Wigan Warriors face Hull FC in what promises to be a thrilling Challenge Cup semi-final showdown at the Keepmoat Stadium on Friday night.
Shaun Wane’s men suffered a demoralising defeat at the hands of derby rivals St Helens last weekend, but Wigan remain 1.78 favourites to secure their spot in next month’s showpiece final at Wembley with a win over Lee Radford’s charges.
The Warriors are closing in on a historic 20th Challenge Cup triumph and victory here would see them take another significant stride towards achieving that objective.
The assignment facing Wane’s side, though, is a tough one, for Wigan will be without top scorer Josh Charnley and Frank-Paul Nuuausala, both of whom are suspended for this clash, while the injured Joel Tomkins will again be absent as Wane faces something of a selection headache.
Taulima Tautai’s return to the ranks, therefore, is perfectly timed and the Warriors will hope that the 28-year-old will provide them with a much-needed fillip after he sat out of the defeat against St Helens through suspension.
Hull sit proudly top of the Super League table after recording a hard-fought 28-20 win over Salford Red Devils last time out and Radford’s men will fancy their chances of taking their place in the Challenge Cup final at 2.29.
The Black and Whites’ Challenge Cup record, however, is poor, as they’ve won just three of their 15 appearances in the final of the competition but, buoyed by an impressive season so far, Radford’s outfit will be desperate to secure the silverware as they set their sights on a League, Cup and Shield treble.
The previous meetings between the two teams thus far this term were fascinating fixtures, with Wigan winning 26-25 in Hull back in March thanks to a last-gasp goal from Matty Smith, but Hull had their revenge in the most recent meeting between the sides, claiming a 30-16 victory at DW Stadium in May.
With Wigan missing a number of key men, Hull will feel that Friday’s match represents an outstanding opportunity to get to Wembley and claim the Challenge Cup for only the fourth time in their history.
The Warriors’ remarkable pedigree in this competition, though, simply cannot be overlooked and, with little to separate the sides, it may well be worth siding with Wane’s men to produce yet another classic Challenge Cup performance.
Wigan always seem to find their finest form in this competition and the 1.96 quote for Wane’s side to win by three or more points and book their place in next month’s final is the recommended play for punters ahead of Friday’s crunch clash.
Recommended bet: Wigan Warriors (-2.5) at 1.96