most recent meeting at The Halliwell Jones Stadium last August we inflicted upon the Airlie Birds the worst defeat in their history, winning 80-10 with Bryson Goodwin registering five tries.
And in March at the KCOM Stadium we went on the rampage again, rattling up 63 points with Blake Austin touching down four times.
Hull’s performances this season have been inconsistent from week to week yet they go into this game occupying fifth place in the Super League table.
They suffered another stunning reverse 62-16 at St Helens on Easter Monday but then, with five senior players back in their side, achieved a comfortable victory over Wakefield Trinity to move into third place in the table when Albert Kelly also scored four tries.
Then came another crushing home defeat at the hands of the Catalans Dragons – but they made up for that by cruising to victory against the Castleford Tigers in the Coral Challenge Cup tie last Friday.
In addition to attempting to maintain their coveted spot in the top five no less than nine Hull players will be under pressure to perform well from here on because they will be out of contract come the end of the season.
They don’t include Kelly, goal-kicker Marc Sneyd and his half-back partner Jake Connor who are all in top form.
But this Saturday the trio come up against Stefan Ratchford, a model of consistency triggering so many attacking moves from the back and with 79 goals to his credit this term, and playmakers Blake Austin and Declan Patton who are continually dominant across the park.
The narrow but well deserved victory over rivals Wigan in the cup tie on Sunday and the six point lead over Wakefield, Catalans and Hull in the Super League table put Wire in a good place at the moment.
It augers well for our programme starting this week in which we face those three at home along with leaders St Helens and also Wigan as part of the Magic Weekend at Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium. All this and a cup tie at Hull KR where we registered 54 points last month.
Joe Westerman has quickly re-established himself with the Black and Whites; after signing for us from Hull in 2016 Joe moved on to Toronto and returned to Humberside last summer. Recently he’s put up his hand to play at half-back to cover for injuries.
Another of our former players, Andre Savelio, is now with Hull and determined to overcome injuries that blighted his move from the HJ to Brisbane and have restricted his appearances back in this country to two.
So many Hull players have experienced injuries this season and they have lost two wingers. Fetuli Talanoa has been forced to retire with a damaged wrist and Matty Dawson-Jones’s knee problem has ruled him out of action for the rest of the season.
This has given former Fijian union player Ratu Nulagu an opportunity to establish himself in the side.
Nulagu is currently playing both league and union.
He was called up by the Army to play against the Navy at Twickenham, scoring a try, and then turned in a fine performance in the Castleford cup tie, earning plaudits from head coach Lee Radford.
The threat on the opposite wing comes from Bureta Faraimo, a United States international. In the centre spots are Josh Griffin and Jack Logan.
England star Jamie Shaul missed out last week because of concussion but may return to the side this Saturday.
Two players capable of steadying the Hull ship are hooker and captain Danny Houghton and pack partner Mark Minichiello who is now playing as well as ever at 37.
In the back row with Mark is the Tongan international Sika Manu and propping are Scott Taylor and Mickey Paea with the powerful Masi Matongo being used off the bench.
Dean Hadley, Chris Green and Gareth Ellis were also on the bench last week.
Danny Washbrook has been a fine servant of the club and is now in his testimonial year – but currently he is sidelined with a calf injury along with Josh Bowden (knee).