Hull FC 6 Leeds Rhinos 24, Airlie Birds Dumped Out By Cup Holders With Dismal Display

Hull FC exited the Challenge Cup with an abysmal performance at home to holders Leeds Rhinos as their attacking frailties came back to haunt them in their biggest game of the season so far.

Coach Lee Radford brought Jordan Rankin back in at full-back in place of Jamie Shaul and Tom Lineham returned to the right wing in place of Curtis Naughton for his first appearance since announcing he will leave the KC Stadium at the end of the season for Warrington Wolves.

Kirk Yeaman also returned after injury and Setaimata Sa was replaced by Steve Michaels at centre at the 11th hour while Jordan Abdull started in place of the suspended Marc Sneyd.

The game started at a frenetic pace as both sides leapt out of the blocks in front of a passionate crowd and some thunderous tackles increased the tempo early on.

The first try arrived fortuitously for the Rhinos as Joel Moon picked Rankin’s pocket to scramble over in the 6th minute, the conversion from Kevin Sinfield gave the cup holders a 6-0 lead.

Hull’s first real period of pressure on the visitors line came courtesy of a dropped ball and a smart move and grubber kick led to full-back Zak Hardaker having to knock the ball dead for a goal line drop out but eventually the Rhinos were able to clear their lines.

At the other end a knock on by Yeaman gave the visitors another attacking chance but a nothing grubber kick wasted the opportunity.

The black and white’s were showing plenty of encouragement but once again chances were being wasted because of poor execution.

A penalty for offside 45 meters from the posts was converted by Sinfield in the 19th minute to stretch the lead to 8 points.

Another dropped ball by Leeds gave the home side another attacking scrum 30 meters from the Rhinos line but the opportunity was spurned when the normally ever reliable Mark Minichiello failed to take a pass in with the line open.

Another penalty gave Hull another chance to put pressure on the Leeds line but a ridiculous pass by Joe Westerman gave Danny Houghton no chance of taking the ball in front of the posts and another chance was gone.

The Rhinos forced a goal line drop out and another attack ensued which ended with a harsh penalty but Sinfield was unable to add the two points from the touchline and Hull swept down-field to create another opportunity which went begging as Lineham was held on the last tackle after a bomb by Leon Pryce.

The Rhinos were gifted another chance as Westerman dropped the ball in his own half two minutes before half time and then another penalty came their way from referee James Child for a ball-steal and this time Sinfield obliged from the touchline to take them into double figures heading into the break.

The rain that had been tipping down through the first half had stopped by the time the teams took to the pitch for the start of the second half which would hopefully allow for a more expansive game.

The first mistake of the half came from Jordan Thompson as the Hull man dropped the ball 20 meters from his own line to give the Rhinos the first attack of the halfand inevitably Kallum Watkins took full advantage to shrug off some weak tackling and stretch out to score in the 43rd minute, the conversion from Sinfield made it a 16 point advantage for the men from Headingley.

Another penalty for a ball-steal was gratefully accepted by Sinfield near the halfway line but this time his kick fell just short and struck the woodwork to give Hull some precious possession.

A rare penalty for the Airlie Birds was kicked into touch to give them another attacking opportunity but another dropped ball by Westerman gave Leeds another chance to breathe with a relieving scrum.

Leeds were not doing anything startling but they were doing the basics well and continually frustrating the hosts who’s attack seemed to have gone back to its disorganised ways that had caused so many failures earlier in the season.

Hull’s one outlet was the kicking game of 19 year old half-back Jordan Abdull which kept turning the opposition round.

Frantic defending near their own line by Leeds afforded Hull another opportunity as a pass from Houghton was knocked down to give them another 10 meter scrum and then another penalty saw another desperate charge for the line but captain Gareth Ellis was guilty this time of wasting another chance as he dropped the ball just short of the line.

Another chance with a clean break by Westerman was bombed as the loose forward dropped the ball after an ankle tap tackle with the line gaping.

Hull were being their own worst enemies as chance after chance was being squandered with poor decision making and an attack that was far too easy for the Rhinos to anticipate and snuff out.

To add insult to injury Leeds showed Hull how to structure an attack as Rob Burrow and Sinfield caused havoc in the defensive line and Zak Hardaker dived over in the 71st minute to put the game firmly out of the Airlie Birds reach, the conversion from Sinfield made it 0-22 to the visitors.

Sinfield accepted another penalty from near the halfway line and this time found his range to stretch the lead by another two points in the 73rd minute.

Finally with four minutes left to play Abdull got the try his performance deserved, the conversion by Rankin was scant consolation but at least Hull had been spared the ignominy of being held to nil at home.

Once again Hull had shown plenty of spirit for a struggle but a lack of cutting edge had cost them dearly as their Challenge Cup hopes faded for another year and they were left with just bitter regret yet again.

With games away and home against Wakefield in Super League Hull must pick themselves up and set about ensuring they will be in the Super 8s come the split but with a derby match away to Hull KR who have only lost twice at home all season and other games against the likes of Wigan Warriors and Castleford Tigers that may be no easy task on this evidence.

