There’s a sense of irony how a maiden season of promise for City of Hull Academy both started and ended with draws against Wigan but that’s how it’s panned out as Danny Wilson’s outfit once again matched the pinnacle of academy rugby league with a 12-12 stalemate.
In fact, the reins have now been passed onto assistant Jason Netherton, who couldn’t have been prouder of his side, who at times were heroic against a physically superior Wigan outfit.
The Greater Manchester side were supposed to play Hull FC Reserves in a double header today, but cancelled the fixture to play a strong under-19s team in hope of gaining a home play-off tie. City of Hull though proved stellar opposition. Much younger, they defied the odds with a late rally giving them a point in their final game of the campaign.
It was a 38-38 draw back in February but on this occasion it was all about defence. The contest was so physical, and at times brutal, as Wigan bordered on the legal line with some ferocious hits. The crowd didn’t like it and they at times had a case, with cannonballs and high shots regularly missed by the match official until a late sin-bin.
Conditions were atrocious throughout, and both sides deserve credit for how they made a spectacle of a rain-soaked afternoon.
City of Hull did just that early on, as season star Liam Harris kicked threw for man of the match full-back Lochlan Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald was outstanding throughout, and he didn’t stop his highlight package there, as he twice performed try-saving tackles to ensure the home side kept hold of a 6-0 lead.
Errors understandably kept coming, but neither side let it faze them. Both looked to promote the ball and both kept each other out as defence was on top. City of Hull were brilliant, especially in the middle as Kieran Moran and Ben Butler stood out, but they lost key playmaker Liam Harris to a nose injury, as a brutal first half played out.
The intensity, not the rain, failed to drop off after the break and Wigan were straight back into the contest as Sam Adejumo pounced on a kick to the in-goal. Owen Harrison then stepped up with the kicking duties and missed a penalty goal, with the young Warriors making him pay with another try, as pacey centre Jack Higginson strolled over.
Behind on the scoreboard for the first time, City of Hull kept battling and eventually get their reward, with William Jubb, a hooker who has been terrific all season, scooting over in the dying moments, after Caine Barnes was sent to the sin-bin for foul play. Harrison converted, before Fitzgerald missed a late drop goal attempt to snatch all two points in a thrilling contest.
City of Hull Starting XIII: 1. Lochlan Fitzgerald, 2. Kenan Stephenson, 3. Kieran Buchanan, 4. Harry Hutchinson, 5. Zack Morgan, 6. Bobby Downs, 7. Liam Harris, 8. Kieran Moran, 9. William Jubb, 10. Ben Butler, 11. Owen Harrison, 12. Joe Wardill, 13. Charlie Weaver. Interchange: 14. Tom Jubb, 15. Josh Pickering, 16. Lloyd Gurnell, 17. Rob Branton.
City of Tries: Fitzgerald, W.Jubb. Goals: Harris 1/1 Harrison 1/2
Wigan Starting XIII: 1. Craig Mullen, 2. Tom Davies, 3. James Barran, 4. Jack Higginson, 5. James Worthington, 6. Lewis Heckford, 7. Josh Woods, 8. Oil Patrington, 9. Paddy Casey, 10. Sam Brady, 11. MacCauley, 12. James Moore, 13. Sammy Kibula. Interchange: 14. Sam Adejumo, 15. Oil Russell, 16. Caine Barnes, 17. Joe Piling.
Wigan Tries: Adejumo, Higginson. Goals: Higginson 2/2
Scoring System: 6-0, 6-6, 6-12, 12-12.