Lee Radford’s side celebrated a second straight title with a narrow win on Saturday in London
TWELVE months on from breaking their Wembley duck, Lee Radford’s men became the first Hull team to retain the famous trophy after a dramatic 18-14 win over Wigan in an absorbing Challenge Cup final.
Architect of their hard-fought victory was scrum-half Marc Sneyd, who became the first player to lift the Lance Todd Trophy outright for the second successive year courtesy of another masterclass kicking display.
With both sides scoring three tries apiece, the result came down to the marksmanship of Sneyd, who landed all three conversions but, more importantly tormented Wigan with his pinpoint tactical kicking to deny them a record-extending 20th victory.
Sneyd got the nod ahead of two-try hero Mahe Fonua, who provided the perfect parting gift as he prepares to return to the NRL, while stand-off Albert Kelly played a big role in the victory, two years after being on the wrong end of a 50-0 rout with city rivals Hull KR.
The outcome also provided a fitting farewell for Hull captain Gareth Ellis, who received the trophy from former Wigan and Great Britain legend Ellery Hanley ahead of his impending retirement but not before watching his side withstand a furious late fightback by the Warriors.
Winger Joe Burgess’ try eight minutes from the end cut the gap to just four points and he went over again in the last minute only to be brought back for a forward pass, evidence of the small margins that determined the outcome of a final so reminiscent of the 1985 classic between these two teams.
Early on it was the kicking of Thomas Leuluai that enabled Wigan to make a dream start. His clever punt found some space between the full-back and wing and, after the ball took a wicked bounce, centre Anthony Gelling regathered to send second rower John Bateman over for the first try inside four minutes.
That was the signal for Sneyd to take centre stage with his accurate tactical kicking as Hull hit back with two tries in eight minutes to go in front.
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Prop Liam Watts was denied by a last-ditch tackle from Tomkins and Sean O’Loughlin but there was no stopping left winger Fetuli Talanoa when he outjumped rookie winger Liam Marshall, a very late replacement for the injured Tom Davies, to touch down for Hull’s first try.
Another accurate kick from Sneyd then created the position for Fonua to go over for the second and Sneyd’s second conversion gave his side a deserved 12-6 lead.
But there was never much to choose between the teams and Wigan dominated the final quarter to stay in the contest.
Tomkins and Joe Burgess went close before a sublime pass by stand-off George Williams got centre Oliver Gildart crashing through for their second try eight minutes before the break.
Williams was unable to add the goal and the game appeared to go away from the Warriors as Hull showed their class in the third quarter.
Centre Josh Griffin experienced the agony of losing his grip on the ball over the line but the pivotal moment came with a 40-20 kick from Sneyd that got the Black and Whites into the ideal attacking position.
Kelly made the most of it with a miracle pass out of the tackle and Fonua produced a spectacular one-handed finish to grab his second try, which was inevitably converted from the touchline by Sneyd to open up an eight-point lead.
Fonua thought he had a hat-trick on the hour only to have the try disallowed by video referee James Child – and that gave Wigan a reprieve.
Substitute forward Tony Clubb forced his way over from Williams’ pass only to lose the ball, referee Phil Bentham ruling out a penalty try, and Wigan’s last chance looked to have disappeared when Burgess sprinted up the touchline but was forced over the sidelines by full-back Jamie Shaul.
However, cut-out passes from O’Loughlin and Farrell got Burgess racing over for Wigan’s third try to give them renewed hope, before last-minute celebrations were cut short when referee Phil Bentham correctly ruled out what might have been the winner.