Lead Hull FC to the Challenge Cup Final Victory at Wembley…
Hull FC’s Jamie Shaul’s late try takes Challenge Cup away from Warrington
For years it seemed as if Hull FC’s record of never winning a game here would remain painfully ingrained in their history and even with 20 minutes remaining on Saturday the smart money would have been on it becoming nine Wembley appearances without a victory.
But cup finals and big games are often decided by huge moments that live long in the memory and although Jamie Shaul’s decisive try came with nine minutes to go it was a swing of Marc Sneyd’s right boot 15 minutes earlier that turned an incredible Challenge Cup final on its head.
With Hull under pressure and looking completely incapable of scoring one point, let alone the 11 they needed to overhaul the lead Warrington had accrued in the opening hour, the scrum-half produced an outstanding 40-20 that completely changed the flow, and the outcome, of a game that lived up to the considerable billing it received.
From there, Hull scored two tries in the final quarter, with Sneyd, the Lance Todd trophy winner, outstanding in the creation and execution of both. Substituted in the opening quarter two years ago when playing here with Castleford, this was some way for Sneyd to exorcise his personal demons.
“It’s what you dream about as a kid,” said Gareth Ellis, the Hull captain. “I spoke about growing up wanting to play in the curtain-raiser, let alone the actual game. I’ve dreamed of lifting the trophy and I still can’t get my head around it all.”
A tackle from Danny Houghton, his 52nd of a phenomenal individual performance, was just as important in a final decided by inches, the hooker hauling down Ben Currie as he looked certain to cross in the dying seconds and give Warrington victory.
“That’s the most important tackle I’ve ever been involved with,” said the Hull coach, Lee Radford. “It sums up the bloke. If you’re the England coach or a selector, please take note. He won’t look out of place in the international arena, I promise. He never gives up.”
The sport has been desperate for a classic at the new Wembley, with Hull’s last success in this competition, the 2005 victory against Leeds in Cardiff, arguably the best recent final before this one.
“We should celebrate this,” said Tony Smith, the Warrington coach. “We’ve been after a great final and we finally got it. We’ll lick our wounds and we’ll be all right, we’ve got a few guys battered and bruised, but there’s still two trophies to play for.”
Magnificent defensive efforts from both sides meant that the deadlock was not broken until six minutes before half‑time, when Hull’s inability to convert their pressure into points cost them dear. A loose pass from Frank Pritchard was snatched by the Warrington half-back Chris Sandow and although he was halted by a magnificent covering tackle from Shaul, Warrington kept their heads and crossed on the next play when Matty Russell dived over.
Kurt Gidley converted to put Warrington 6-0 up at the break but he missed a glorious opportunity to make it 8-0 with a simple penalty shortly after half-time. Gidley’s departure with a facial injury halfway through the second half disrupted the Wolves and they were further hindered when Ben Westwood was forced off a few minutes later.
Hull’s opening hour was summed up by an inexplicable kick on the second tackle from Mahe Fonua that handed possession back to Warrington and they eventually punished FC for their inability to cross the line when Currie finished off a fine break from Daryl Clark to make it 10-0.
The Hull FC of years gone by might have folded at that point, but not now. For all their spirit and endeavour, though, they needed another moment of magic to give them a sniff and it came when Sneyd fired in a 40-20 from nowhere. From that, the half-back’s towering kick was claimed by Fonua and with Sneyd’s conversion making it 10-6 the final came alive.
Sneyd did the damage for the winning try as his kick enabled Shaul to dive over. Sneyd converted from in front of the posts for a 12-10 lead before we were provided with one last dramatic moment when Houghton hauled down Currie.
Cue pandemonium, delirium and sheer bedlam among the 30,000 travelling fans from Hull. The sport’s biggest curse is finally over and how Hull will celebrate that in the coming days and weeks.