Challenge Cup final: Hull FC 18-14 Wigan Warriors

By Ged ScottBBC Sport at Wembley
Challenge Cup final: Hull FC v Wigan Warriors
Hull FC (12) 18
Tries: Talanoa, Fonua 2 Goals: Sneyd 3
Wigan Warriors (10) 14
Tries: Bateman, Gildart, Burgess Goal: Williams

Challenge Cup holders Hull retained their trophy as they edged Wigan to win a dramatic final at Wembley.

Following John Bateman's early try, Tonga international wingers Fetuli Talanoa and Mahe Fonua both scored to put Hull 12-6 up.

Oliver Gildart crossed again for Wigan but George Williams missed the kick.

Fonua's second, converted by man of the match Marc Sneyd, took Hull clear before Joe Burgess gave Wigan hope and Burgess had a late try disallowed.

That was the third try ruled out, the second for Wigan after Tony Clubb had been denied by the video referee for losing the ball over the line, closely following a Fonua try chalked off for obstruction.

Having matched Hull on the try count, Williams' two missed conversions meant Wigan paid a heavy price for not having as a reliable a kicker as Sneyd.

Having also won the Lance Todd Trophy in the victory over Warrington in 2016, Sneyd won the award again for his 100% haul with the boot - as well as the part he played with his kicking from hand in all three Hull tries.

Hull kickstarted by Sneyd

Challenge Cup win a dream come true - Hull FC's Marc Sneyd

The role of the kicker in any game of rugby league is crucial - and never more so than here.

Wigan got off to a great start when Hull allowed Thomas Leuluai's hopeful high kick to bounce, which it did horribly, spearing itself into the grateful clutches of centre Anthony Gelling who passed inside for Bateman to score.

But Sneyd was about to take control, abetted massively by half-back partner Albert Kelly.

When Wigan failed to prevent the slippery Kelly offloading on a last tackle, Sneyd hoisted a high one and Talanoa easily outjumped Liam Marshall to score.

Then, on 20 minutes, what looked a routine Sneyd high kick to the right caused an unexpected level of havoc - and Hull even had another man spare outside him as Fonua picked up to score.

Leuluai and Williams linked beautifully to send Gildart over at the left corner on 32 minutes but Williams missed from the left touchline.

Having led 12-10 at the break, it was then Sneyd's 40-20 kick into the left corner that built the attacking base which allowed Kelly, with a low pass, to get Fonua in at the right corner.

And, although Burgess halved the deficit from eight to four points, Williams missed again from wide out on the left - and that was the way it stayed to hand Wigan their first defeat at the new Wembley.

Experience counts at Wembley

Mahe Fonua's second try
Mahe Fonua is in his last season with Hull FC, as he is set to return to Australia at the end of the campaign

In three previous Challenge Cup final meetings between these two, Wigan had won them all - most recently the 16-0 success for the Cherry and Whites in 2013.

Wigan's record 19 Challenge Cup wins, compared to Hull's four prior to this game, also looked a weighty statistic to hang round black and white necks.

But experience on the park is what counts for most.

Eight of Wigan's starting line-up, as well as all four replacements, were making their Wembley debuts - including late replacement Marshall, who did not have the happiest of afternoons on the right wing after coming in when Tom Davies failed a late fitness test on his ankle injury.

In contrast, only one of Hull's 17, Jake Connor, was not involved when they edged Warrington 12-10 in just as gripping a contest in 2016.

Not only did Lee Radford's men already know what winning at Wembley is all about, they had lost here too - and, in skipper Gareth Ellis's final season, came with a fierce determination to make amends for 2013.

One downside was the attendance of 68,525 - by some distance the lowest since the Challenge Cup final returned to the rebuilt Wembley in 2007.

Mahe Fonua: Hull FC winger's two Challenge Cup tries 'icing on cake'

What's next?

Wigan went into the Challenge Cup final on the back of successive Super League home wins over Huddersfield and Salford, but the trip to Wembley marked the start of a tough run-in mostly spent on the road as they bid to retain their league title.

Three of their final four games are away from home, starting with the local derby at St Helens on Friday and followed by a rematch with Hull seven days later.

The one home game they have left is against League Leaders' Shield winners Castleford, before they round off their league programme at fourth-placed Wakefield.

Third-placed Hull, three places higher than Wigan in the Super League table, will be back in action on Thursday at Leeds.

After the home game against Wigan, they also host Wakefield before finishing at Castleford.

Hull FC have won back-to-back Challenge Cup finals at Wembley, having previously failed to win eight deciders at the venue
Hull FC have won back-to-back Challenge Cup finals at Wembley, having previously failed to win eight deciders at the venue
Challenge cup final at Wembley
It was the second time in four years that Hull FC and Wigan met in a Challenge Cup final

Hull FC: Shaul; Fonua, Griffin, Tuimavave, Talanoa; Kelly, Sneyd; Watts, Houghton, Taylor, Manu, Minichiello, Ellis.

Interchanges: Green, Washbrook, Bowden, Connor.

Wigan Warriors: Tomkins; Davies, Gelling, Gildart, Burgess; Williams, Leuluai; Nuuausala, McIlorum, Clubb, Bateman, Farrell, O'Loughlin.

Interchanges: Isa, Sutton, Powell, Tautai.

Referee: Phil Bentham


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