HULL FC prop Scott Taylor says it would be an “absolute failure” if his side did not make the top-five. Head coach Lee Radford cannot even contemplate the scenario.
Yet the East Yorkshire club do find themselves in this bizarre position tonight ahead of a critical game at play-off rivals Castleford Tigers.
Just last month they were envisaging powering on for second spot and a charge to Old Trafford, yet now – with three defeats in their last four league outings – they are left nervously clinging onto that fifth and final spot.
Clearly, the months do not fit but the sentiment of Ol Blue Eyes’ ‘riding high in April, shot down in May’ certainly springs to mind.
The question is will Hull – who also lost a Challenge Cup semi-final directly before that aforementioned downturn – be back on top in June?
As Radford reiterated time and again yesterday, the mathematics are simple; ‘we win, we’re in.’
Any success this evening would put them four points clear of sixth-placed Castleford with just one regular game remaining.
However, if they lose, and Wheldon Road can be particularly inhospitable on nights like this, then Daryl Powell’s Tigers take control of the situation.
Considering Hull have permanently resided in the top-five ever since March, it is understandable why the urgency of the situation is now fully upon them.
Taylor, their England prop, Great Britain hopeful and as Black and White as they come, told The Yorkshire Post: “I don’t want to think about not being in the top-five.
“We’ve been there all year and put ourselves in a really good position. We’ve worked so hard and if we didn’t make the play-offs it would be an absolute failure.
“We’ve put ourselves in a position we didn’t really need to be in.
“It’s that tight but we just need to work it out for ourselves.
“If we can finish the season with two wins, we’ll give ourselves a real good chance of being in a good position in the play-offs.
“After that it’s just one-match rugby, knockout rugby, so we’ll see what we’re like.”
Hull have lost their last two games and were particularly poor with their creative play when falling at home to lowly Huddersfield Giants last week.
The return of talisman Albert Kelly at stand-off after a three-game absence should help in that area – “he gives us some attacking prowess with the fact he is willing to take the line on” said Radford – while Fijian winger Ratu Naulago, who scored twice in the win at Castleford in June, also comes in,
Radford has turned to his reliable old guard, too, the veteran back-row Mark Minichiello preffered to impressive tyro Jordan Lane, but what of Castleford?
Lose and they are out of the running barring a mathematical miracle; they need to win more than Hull who could still potentially earn a reprieve in their final game against St Helens.
With that in mind, the hosts are targeting two wins from two to guarantee a spot; they visit Wigan Warriors next week.
Castleford back Jordan Rankin, the Australian who enjoyed two seasons with Hull in 2014/15, sees no reason why tonight cannot be a catalyst for them creating something special.
He said: “We don’t think any team is above us when it comes to our potential to reach a Grand Final. We have to take it a week at a time, and I know that is cliche.
“At this time of the year you have got to treat every game as if it could be your last. (But) we know we are good enough to make the Grand Final, we know we have a good enough squad to do that.
“It is about us putting in the good performances on the field.
“And that continues on Thursday against a Hull team who never cease to have a bad game against Cas.
“They are a dangerous team and we know it is an important game for both teams.”