Challenge Cup Final – Saturday 27th August – Hull FC vs Warrington – Wembley Stadium
Immortality. That was the prize on offer for this Hull FC team, and they didn’t disappoint, recording a magnificent comeback to finally seal that elusive Wembley victory.
A try each from Mahe Fonua and Jamie Shaul, both converted by Lance Todd winner Marc Sneyd, was enough for Hull to edge a thrilling match 12-10, and send the Warrington Wolves, who also played their part in one of the greatest Challenge Cup finals in recent memory, packing.
History making, words will struggle to ever describe the sheer magnitude of what we have just witnessed. It’s been 57 years in the making since Hull first visited Wembley, back to 1959, as Wigan kickstarted a run of heartache that the last three generations of FC fans have had to endure. Six more defeats and a draw later and the Airlie Birds have finally done it.
After so much struggle it’s now all about the ecstacy, and even then that word doesn’t do justice to the sheer emotion felt by the 25,000 or so Black and White fans when Mark Minichiello pounced on that loose ball in the final minute.
Post-match scenes unlike anything seen before, there wasn’t a dry eye amongst the Hull crowd as the realisation to what their idols had just achieved sunk in.
For captain Gareth Ellis and co, it’s all legendary footage. So many famous players before them had dreamed of climbing those long steps to lift the most pretigious trophy in rugby league, and for Hull FC this was a milestone achievement after a momentous battle.
The contest literally had everything in eighty minutes of rip roaring entertainment. Late drama, sublime skill sets, kicking excellence and unthinkable defence all raised the roof of the iconic venue.
Trailing 10-0 approaching the final quarter, Hull exhibited all of the traits seen throughout this season. They are a side that refuses to be beaten, and one that showed tremendous courage and desire to score two tries to lift the Challenge Cup trophy for their fourth time in their history.
A brilliant occasion, Wembley was bouncing. The Black and Whites travelled to North London in their masses and they made an incredible atmosphere.
Hull certainly fed off it against stellar opposition. Warrington were brilliant, but on the biggest stage of all Hull’s pack, especially in the final twenty minutes, found new heights, with Marc Sneyd working off the back of it.
Sneyd’s kicking game was absolutely magnificent. Hull’s two tries came from his boot, but it was a sensational 40/20 that turned the game in his sides favour during a Man of the Match performance.
Hull’s contributions though were everywhere. Danny Houghton was immense and put every ounce of effort into his display – non better exhibited than by the tackle on Ben Currie that will be talked about for years to come.
Towering middle unit Liam Watts was also incredible, whilst interchange Hull-born props Chris Green and in particular Josh Bowden were excellent.
Intensity wise Hull lifted with Gareth Ellis’ reintroduction, and that’s no coincidence. Mahe Fonua meanwhile was always a threat and had his moments in an action packed afternoon.
For Warrington Stefan Ratchford and Daryl Clark were brilliant, whilst starting middle men Ashton Sims and Chris Hill stood out in a brutal forwards battle.
Some of the hits throughout were huge, it wasn’t a fixture for the faint hearted, with both defences fierce in their approach to preserving their line – something Hull did brilliantly for the large majority of the afternoon.
Warrington enjoyed their moments in a great cup final. Hull’s defence stood firm but they upped their antics late in the first half.
A probing Chris Sandow was able to intercept a Frank Pritchard pass to break away, with an insane Jamie Shaul cover tackle preventing a certain try.
Little did it matter though, as Matty Russell beat Fonua to score on the next play for a 6-0 half time advantage.
Kurt Gidley then missed what turned out to be a crucial penalty goal soon after the restart, before a superb Clark break put speedster backrower Currie over for their second try. Gidley again missed from the tee, and then soon went off with a head knock.
Hull then started to kick themselves into attacking fluency. They started to ask the question of a resolute Warrington defence, with repeat sets coming off the back of Sneyd’s brilliant boot.
Such testimony paid off, with a delicate Sneyd chip landing in the path of the at times unplayable Fonua, who leaped highest to score Hull FC’s first points in over two hours of final action.
Steve Michaels then went close, as Ratchford disposed of a Sneyd in-goal kick, before the golden Challenge Cup final winning moment occurred.
Another Sneyd chip was gathered by Fonua, who then palmed the ball back to Sneyd who then assisted Hull-born Shaul for the winning try – a try under the posts, which made the resulting goal a certainty, as the deafening chants of Sneeeeeydddddddd from the Hull end told you.
Warrington though didn’t give up and threw everything at Hull. Currie went within a yard of a last ditch winner, but was halted by who else but Danny Houghton – the Hull FC vice-captain, who along with Ellis, led Hull FC to their most historic achievement to date.
Not done with their endeavour the result was in the balance to the final minute, with the Wire scrambling to get one final attacking opportunity.
Mid way through the set they spilled possession, with Minichiello pouncing on the loose ball. That was the games final action, the confirmed abolishment of a certain song and the start of legend status for seventeen heroes.
Old Faithful, they have won at Wembley!
Hull Starting XIII: 1. Jamie Shaul, 19. Steve Michaels, 2. Mahe Fonua, 24. Kirk Yeaman, 5. Fetuli Talanoa, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 7. Marc Sneyd, 8. Scott Taylor, 9. Danny Houghton, 10. Liam Watts, 12. Mark Mnichiello, 21. Sika Manu, 11. Gareth Ellis. Interchange: 15. Chris Green, 22. Josh Bowden, 23. Frank Pritchard, 30. Danny Washbrook.
Hull Tries: Fonua, Shaul. Goals: Sneyd 2/2.
Warrington Starting XIII: 6. Stefan Ratchford, 5. Matty Russell, 24. Toby King, 4. Ryan Atkins, 3. Rhys Evans, 1. Kurt Gidley, 7. Chris Sandow, 8. Chris Hill, 9. Daryl Clark, 10. Ashton Sims, 11. Ben Currie, 12. Jack Hughes, 14. Joe Westerman. Interchange: 16. Brad Dwyer, 18. George King, 13. Ben Westwood, 33. Ryan Bailey.
Warrington Tries: Russell, Currie. Goals: Gidley 1/3.
Hull 3-2-1 Man of the Match: 3pts Danny Houghton, 2pts Marc Sneyd, 1pt Mahe Fonua.
Scoring System: 0-6, 0-10, 6-10, 12-10
Referee: Gareth Hewer