THURSDAY night games are not always welcomed by some Super League players but for Scott Taylor and his Hull FC side, tonight’s cannot come soon enough.
That might sound strange given the Airlie Birds are on a 12-match losing run dating back to last July, the last of which was a heartbreaking last-minute loss at derby rivals Hull KR in Friday’s dramatic season opener.
However, there was enough evidence in that 18-16 defeat at Craven Park to suggest Lee Radford’s side are not far from where they need to be to emerge from the rut so this evening’s visit of Castleford Tigers is welcome.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, vice-captain Taylor admitted: “It doesn’t matter if it was the derby or whether it was Catalans, St Helens or whoever.
“Whenever you lose a game like that – with the very final play – it’s frustrating after all the effort we’d put into the game.
“But we know we came up short and you have to move on quickly and get over it. It’s a tough game with Cas coming up but we’re taking all the positives out of last week’s performance and there were plenty. We need to be a bit more clinical in certain areas but our passion, energy and that scramble to defend our line was second to none.
“We need to take that in to face a well-organised, structured opponent. We still have confidence; there’s positivity around the place even though this is going on.
“Me and Danny Houghton have been focusing on keeping the buzz and keeping it bouncing.”
Castleford started with an efficient 20-4 win over Challenge Cup holders Catalans Dragons and, with ex-Hull prop Liam Watts in tow, will be keen to quickly make it two wins from two.
The Airlie Birds, though, are boosted by the return of two key players: England stand-off Jake Connor who served a one-game ban last week, and Joe Westerman, the former Tigers No 13 who has been injured since the 72-10 loss at Wakefield in July.
Jake gives you that international experience and skill that comes with his name, so it will be a big boost having him back.Scott Taylor
Rangy prop Taylor admitted: “It’s good to have them in.
“Obviously it’s Westy’s first game back and he might not be able to play big minutes but he’ll bring us that shape that he does.
“The big one is Jake, though, with his skill, talent, approach and what he brings with ball in hand. If he’d have played against Hull KR it might have been a different story.
“That’s no offence to Washy (makeshift No 6 Danny Washbrook); he’s a brilliant player and he’s filled in so many different positions for us and done a great job.
“But Jake gives you that international experience and skill that comes with his name, so it will be a big boost having him back.”
Taylor, meanwhile, looked impressive at former club Hull KR.
The 27-year-old suffered a disappointment when dropped by Wayne Bennett for England’s autumn international series against New Zealand.
He had been a regular squad member since the Australian came in to the job and toured for the 2017 World Cup but has now fallen down the pecking order.
“It is driving me on but I’ve not really thought about it too much,” insisted Taylor.
“I haven’t done a full pre-season in about three years and I definitely needed it; I was broken. I was chasing my tail and when I look back at last year I was only a few weeks back from the World Cup and then I was off back to Australia with Hull.
“I got appendicitis and played with that (against Wigan in Wollongong), was in hospital for five days and then flew home.
“I lost all that weight and then 10 days later I was back playing against Warrington, so I have been chasing my tail for a while.
“At the end of the day, I understand why I didn’t get picked (for England) as our form wasn’t very good, I was in a team that lost 11 games on the bounce and I wasn’t playing great either.
“But I’ve been back in since the fifth of November, trained as hard as I can and am lifting weights that I’ve not lifted in years.
“I’ve really toughened my body up.
“I’m excited for what the future holds personally and for Hull.”