HULL FC have retained the Challenge Cup after a dramatic finish at Wembley Stadium.
Marc Sneyd was the hero, picking up a second consecutive Lance Todd Trophy, but the game will be remembered for a last minute decision from Phil Bentham that denied Wigan a late winner.
Joe Burgess thought that he had scored a late try, but a pass in the build up was called forward – correctly so – that saw the score wiped off. Wigan had looked down and out with ten minutes to go but rallied to give the match the finish it deserved after 80 minutes of intensity and tension.
Marc Sneyd was superlative, laying on two tries in the first half and kicking a 40/20 that created another, as well as marshalling his team around the field. Mahe Fonua grabbed two scores of his own – one a spectacular dive around the corner post – while the front trio of Gareth Ellis, Scott Taylor and Liam Watts were at their bruising best.
Pre-match discussions regarded whether the game would resemble the freewheeling 1986 Final, won by Wigan and widely considered one of the best ever, or the 2013 damp squib, one of the worst showpieces in living memory.
Fortunately, it was the latter, as the game captivated from the first whistle. Within the first ten minutes, Wigan would edge themselves in front. Fetuli Talanoa was nowhere to field a Tommy Leuluai kick, which hops inside the covering Jamie Shaul to Anthony Gelling, who put John Bateman over to score the opener.
Hull are perhaps not one of the more exciting attacking teams in the Super League, but they have a few tried and tested combinations. One such move – Kelly to Sneyd and a dinked kick to the corner found its target to level the scores, with Talanoa reliable in attack where he had not been in defence. They would do it again ten minutes later, Sneyd reversing the direction and Fonua benefitting to give FC the lead.
FC’s strength lies in their defence and they would be forced to display every bit of that fortitude. Burgess and Tomkins went close – invited back in repeatedly by poor Hull handing – and the mounting pressure took its toll. The Cherry & Whites went fast through hands and Oliver Gildart was the beneficiary, finding the fault in FC’s defensive slide to bring the score back to 12-10.
Sean O’Loughlin kicked out on the full within seconds of the restart and FC would not give up the advantage. They pummelled the Wigan line, going close through Sneyd and Kelly, before the pair struck a decisive blow. The scrum half produced a perfect 40/20, dinked over Tom Davies and to within a yard of the corner post, before Kelly took on the line and flicked an offload that Fonua spectacularly finished. With the goal, pinged over by Sneyd from the touchline, the lead was out to two scores.
Video referee decisions were swapped – Fonua was robbed of a hat trick by an obstruction call, Tony Clubb lost control over the line – before, with just 8 minutes to play, Wigan halved the deficit. Liam Farrell was the man to provide the try, putting Joe Burgess past Fonua with a cutout pass.
The finish was on. Suddenly George Williams, quiet for much of the game, was prowling the Wigan right edge. FC’s resolute defence was being stretched from side to side and saw Joe Burgess pass them again, only for the saving whistle of Phil Bentham. The flares had already been lit in the Wigan end, but it was in vain – the pass was forward and the Challenge Cup was staying on Humberside.