The Super League XXVIII season resumes after the Challenge Cup quarter finals on Thursday evening and we get back underway with a repeat of one of those matches in the cup as Hull FC welcome St Helens back to the MKM Stadium.
Saints won that contest but it was an absorbing match until a defining moment and the early stages of that one will give Hull FC the belief that they can turn the tables on the champions which makes for a fascinating affair.
Where to watch
The match will be shown live and in full on the Sky Sports Arena channel with the build-up at the MKM Stadium beginning at 7.30pm ahead of an 8pm kick off.
Now that they are out of the cup, Hull FC can focus solely on pulling back the six point deficit between them and the top six and attempt to launch something of a push for the playoffs which surely would have been the minimum requirement going into the campaign. They can be excused for being where they are in the table because injuries really hampered them at the beginning of the year but now they should be looking to peak.
The obvious thing they need to do if they are going to have a chance of coming out and turning the tables on St Helens is keep their discipline better. They were more than a match for St Helens until Josh Griffin’s needless sending off and it became a mismatch from that moment on. They might need to do this tough when you consider that they played 40 minutes in intense heat a man down on Saturday and have to go again just five days later.
The talk heading into that Challenge Cup match was how the champions St Helens have clicked into form and will be expected to go from strength to strength as they look to win the title once again. We saw both sides of them last week. We saw the quality that they have at their disposal but we also saw the heart and courage to dig in and fight when they lost a couple of key players to injury. The victory was made easier in the second half but that isn’t their issue.
Those injuries could be significant for this return match. While Saints always had 13 players on the field, a number of the middles had to do longer stints on Saturday due to the lack of interchange options and it will be interesting to see if that has any impact on their performance here. Saints head back to Hull having won their last six matches in all competitions and they are beginning to look the real deal again.
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Hull FC will have to do this without Josh Griffin who picked up a seven-match ban for his dismissal last week. On the flip side Tony Smith has named Jake Clifford in his 21-man squad for this match and his return would be a significant boost.
St Helens will be without both Tommy Makinson and Mark Percival who both left the cup tie early last week with injury. Will Hopoate missed the win in the cup at the weekend and is expected to come in for Percival.
St Helens only won by 14 points with a man advantage for 40 minutes when these two met last week and so I’m a little surprised that Hull FC are getting a start of a dozen points for this one, especially when we consider that Tommy Makinson isn’t just Saints’ leading try scorer but also their goal kicker so his absence could play havoc more than that of Josh Griffin who starts his ban for the home side in this one. Any tries that don’t get converted plays into the hands of a team with a dozen start.
I still think St Helens will be just too good for Hull in this one but Warrington, Wigan and Huddersfield have all been to the MKM Stadium and lost in recent times so St Helens might well be grateful to get the win and get out of there rather than run up the score. This match is pretty big for Hull who have lost a bit of ground on the top six. They will want to respond from the weekend and while I’m not convinced they win, 12 points is enough of a start for them to ride to the finish.
Back Hull FC (+12) to beat St Helens for a 3/10 stake at 1.91 with Sky Bet