29th May 2019, 10:35 | catalans

Smith stresses importance of Challenge Cup tie

Smith stresses importance of Challenge Cup tie

The big games are coming thick and fast for Catalans Dragons and Matty Smith reckons Thursday’s Coral Challenge Cup quarter-final at Hull FC is the biggest of the season so far.

The French club followed up their euphoric win over Wigan Warriors in front of a Betfred Super League record crowd at the Nou Camp with a thrilling Dacia Magic Weekend victory over Wakefield Trinity at Anfield to consolidate third spot in the table.

The spotlight now falls on the cup and Smith says the holders are desperate to relive the glory of their historic victory at Wembley last August.

“I think once you win trophies – and I’ve done it with Wigan – you want to win more,” said Smith, who was in the Warriors team that beat Hull at Wembley in 2015.

“The boys want to get back to Wembley.

“We’ve had two massive games in the last two weeks but Thursday is probably the biggest game of the year so far so we need to be ready for that one.”

Smith, in his first season with the Perpignan club, was forced to watch the ground-breaking fixture in Barcelona from the sidelines after nursing a torn bicep but he is hoping to play a key role in their pursuit of more silverware.

After losing five of their first 10 league games, Steve McNamara’s men have won five of their last six and the coach is close to being able to pick from a full-strength squad.

Smith, who made only his second appearance in two months at Anfield and came through it unscathed, said: “It was good to be back with the boys.

“Hopefully we can carry on building now. I think we’ve started OK and I think consistency is showing a bit more now.

“I think it was a mental thing with us. We know we’ve got the players in the squad – obviously we won the Challenge Cup last year – but to get to Old Trafford you need to perform week in, week out.

“We’re getting there and performing on the big stage as well which is good.”

The Dragons, who stayed in Yorkshire after the Magic Weekend to prepare for the cup tie, will return to the scene of a 37-6 victory just four weeks ago but Smith is expecting a different Hull team this time.

“Hull have had a lot of success over the last couple of years in the competition,” he said. “They know what it’s all about so it’s going to be tough, especially in Hull.

“It’s going to be a different game, we’ve got to prepare well. It’s a quick turnaround as well which is good.”

The holders are boosted by the return of Smith’s old Wigan team-mates Sam Tomkins and Michael McIlorum but Hull will also need to keep a close eye on Tony Gigot, who has scored tries in each of his last six matches against them.

Hull have skipper Danny Houghton back, along with winger Bureta Faraimo, and coach Lee Radford also includes forward Andre Savelio for the first time since April, having overcome an ankle injury.