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Hull FC book Wembley place with a pulsating victory

Hull FC booked their place at Wembley with a dramatic and pulsating 16-12 victory over defending champions Warrington Wolves in an epic Tetley’s Challenge Cup semi-final at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Hull FC book Wembley place with a pulsating victory
by rleague.com

Hull Football Club booked their place at Wembley with a dramatic and pulsating 16-12 victory over defending champions Warrington Wolves in an epic Tetley’s Challenge Cup semi-final at the John Smith’s Stadium.

Up against the cup winners in three of the past four seasons, the Black and Whites produced a defensive performance worthy of lifting the trophy as they booked a clash with Wigan Warriors next month in their first final in five years.

In an enthralling contest that went down to the final second as the Wolves probed for a match-winning score in the dying stages, Warrington started the stronger and tries from Joel Monaghan and Trent Waterhouse put the reigning holders 8-0 up inside the first 15 minutes only for Peter Gentle’s side to hit back with a quick-fire brace of their own.

Winger Tom Lineham started the fight back with a stunning breakaway try against the run of play before Richard Whiting followed him over shortly afterwards to turn the game on its head, Danny Tickle’s boot putting his side 10-8 ahead at half-time.

Aaron Heremaia then touched down 10 minutes into the second half to put Hull 16-8 ahead but a Ben Currie score five minutes from time set up a nervy finale and despite a Warrington onslaught with the clock ticking, Hull held on for a deserved win.

The Match

Meeting Warrington for the first time in the competition in 30 years, Hull FC went into the semi-final as the underdogs to set-up a Wembley appearance against Wigan Warriors next month.

Booking their place in the clash at Huddersfield’s John Smith’s Stadium courtesy of a stunning victory over Catalan Dragons in the last round, the Black and Whites’ hopes of reaching their first final since 2008 were given a boost by the return of stand-off Daniel Holdsworth.

The playmaker had missed his side’s previous three matches with a calf injury but lined up alongside mid-season signing Jacob Miller in the halves, although Hull’s top try-scorer Ben Crooks missed out after limping off in the second half of FC’s defeat to Bradford Bulls last week.

That meant Joe Arundel came into the right centre berth alongside young winger Tom Lineham, while Holdsworth’s availability saw former New Zealand international hooker Aaron Heremaia return to his more familiar position from the bench.

The Wolves meanwhile came into the tie on the back of a 34-6 victory over Hull KR on Sunday, their eighth win on the bounce since losing to the Airlie Birds at the Halliwell Jones Stadium back in May.

The reigning Challenge Cup holders and Wembley winners in three of the past four seasons, Warrington were able to recall the rested Simon Grix, Ben Westwood and Adrian Morley to their team in a formidable looking line-up.

With scrum half Richie Myler not fit to return for the knock-out clash, Stefan Ratchford partnered the mercurial Lee Briers in the halves and in characteristic fashion, the Wolves showed their class with a fast start under cloudy skies in Huddersfield.

Westwood was at the heart of it and after winger Joel Monaghan had a try ruled out from the back rower’s forward pass in the early exchanges, the two combined to put the Wolves ahead as the former Australia and New South Wales flyer finished off another break in the right corner.

Minutes later, Warrington were over for their second as Trent Waterhouse was first to a clever grubber kick from Ratchford to stamp their authority on proceedings, but two missed conversions from the half back restricted the lead to 8-0.

With Shannon McDonnell leaving the field for the Black and Whites through injury, the momentum was in danger of quickly going against Gentle’s side despite a reasonable start of their own in possession that saw Holdsworth kick an early 40/20, but Hull showed no sign of any cup nerves to stun their opposition with a quick-fire brace of tries of their own.

First, Lineham did brilliantly to pluck a Chris Bridge kick out of the air with his side on the back foot and not content to simply save four points in the face of the Warrington onslaught, the confident speedster instead raced fully 80 metres along the right touchline to gleefully dive over at the other end in front of the defending champion’s dumbstruck fans.