Penalties- Hull FC 6 Leeds 6

Goal Line Drop Outs- Hull FC 2 Leeds 2

Attendance: 9,261

Man of the Match: Jordan Abdull

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Hull KR 32 Catalans Dragons 26, Rovers Move Within 80 Minutes of Wembley With Tense Victory Over Channel Hoppers

Hull KR put their supporters through agony before booking a first Challenge Cup semi-final since 2006 with a nervous victory over Catalans Dragons after a dominant first half gave way to a substantially less disciplined performance in the second half.

Coach Chris Chester brought hooker Shaun Lunt and prop Dane Tilse back on the bench but the line-up remained largely the same as the 17 who had thumped Warrington Wolves in Super League last week for this Challenge Cup Quarter-Final at the KC Lightstream Stadium.

Catalans got the game underway on a balmy summer evening which might have suited the men from the south of France but the early exchanges saw the home side settling into their stride quicker with a kick from Kelly causing panic behind the Dragons line before the ball was knocked out to force a goal line drop out.

There was early controversy as the Robins were awarded a scrum after Kris Welham had clearly knocked the ball into touch in a tackle on Krisnan Inu, they then took advantage with a fast cross-field move which released Ken Sio down the right to score the first try of the game after seven minutes, the conversion from Josh Mantellato made it 6-0.

Catalans got their first chance at some sustained pressure on the home sides line a few minutes later after a ball was batted down by a Rovers defender to give them a repeat set which then led to Welham attempting an intercept but he was unable to drag the ball in causing more pressure.

Inu then came perilously close to a try but Welham then knocked the ball out of his hands deliberately but referee Phil Bentham gave the home side head and feed wrongly at the scrum.

The red and white’s then moved swiftly down-field and after a dropped ball by the visitors ended up in the hands of Kelly and eventually Kieran Dixon got over the line to stretch the lead after 17 minutes, the conversion from Mantellato made it 12-0.

The next attack from the Robins two minutes later came via a Maurice Blair kick, Mantellato got to the ball before Dragons full-back Morgan Escare and handed the ball on to Kelly to score, another goal from Mantellato made it 18-0.

Catalans then got another scrum inside their oppositions half but facing an organised defence they never really looked like cutting through to get back in the game as the game moved into its second quarter despite forcing a goal line drop out when Dixon was caught behind the line.

A break by Mantellato down the left wing and inside pass which cut-out two Catalans defenders and two Rovers attackers found its way to Graeme Horne for the back rower to go in behind the posts in the 29th minute, the inevitable conversion by Mantellato made it 24-0 and left the men from France facing a gap as wide as the Humber to try and recover.

To their credit the Dragons wouldn’t throw the towel in and a break in mid-field by Louis Anderson saw them set up the platform to build from and a delicious little kick from Elliott Whitehead was dotted down by Inu for their first try after 35 minutes, Scott Dureau was unable to add the extras which left them trailing by 20 points.

Rovers were then awarded another penalty in the last minute of the first half after a high shot on Horne and Mantellato duly obliged from 35 meters out to send his side in at the break 26-4 ahead.

The second half started with a bit of handbags at dawn between Inu and Lunt but from that the visitors then made the first attacking opportunity before Inu was denied by Welham after a high bomb.

An attack at the other end by Rovers was similarly unfortunate as Liam Salter caught a hick kick but was held down just short of the line.

Catalans were appearing more purposeful as the game wore on and Zeb Taia took advantage of a quick tap penalty for off-side to crash over in the 50th minute, a first conversion of the evening for Dureau reduced the gap to 16 points and give them some form of hope.

The next visit to the home sides line saw an audacious kick through by Tony Gigot and Inu followed it up to score in the corner in the 55th minute, Dureau missed the conversion but at 26-14 the Dragons seemed to be sensing a comeback which at half-time had looked like an impossibility against the in-form Robins.

The 50-50 calls that had gone the way of the men from East Yorkshire in the first half now seemed to be going more in favour of the Frenchmen.

Ken Sio finally added to his try tally as Rovers took the bull by the horns and a fast passing move saw him dive in at the corner in the 65th minute, the missed conversion left the score at 30-14.

However Catalans still wouldn’t go away and they charged straight to the other end and video referees Steve Ganson and Joe Cobb awarded a try to Ian Henderson in the 67th minute, the goal by Dureau reduced the deficit to 10 points again and a nervous tension descended on the ground again.

A measure of the concern for the home side became apparent with 10 minutes left when, after a crusher tackle on Dixon 10 meters from the Catalans line, Mantellato opted to take the two points on offer to give them a two converted try lead.

Catalans immediately went for a short kick-off and won the ball within Rovers territory which led to sustained pressure. Back-to-back penalties increased the pressure but Rovers stuck manfully to the task in hand to keep them at bay and a knock-on relieved the pressure and enabled them to clear their lines.

Another Catalans attack then produced another try as a kick through by Jason Baitieri was pounced on by Elliott Whitehead in the 78th minute and the conversion by Dureau put them back within one score of the hosts.

Rovers however saw the game out to move on to their first Challenge Cup semi-final since 2006 and within sight of a first trip to Wembley in nearly three decades.

Penalties- Hull KR 6 Catalans Dragons 9

Goal Line Drop Outs- Hull KR 1 Catalans Dragons 2

Attendance: 6,073