Hull FC Need A Response
We folk of a red vee persuasion know something about taking a fearful pasting from teams that perceived wisdom says we should beat, so we know exactly how Hull FC fans must feel following their 54-18 hammering by Salford Red Devils last time out. It was nothing short of embarrassing for Lee Radford’s side and, following on from the 22-22 draw with Warrington in their previous assignment leaves the black and whites without a league win since beating Wigan on March 24.
What they probably don’t need then is to run into a Leeds Rhinos outfit which, since suffering a catastrophe of its own in losing 66-10 to Castleford back on March 2, has recorded wins over Catalans, Wakefield, Huddersfield and Wigan in a run that has seen them climb to third in the table and was only ended when Warrington got their first win of the year last week. All a far cry from the desperation of their 2016 campaign in which they never left the bottom four and ended up slumming it with the Championship’s great and good rather than defending their 2015 title. The upsurge in the Rhinos form is no doubt helped by a reduction in their error count while still sitting proudly at the top of the offload pops. Their 34 tries this term is better than all except Castleford and Salford, although defensively only Catalans Dragons among top eight sides have conceded more points than Brian McDermott’s side.
Leeds go in at pretty much full strength with only Carl Ablett and the suspended duo of Brad Singleton and Brett Ferres missing from their 19-man squad selection. FC have the return of Albert Kelly to look forward to after he missed the Salford thrashing on compassionate leave, while Carlos Tuimavave, Scott Taylor and former Rhino Gareth Ellis could all return to Radford’s match day 17. Kelly was in scintillating form for the black and whites before his leave and his return could be the difference for a side in need of a win to stop the recent downward slide.
Salford Are A Genuine Top Four Contender
Ah Salford…..inconsistent, basket case Salford. A retirement home for fading Super League stars but not actually a team worthy of consideration for top honours in the eyes of anyone except Phil Clarke, right? Well, maybe not. Fresh from that pounding of Hull FC last week the Red Devils host Leigh Centurions in a Greater Manchester derby for which they will now be installed as a heavy favourite.
Ian Watson’s side sit second in the table, just two points behind Castleford Tigers having been the only team to beat Daryl Powell’s men so far this season. They’ve also beaten Huddersfield, Warrington, Widnes and Saints before last week’s stroll over Hull FC, while only Wakefield, Wigan and Leeds have got the better of the AJ Bell Stadium side. Only the Tigers have scored more tries and made more clean breaks than the Red Devils in the early going, but they don’t take too many risks with only Wakefield and Hull FC having fewer offloads. There’s a discipline and a resolve about Salford so far in 2017 that just hasn’t been there in previous seasons.
And what of Leigh? Neil Jukes’ side can be rightly satisfied with their efforts so far this term even though they are still in the bottom four. Wins over Saints, Warrington and Huddersfield have impressed while they have been competitive in all of the six games they have lost bar the opening day lesson from Castleford and a 20-0 shutout by Wigan. There may be some concern among the Centurions faithful that they haven’t won in the league since that 22-8 success over Warrington on March 16 but that three game losing streak probably isn’t the kind of adversity that they wouldn’t have been ready for when they came back into the top flight. It is how they deal with it from now on that will decide whether they can really threaten the top eight or whether September will be a month spent renewing old acquaintances with familiar Championship foes in the Middle 8 Qualifiers.