NICK SHARPE leads Huddersfield into the prestigious Yorkshire Cup final tonight predicting: “We can win it!”
The Lockwood Park club have not won the county rugby union showpiece in over a century and go into tonight’s Centurion-sponsored final at York (7.30) as slight underdogs.
That’s because opponents Hull have scored two victories over Field this season in National North II, but Sharpe says he is confident of getting his hands on the trophy.
“We really should have beaten them at our place back in February,” remarked the captain, whose side lost 28-23 after opening up a good lead and then squandering it thanks to two men being sent to the to the sin-bin (which proved the difference).
“And if we can keep 15 players on the park throughout the game tonight, I’m confident we can beat them.
“We can now compete with them up front, and I would back our defence against just about anyone.
“We have the second or third best defence in the League this season, and if we can get parity in the scrums and line-outs we can beat them. It’s up to our forwards to deliver.”
Tries for Simon Pratt and Chris Johnson along with a couple of Johnson penalties and a drop goal should have been enough to seal victory at Lockwood Park, but then Huddersfield were blown away at the Ferens ground earlier in the season when they crashed 34-0.
However, one plus for Huddersfield is that Hull’s director or rugby and player-coach Tevita Vaikona, who caused plenty of problems for Sharpe’s men that day, has since suffered an ankle injury and is almost certainly out of action.
Tongan international Vaikona made his name in rugby league with both Bradford Bulls and Hull, and later for Saracens in the Rugby Union Premiership before joining Hull a couple of years ago.
Hull have reached the semi-finals of the competition on four previous occasions, losing to Doncaster 70-27 in 2002-03, to Halifax 17-10 in 2003-04, by 33-19 to the Leeds Tykes Development XV in 2005-06 and by 26-7 to Wharfedale in 2009-10.
It proved to be fifth time lucky for Hull when they beat Cleckheaton 40-20 last month to reach this year’s final, where they are looking for a first win in their 19-year history.
Huddersfield last reached the final in 1970, losing to Bradford.