Challenge Cup Semi-Final – Wigan 12 Hull FC 16 – Friday 29th June – Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster
Hull FC have never won at Wembley. It’s an unwanted record those over the River Hull love to cling on to. Previous sides adoring the Black and White colours have always fallen short in North London but now there’s a genuine realisation that the Class of 2016 look destined to finally break the hoodoo.
Lee Radford’s Hull FC side remarkably are still on for an unthinkable treble as a tough, gritty and certainly nerve wracking Challenge Cup semi-final victory over Wigan put the current league leaders into the seasons first showpiece final.
Repelling constant pressure the final ten minutes alone was the toughest challenge of Hull FC’s season to date but they once again showed their title credentials. They stuck together when the going got tough and now stand – like they have several times before – one game away from ultimate glory.
For the Black and Whites another visit to Wembley awaits them, with a chance to finally end the rot, and for the current squad – many of whom were part of their last final loss – put themselves into legend status.
Continuing the Super League fairy-tale into cup eminence, Lee Radford’s troops managed to grind down a superb Wigan defence with master strokes of their own to record a 16-12 victory.
Captain Gareth Ellis was absolutely sensational, whilst Sika Manu put in a huge knock. Crowd favourite Marc Sneyd was brilliant from his boot, whilst the edges remained firm in a heroic and resilient display.
Leading the post-match celebrations the satisfaction on the face of Hull-born prop Scott Taylor told the full picture. It was a massive effort from FC, who stood firm and beat Wigan at their own game to reach the most prestigious final at club level.
The game was tense, it was tough and certainly not for the faint hearted. It had everything. Emotions ran high and the adrenaline was pumping. A proper cup tie, with a proper atmosphere – at least from one end. Hull travelled in huge numbers whereas Wigan’s support was nothing short of embarrassing.
Such numerical advantages didn’t matter early on though as Warriors and England stand-off George Williams raced through Hull’s defence, despite being smashed by Ellis a few plays before – to score the games first try.
Matty Smith converted before Marc Sneyd added a penalty goal, his 400th point for the club, to limit the half time score 8-2 in Wigan’s favour.
Gareth Ellis had a try ruled out by the video ref but shortly after the break the Warriors’ defence finally cracked. Some crazy unorthodox handling from Tuimavave, Shaul, Ellis, Pritchard and Fonua paid dividends as Stevie Michaels finished in the corner.
A sublime sequence of handling soon became an element of fortune as Hull made certain their dominant spells were glossed with points. They soon got their second try, Wigan winger Dominic Manfredi made a nightmare of a Sneyd cross field kick with Talanoa the beneficiary. Sneyd duly converted.
Mahe Fonua was lost to a concussion knock but a penalty from Hull FC’s scrum half then extended their lead to eight points as Wigan piled on the pressure late on.
It eventually told as Willie Isa cruised over, but Hull hung on in an unbearable final few minutes for a priceless and monumental semi-final victory.
Wembley awaits Hull FC now, and you’d be a brave men to bet against them.
Wigan Starting XIII: 1. Sam Tomkins, 22. Lewis Tierney, 4. Dan Sarginson, 5. Dominic Manfredi, 6. George Williams, 7. Matty Smith, 10. Ryan Sutton, 16. Sam Powell, 21. Ryan Sutton, 14. John Bateman, 25. Willie Isa, 13. Sean O’Loughlin. Interchange: 8. Dominic Crosby, 17. Lee Mossop, 19. Taulima Tautai, 29. Joe Bretherton.
Wigan Tries: Williams, Isa, Goals: Smith 2/3.
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, 21. Sika Manu, 12. Mark Minichiello, 11. Gareth Ellis. Interchange: 15. Chris Green, 16. Jordan Thompson, 23. Frank Pritchard, 30. Danny Washbrook.
Hull Tries: Michaels, Talanoa. Goals: 4/4.
3-2-1 Man of the Match: 3pts Sika Manu, 2pts Gareth Ellis, 1pt Marc Sneyd
Scoring System: 6-0, 6-2, 8-2, 8-8, 8-14, 8-16, 12-16.
Referee: Ben Thaler