Round 12 of the Betfred Super League sees Hull FC take on Warrington Wolves as the Airlie Birds look to carry on an upturn in form after an impressive victory over early pacesetters Castleford Tigers. Despite a dubious red card in the early stages for Liam Watts, the Black & Whites displayed great defence to hold on 26 – 24.
Warrington continue to quietly go about their business after a disastrous start to the campaign. Unbeaten since the last time these sides clashed in Round 7, there’s a sense that Tony Smith’s side are still not playing their best rugby, instead working as a cohesive unit to edge out opposition. Only a 78th minute try from Tom Lineham saved their blushes against Wakefield, and their victory over Huddersfield on Easter Monday was hardly convincing. While this is hardly the Wolves’ form of 2016, they have individuals in their ranks that could cause Hull problems on Friday evening.
The Black and Whites will go into battle with several players missing; Danny Houghton misses his sixth consecutive game with a calf injury with Danny Washbrook set to deputise once again. Liam Watts is suspended for one game, while Fetuli Talanoa and Josh Bowden remain on the sidelines with ankle injuries. Question marks remain over the fitness of Captain Gareth Ellis, who is suffering with a minor sternum injury, while Mark Minichiello and Sika Manu could be rested. Youngsters Brad Fash, Jack Downs, Jansin Turgut and Jez Litten all earn spots in the 19-man squad and could feature along with Josh Griffin, who has returned to fitness.
Warrington welcome back key players in Daryl Clark and Matty Russell, while Mike Cooper also makes a return in the pack. Ryan Atkins is back in the squad sooner than expected after injury but Ben Currie and George King remain absentees.
I anticipate a close encounter between two sides who are gradually playing into some good form. The Airlie Birds must continue to build on an improved performance against Castleford with tenacious defence and a more composed approach to the game. Danny Houghton will be a huge miss and given Daryl Clark’s return to the Wolves’ line-up, could make the difference.
Nonetheless, for pivots to weave their magic, they need a strong pack of forwards to utilise as a platform and this is an area where both sides are blessed with the likes of Scott Taylor and Chris Hill. The team that wins this forward battle will go onto to win the game.
Hull FC: Jamie Shaul, Mahe Fonua, Carlos Tuimavave, Josh Griffin, Albert Kelly, Marc Sneyd, Scott Taylor, Mark Minichiello, Gareth Ellis, Jake Connor, Chris Green, Jordan Thompson, Danny Washbrook, Steve Michaels, Sika Manu, Jansin Turgut, Jack Downs, Brad Fash, Jez Litten.
Warrington Wolves: Ryan Atkins, Kevin Brown, Daryl Clark, Mike Cooper, Brad Dwyer, Rhys Evans, Kurt Gidley, Chris Hill, Jack Hughes, Benjamin Jullien, Tom Lineham, Harvey Livett, Declan Patton, Joe Philbin, Stefan Ratchford, Matty Russell, Andre Savelio, Ashton Sims, Joe Westerman.
Prediction: Hull FC by 8.