UNDERDOGS HULL will be battling recent history, as well as the current holders, when they face Leeds Rhinos in a Challenge Cup quarter-final tonight.
For the third time in six seasons, Hull have home advantage in a Cup tie the week after taking on Leeds at Headingley in Super League.
Leeds have won all five of those previous encounters, including a 32-20 success last Sunday, but Hull stand-off Leon Pryce saw nothing that afternoon to suggest they can’t break the sequence, if they get their game together from the first whistle.
“We started behind the eight ball and Leeds really gave it to us early doors and we found it hard to change the momentum,” Pryce reflected on a see-sawing match which the home team secured with eight points in the final five minutes.
“We didn’t really get the momentum shift until 55-60 minutes into the game.
“It was a close game by that time, but they just ran away with it in the end.
“I would say that we tried hard and we played hard, but it was frustrating. I’m sure we will be looking to improve in a few areas and the start will be one of them.”
Not that Pryce really cares how Hull play tonight, as long as they secure a place in Sunday’s draw.
Hull have not won the Cup since 2005, when they beat Leeds in the final at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
“This week it is not about the performance, it is about the result,” Pryce said.
“It doesn’t matter how good we play or how bad we play, if we get the result that is all that matters.
“Everyone knows how much this trophy means to people in rugby league.”
Leeds spent 15 years trying to regain the Challenge Cup, before finally ending their barren run with victory over Castleford Tigers at Wembley 10 months ago.
They had lost six finals since their previous triumph, in 1999 and the Cup success meant their golden generation had finally completed a clean-sweep of trophies.
But back-row forward Carl Ablett, who scored their final try last week, is adamant Leeds’ hunger for Wembley glory has not diminished.
“Each year’s the same, I don’t think you want it any more or any less, if you’ve won it or not won it,” Ablett observed.
“It’s the Challenge Cup and you don’t get many opportunities to win these trophies. We got a taste of it last year, but we’ve got the same desire this year as we had before we won it.
“It’s about wanting to win as many trophies as you can. We are two games away from a final, so it’s not that far away. We need to put a good performance in against a good Hull team.”
Ablett also feels Leeds need to improve from last week. That win lifted them above St Helens into top spot on the table, but was only their fourth victory in nine league and cup games since late April.
While their attack has remained consistent, Leeds have been conceding too many points for comfort, according to Ablett.
He admitted: “I thought there were some good signs there, but there’s still some areas where we probably weren’t good enough.
“If we make those sorts of errors [tonight] we’ll probably get punished. We will take things from last Sunday’s game, as we do most weeks when we review games.
“There are things we did well and things we need to improve. We’ve gone through the video and picked out what we can and hopefully we’ll take that into this one.”
Ablett added: “Scoring points has never been an issue for us.
“We are the highest-scoring team in Super League, so we know we can score points.
“It’s some of the errors we make and the pressure that puts on our defence that we need to work on.
“At times our defence hasn’t been good enough. It goes hand in hand, if you are a bit too loose with your attack, your defence suffers.
“In the Challenge Cup you don’t get any second chances, so we are going to have to execute our game plan and play with some control.”