In contrast, a large travelling army of Hull supporters had barely returned to their seats following the length-of-the-field effort before Richard Whiting edged his side ahead with a beautifully worked try on the same flank to turn the game on its head.

Replacing McDonnell at full back, the versatile Supporters’ Player of the Year was on the end of a clever short-side move to take a Holdsworth pass and step inside his man to the line, Danny Tickle converting one of Hull’s two scores to put the Airlie Birds 10-8 in front with 20 minutes gone.

If the first quarter was exciting, the remainder of the first half was scrappy but equally enthralling as Hull again displayed the defensive fortitude that had seen them prevail in Perpignan a fortnight ago as they fronted up to wave after wave of Warrington attacks close to their line.

Roared on by their vocal supporters at their backs, the Black and Whites responded to a series of errors in possession to repeatedly force mistakes from a rattled Wolves outfit, although sloppiness with the ball in hand prevented FC from gaining any field possession of their own as the men from the Halliwell Jones dominated the territorial battle.

With Gentle’s advice ringing in their ears, Hull turned the momentum around in the second half to earn some better chances in opposition territory, their hard work going forward paying off after 50 minutes as they crossed for their third try of the match.

Whiting went close on the right edge and when his attempted pass to Lineham was knocked down by Warrington’s Chris Riley, the Airlie Birds swooped on the following set as Holdsworth fed a perfectly weighed grubber through the line for Heremaia to touch down in front of the jubilant Hull fans.

Tickle made no mistake from underneath the posts to extend his side’s lead to 16-8, but Warrington weren’t going to lie down lightly as they piled the pressure on in search of a way back into the game.

In a see-saw 20-minute period, both side traded blows as Briers carved out a chance for Warrington with a sublime chip to Monaghan on the right but Higham knocked on with the line at his mercy attempting to gather the winger’s offload.

However, the main drama was still to come as Warrington piled forward in the dying stages and another chance came and went for the Cheshire side as this time Holdsworth was the Hull player in the right place at the right time as he forced an error from Riley as he dived for the line.

But with the Black and Whites believing the game was in the bag, the Warrington winger had one final say on proceedings as he pounced on a loose pass from Whiting to race 80 metres and set up the final score of the game.

With Hull pressing at the other end, it was a game-breaker five minutes from time and while Miller and Lineham raced back to haul their opposite number down, the Cheshire side kept their composure to set-up a nervy finish as Ben Currie dummied his way over from a quick play-the-ball.

Regular goal-kicker Brett Hodgson took over the kicking duties with four minutes left on the clock but he pulled his attempt wide to leave Hull 16-12 ahead.

If that was dramatic, the final exchanges of arguably the cup tie of this year so far had more surprises in store as Warrington were awarded a controversial final set with 90 seconds on the clock after a Briers kick had bounced in their favour.

Two penalties on the Hull line aided their cause but Gentle’s heroes held firm in the face of adversity as they hung on to secure a thoroughly deserved appearance at Wembley and condemn Warrington to only their second cup defeat in four years.

Hull Football Club 16
Tries: Lineham, Whiting, Heremaia
Goals: Tickle (2/3)
Team: McDonnell, Lineham, Arundel, Yeaman, Briscoe, Holdsworth, Miller, Watts, Houghton, O’Meley, Ellis, Tickle, Westerman. Subs: Lynch, Pitts, Whiting, Heremaia.

Warrington Wolves 12
Tries: J Monaghan, Waterhouse, Currie
Goals: Ratchford (0/2), Hodgson (0/1)
Team: Hodgson, Riley, Grix, Bridge, J Monaghan, Briers, Ratchford, Wood, Higham, Hill, Waterhouse, Westwood, Cooper. Subs: Morley, M Monaghan, Carvell, Currie.

Date: Sunday 28th July 2013
Venue: John Smith's Stadium
Crowd: 10,621
Referee: R Silverwood
Half Time: 10-8


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