HULL FC head coach Lee Radford has urged his squad to seize their unexpected second chance at League Leaders’ Shield glory and achieve something no one has done at the club for more than 30 years.
The Black and Whites will finish top for the first time since 1983 if they can beat current front-runners Warrington Wolves in a hugely-anticipated final Super 8s game at KCOM Stadium this evening.
Treble-chasing Hull, who had led the competition for most of the season, thought they had blown their chance by losing at St Helens and then at home to Wigan before last Thursday’s win at Wakefield Trinity.
However, Warrington – who Radford’s side defeated in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final last month – also then stuttered themselves, losing 35-28 at home to Wigan last Friday despite being 28-14 ahead when Warriors had Ben Flower sent off in the second half.
The presentation of the League Leaders’ Trophy had even been made ready and Radford told The Yorkshire Post: “I thought our chance had gone, massively. For 50 minutes everyone else was thinking the same. But the rugby gods have smiled down on us and we need to make the most of it.
“It’s now in our control again and that’s all we can ask. As sportsmen it’s up to us to take the opportunity.”
Hull trail Warrington by a point, but also need victory to make sure they confirm a home semi-final next week as they bid for a first Grand Final since 2006 and, ultimately, win Super League for the first time.
Radford expects the club’s fans to play a significant role tonight with a crowd of around 17,000 expected.
He added: “In the lifetimes of many of this club’s fans, they have never been in this position where it’s going down to the last game of the year and it’s first versus second, too.
“When we last won the league in 1983 it did go down late on, but it wasn’t one versus two at the Boulevard.
“I think we won at Headingley in 1983 to do it so this sort of occasion has never been seen by a lot of supporters and they’ll have a huge role to play.
“Hopefully next year we’ll win it with three weeks left but, for now, we’re hoping they turn up in numbers and make it a real atmosphere for us.”
Wigan sit third, behind Hull only on points difference, but will secure a home semi-final regardless of what happens at the KCOM Stadium if they defeat Catalans Dragons at home tonight.
Hull preview: Page 21.