Where do you begin with such a monumental weekend? The Hull FC celebrations began, the players were overjoyed, the fans equally so and it all ended with the ultimate celebration of a homecoming parade.
This is the promised land folks and Black & Whites are entitled to bask in the glory of it. Some clubs will only ever dream of lifting a Challenge Cup aloft, yet our lads did it and by jove was it a sweet feeling as thousands of Airlie Birds around who flocked to Wembley were almost left briefly stunned by what had been achieved.
My Saturday morning began just a tad hazy. In true FC fashion, we had congregated around several pre-match beverages on Friday evening; some would say it settled the nerves others would call us foolish. However, as me and my pals discussed our prospects, the unyielding sense of confidence remained apparent. True to the mentality of Radford’s side, we were confident without being arrogant.
The opposition quality was obvious but we all knew this Hull FC side was hell-bent on ridding itself of records and making new ones. As I pulled on the distinctive Magic-Weekend black number for the afternoon ahead, I was hoping FC would shine as bright as the star on the jersey. More beverages would follow in a familiar theme as my contingent headed to the stadium, an impressive sight in itself as a mass of Black & White jerseys spread across Wembley Way.
An atmospheric chorus of anthems and chants would follow and early confidence would turn to pure adrenaline as reality sank in; this was our time, our opportunity and we needed to grab it with both hands. Cagey opening exchanges would follow between the sides in a game that had numerous collisions, Kurt Gidley’s early departure with a head knock would prove pivotal in the 2nd half. Warrington edged the first-half as you sensed Hull were struggling to deal with the Wolves’ line-speed.
Matty Russell skipped in with minutes to go before half-time, before Ben Currie crossed to make it 10 – 0 early in the 2nd period. It was at this point that it was essential Hull responded. After a period of pressure, they couldn’t afford to fall further behind and crucially they didn’t allow themselves to. They hung on, dug deep and drew from all the inner-strength this team has embedded in it.
It was this aspect that impressed me most about Hull on the day. Finding the ability to stop momentum from the attacking side is so much more difficult than attempting to attack. Despite the sapping heat, intimidating atmosphere and venue, the Airlie Birds remained an organised unit and stuck to the game-plan. It was at this point that inspired from a huge team effort, the leading soldiers in a Black & White Battalion stood out to be counted.
As predicted in my preview for the cup last week, I suspected Fonua, Sneyd & Houghton would all play their part and they didn’t let me down. Mahe has always been an aggressive runner but he’s really made the centre-spot his own as he launched himself into the air to capture an accurate lofted kick from that man – Marc Sneyyyyyd. Fonua had initiated the comeback but Sneydy, who had largely been kept at bay by a mean Wolves defence until this point, was once again the Puppetmaster.
Sneeeeydddd’s searching kicks began to ask questions of a tiring Wolves defence and after his rival half- Kurt Gidley departed the field, he was able to seize the initiative. Fonua was unleashed again as he showed incredible athletic prowess to palm the ball back into the arms of an onrushing Sneyd who released the ball onto the ever-supporting Jamie Shaul.
Mahe Fonua scoring Hull FC’s first try. What a leap!
After an hour of battling for the upper-hand, I could not believe the comeback I was witnessing; typical of Hull this season they never gave up. They remained disciplined, resolute, structured and ultimately confident in their own ability.
We had the lead with minutes to go from a seemingly difficult position. However, in classic cup fashion, there was one last opportunity for Ben Currie to scoot over the line for Warrington. Every fan paused for breath, it looked like another heart-break at Wembley but Danny Houghton – the man who never gives up, pulled off a technically-superb tackle causing Currie to knock-on.
Danny Houghton’s try saver. You beauty!
You couldn’t have scripted it any better, seeing was believing but this diminutive dynamo had weaved his magic again. Frankly the plaudits couldn’t have gone to a more modest figure in the camp. The final whistle took an eternity to blow but we did it. Time felt like it stopped for a moment, as the realisation of what we achieved sank in.
A sea of Black & White surrounded me; I glanced at the score-board and then back to the victorious squad who had erupted into a rapture of celebrations on the pitch. I absorbed every minor detail; these cup-winning moments are precious. The players would receive their medals and despite many happy-faces, the toothless grin of Lee Radford and the sheer passion he showed as he held the silver-ware aloft really summed up the occasion.
For all the technical ability of players and staff, the glamour of the cup and all that goes with it, it’s the sheer team-spirit that surrounds this club right now. This wasn’t a personal victory for any player, they did everything together to achieve what they did. Hull FC are a family club and to have a brotherhood amongst the players as well as the fans goes along way to explaining this side’s success so far and who’s to say there won’t be more to come.