Hull FC secured back-to-back Challenge Cup titles as they put aside a strong effort from Wigan in a breathtaking final, claiming a narrow 18-14 victory. Marc Sneyd was instrumental for the Black and Whites, claiming the Lance Todd Trophy for the second year running. A narrow first half was met with an outstanding second half performance from the East Yorkshire outfit, who dominated for the most and managed to repel a valiant Warriors fight back.
After a high tempo start in the London sunshine, Wigan broke the deadlock after only three minutes after a seemingly nothing kick produced a horrendous bounce leaving Hull full-back Jamie Shaul stranded. The ball found its way into the hands of Anthony Gelling, who put John Bateman in for the opening Wembley try.
Hull did not let this early setback deter them, by taking advantage of good field position in the Wigan half, awarded after a Liam Farrell penalty. Liam Watts put the Airlie Birds on the Warriors line after a powerful run found him agonisingly short. The next play saw Sneyd place a pin-point cross-field kick, with Fetuli Talanoa leaping like a salmon over Liam Marshall – a late replacement for Tom Davies who withdrew with an ankle injury prior to kickoff – to put Hull back in the game.
FC doubled their tally minutes later, with Sneyd again the provider with a second perfect kick out wide. The ball caused havoc in the air, with Oliver Gildart knocking on, and the ball finding its way to Fonua to cross for one of the easiest tries of his career. Sneyd’s second successful conversion gave Hull a 12-6 lead halfway through the first half.
Two attempted intercepts gave Wigan 12 tackles on the Hull line, however they could not take advantage with Sam Tomkins losing the ball with the line begging due to ferocious Hull defence. A brief scuffle ensued shortly after, showing both teams’ passion and drive to claim the coveted silverware.
All this hard work in defence was undone a set later, with Carlos Tuimavave dropping the ball in his own half. The resulting six laid the platform for a Wigan score, with Gildart gliding over after the ball was tactfully shifted through the hands of Leuluai and Williams. Williams’ put the conversion wide though, meaning Hull held a narrow 12-10 lead five minutes before the break.
Both teams had one final chance to score before the hooter. Sneyd’s kick again gave the Warriors’ defence a headache, but Kelly’s opportunistic offload found a Wigan player, whilst Williams’ chip over the top bounced the wrong way for the marauding Joe Burgess; meaning both teams descended down the tunnel with two points the difference.
The start of the second half saw the same intensity that had been present in the first, with Hull being denied on the Wigan line after more solid defence. A trademark Sneyd left-footed kick hung in the air, only for scrambling Warriors’ defence being able to diffuse the threat and force the error.
Hull had their tails up and had the scent of another try after a sensational Sneyd 40/20 put the Cherry and Whites on the back foot. The ball was shifted out wide, with a clever pass from Albert Kelly finding Mahe Fonua on the touchline. The centre then leapt acrobatically to ground the ball in the corner, despite the best efforts of Liam Marshall, to score a superb try and give them an 18-10 lead.
Wigan appeared shell-shocked and unable to gain any territory in the Black and Whites half, with a series of errors placing increasing pressure on their shoulders. This came to a head when Fonua thought he had crossed for his second of the game. The play was sent up to the video referee only for it to be chalked off for an obstruction in the build up.
This close shave looked to give the Warriors some confidence going into the final quarter, with Tony Clubb barging his way over from close range. The ball came free and was delegated to the video referee by Phil Bentham, however it was decided that the prop had lost the ball over the line, affording FC a huge sigh of relief.
Wigan refused to give in though, and threw everything at the Black and Whites line. This produced a late try to haul them back in the contest through Joe Burgess with seven minutes left on the clock. A long cut out pass from Sean O’Loughlin found Gildart in space, who sent Burgess romping over next to the touchline. Williams dragged the difficult conversion wide, with the scores narrowed to 18-14 in favour of Hull.
A nervy ending ensued, with Phil Bentham calling Wigan out on clear forward pass in the final minute to deny Burgess a four-pointer that would have given them a kick to win it. As the hooter sounded, Talanoa broke through a tackle and looked like he would go all the way, however he offloaded to Watts who was tackled just short of the line. It didn’t matter though as the full-time whistle sparked scenes of jubilation from the Hull players as they secured back-to-back Challenge Cup’s for the first time in their history.