THEY now know the levels they must achieve and, with that in mind, England prop Scott Taylor believes Hull FC have more than enough to rule Super League.
It may be a bold statement ahead of tonight’s game at Widnes Vikings given the East Yorkshire club reside mid-table and have already lost as many games as they have won in 2018.
Nevertheless, the last of those five defeats was Friday’s 26-12 loss at pacesetting leaders St Helens, an experience that, though painful, was also enlightening.
Taylor told The Yorkshire Post: “They are the pinnacle at the minute and top of the league.
“But if that’s the best there’s no reason why we can’t get there and build up something ourselves.
“Saints played fast. They probably had the better of the opening exchanges and were the better team on the night; they are the standard and are playing well. Nine wins from 10 says that.
“But we’re feeling confident still in ourselves. We know we’ve got a few bodies to come back and a few others are carrying bumps – not that that’s an excuse – but if that’s the standard we’re confident we can reach it.”
Unfortunately, Hull head coach Lee Radford only has one player back for the trip to Widnes – winger Bureta Faraimo who returns from a game suspension – and he loses another with prop Brad Fash sidelined by a broken jaw suffered at Saints.
Furthermore, his preferred back-row trio of Mark Minichiello, Sika Manu and Dean Hadley all remained sidelined, too, so a return to winning ways is not going to be easy at eighth-placed Widnes.
That said, if the Black and Whites are serious about finally winning a first league championship since 1983 six months from now, they must demonstrate their character.
If that’s the best there’s no reason why we can’t get there and build up something ourselves.Scott Taylor
“These are the games we’ve said we do have to win,” continued Taylor, who has helped Hull to Challenge Cup final victories in each of the last two years but fallen short in Super League semi-finals both times thereafter.
“We must win them. And we’ve been to Widnes and lost in the past and just scraped one last year.
“It’s a tough place to go but they are the ones we have to win. We can’t afford to keep going win two, lose two. We must start getting that momentum back.”
Hull had strung together three successive victories before and during the busy Easter period before succumbing to Saints.
Taylor, who won a Grand Final with Wigan Warriors, continued: “This six-day turnaround since has felt like a holiday!
“We needed that rest. Hopefully the boys will feel a bit fresher going into Thursday now.
“Widnes will be a difficult game and they really turn up at home.
“Their main threats are Joe Mellor, who gets them around the pitch well from half and is lively, and then Rhys Hanbury is a real threat out of the back.
“He’s speedy, reads the game well but I think we’ve done well on Widnes in the past when we’ve nullified his threat out of backfield.
“We’ve looked to be smart over the last few days to do what we can to prep’ and attack it.
“We were gutted to lose at Saints – we got the two wins over Easter we needed – but we need to get back on the winning road now and keep that real challenge towards the top four.”
Radford will hope Danny Houghton is able to continue after playing only his second game back at Saints after a calf injury
The talented hooker instantly made FC look a better side with his distribution around the ruck while his defensive workrate goes without saying so, after a disjointed opening to his season, the 2016 Man of Steel will be crucial for hopes of improving.
Taylor, 27, offered: “At the end of the day he’s our skipper, a top-drawer nine and we’re lucky to have him out there. When he doesn’t play we miss him and so you should with his quality.
“But it was good to have him back last week. We were frustrated we couldn’t win it for him on his 300th club game and Marc Sneyd’s 100th but there’s a lot of things that went into last week why we didn’t get that win. We’ve looked to sort that for Widnes.”
Hull hope to have Super League’s leading try-scorer Fetuli Talanoa fit after he departed in the first half at Saints with a dead calf. Youngsters Jez Litten, Jack Logan, Jack Downs and Masi Matongo are all named in the 19-man squad while Widnes have their own share of injury problems.
Keanan Brand broke a leg on his Super League debut during Saturday’s 31-12 defeat at Hull KR as the Vikings look to avoid a fourth successive defeat.