Hull FC v Castleford: Ellis backs Sneyd to stay cool as Wembley pressure builds

Hull FC's Marc Sneyd.
Hull FC's Marc Sneyd.
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WHETHER being laid-back remains a positive characteristic for a rugby league player is open to debate.

However, in the case of Hull FC half-back Marc Sneyd, there is no argument, according to his captain, Gareth Ellis.

Sneyd will take on his former club Castleford Tigers this afternoon as the Black and Whites bid to reach the Challenge Cup quarter-finals.

He does so fresh from nervelessly kicking the winning drop-goal during the last dramatic play of the excellent 27-26 victory at Warrington.

Ellis told The Yorkshire Post: “If it comes to him slotting a drop goal or conversion from the touchline to win it again on Saturday, I’d certainly back him as he won’t be fazed by it.

“He’s the most laid-back person I know! That’s a good thing as there has been pressure on half-backs at Hull for years now, fiddling about with them trying to get the right one, but he doesn’t take anything to heart.

“He just gets on with it and, hopefully, he can come up with those big plays again against his old team and be the hero again.”

For all Sneyd’s importance – the £100,000 buy is starting to find his fluent best after some injuries early in his Hull career – the return of Ellis is undoubtedly key to their chances today and for the rest of the season.

The ex-England second-row had missed seven games due to a rib injury before returning at Warrington and he is ready to make up for lost time.

“It was really pleasing,” he added. “I’d been feeling that my season hadn’t really started as I played a couple, missed a couple, back in and then back out again.

“It’s been a disappointing start to the year especially after a long pre-season getting ready so it was great to be back contributing.

“That’s always the difficult part when you’re injured – not being able to make an impact. Hopefully, I can in the second half of the season.”

The first of those games he missed was the 20-14 defeat at Castleford in March when Hull had so much ball yet could do little to get across the line, a major problem for them at times this year.

Tigers, of course, reached Wembley themselves last year before losing out to Leeds Rhinos.

“We’re expecting a tough game,” admitted Ellis, who hails from Castleford.

“They’ve been similar to us – up and down. They’ve found a way to win, though, like they did against us earlier in the season.

“We expect a hard game. They had a fantastic year last year but have now probably lost a bit of that element of surprise they maybe had then.

“We’re at home – which is a massive bonus for us in any cup competition especially with the fans on the back of what we did at Warrington.”

Hull have won five out of their last six games yet still struggle to convince doubters they are contenders of any sort.

Ellis, though, remains convinced they can come good and return to Wembley, having endured the disappointment of defeat against Wigan in the 2013 showpiece.

“It’s one piece of silverware I’ve not got on my CV,” he added, having won two Grand Finals with Leeds Rhinos and the World Club Challenge before starring in the NRL for Wests Tigers.

“I’ve missed out on a couple of occasions now – by one point to Hull with Leeds in 2005 and again versus Wigan in 2013.

“It’s a strange competition the Challenge Cup. It’s one I’ve grown up with and dreamt about but I think getting there – to Wembley – you feel like you have already achieved.

“You probably have. But getting there and winning it are two very different things. After the game when you’ve lost you almost think it wasn’t worth it.

“It’d be nice to be on the other side of that and be able to lift that trophy.”

Having lost by a point to Warrington in February and Wigan, too, the following month, Ellis said: “I’m not sure we could have taken being on the wrong side of another one-point loss again.

“That really hits you mentally as much as anything and can really set you back as it has done a couple of times this year.

“So, to get on the right side of it was really pleasing. They are always good ones to win and the character shown was great.”