For most neutrals today's Ladbrokes Challenge Cup Final was just too close to call as Hull FC defended their trophy against the most successful side in the competitions history, the Wigan Warriors.
Both coaches had near fully fit squads to choose from, many with cup winning experience, and fully understanding what today's massive event means to both sets of supporters and the game in general.
Wigan were the slight favourites with the bookies, but there really was nothing to choose between the sides, and the scene was set for a cracker of an encounter.
The Warriors were dealt a blow just before kick-off when Tom Davies was ruled out through an ankle injury and replaced by eighteenth man Liam Marshall. But it didn't effect their game and they had a sensational start when a Thomas Leuluai kick was collected by Oliver Gildart who put John Bateman through a big gap to score. George Williams added the conversion and after just five minutes the Cherry and Whites were 6-0 ahead.
On twelve minutes Hull were back level after a clever little chip kick to the right corner by Marc Sneyd was collected by Fetuli Talanoa, jumping higher than Liam Marshall, to step past the defenders and slightly improve the angle. Marc Sneyd kicked the conversion from wide.
Another Sneyd kick led to the Airlie Birds second on nineteen minutes when Oliver Gildart failed to collect and knock-on into the willing hands of Mahe Fonua who just had to pick up and ground over the line. Sneyd kicked the conversion for a 12-6 lead.
After defending their line brilliantly for twelve minutes, Hull finally conceded a Wigan try when, on the last play, the Warriors moved the ball right to left down the line and Williams passed to Gildart who went through a gap and score. Williams failed to add the conversion leaving his side two points adrift.
Eight minutes into the second half and Fonua grabbed his second to extend the FC lead, thanks to a Sneyd 40-20. Taking an Albert Kelly pass the winger grounded one-handed in full flight by the right hand corner flag. Sneyd added the extras for 18-10.
Some cracks were starting to show in the Wigan defence but when Fonua crossed on sixty-one he was denied his hat-trick for an earlier obstruction. Within a minute Wigan had a try denied themselves when Tony Clubb lost the ball over the Hull line and it was adjudged a knock-on rather than a ball steal.
On seventy-three the game was back on when Joe Burgess found a gap wide left when Sean O’Loughlin and Liam Farrell both put in miss-out passes to send the Wigan winger over. Williams missed the conversion but the margin was now down to four points.
Williams went close on seventy-seven and Burgess thought he was over for the winner in the last minute but referee Bentham had blown for a forward pass to deny him. Hull held on until the final hooter to take the victory and retain the trophy for the first time in their history.
It was a good game but no classic. Both teams ground into one another in defence and scoring opportunities were few and far between. In the end it came down to a few mistakes, and it was Wigan who made them. All credit to Hull FC, deserved winners of the Ladbroke’s Challenge Cup.
Hull’s Marc Sneyd won the Lance Todd Trophy for the second successive season, to put the icing on the cake for FC.
FC: Shaul, Fonua (2T), Griffin, Tuimavave, Talanoa (T), Kelly, Sneyd (3G), Watts, Houghton, Taylor, Manu, Minichiello, Ellis. Subs: Connor, Bowden, Green, Washbrook.
Warriors: Tomkins S, Marshall, Gelling, Gildart (T), Burgess (T), Williams (G), Leuluai, Nuuausala, McIlorum, Clubb, Bateman (T), Farrell, O’Loughlin. Subs: ISA, Sutton, Powell, Tautai.
Referee: P. Bentham.