Hull FC sent out a Challenge Cup warning with a stunning performance against St. Helens at Langtree Park this afternoon.
The Airlie Birds moved into the quarter-finals with a ruthless eight-try performance which bludgeoned the home side into submission in a fashion as hot as the soaring temperatures on the pitch.
Marc Sneyd produced another masterful performance as man of the match with a kicking, running and passing game that was second-to-none.
Head coach Lee Radford brought skipper Gareth Ellis and star Mark Minichiello straight back into the starting line-up to replace Frank Pritchard and Sika Manu who were away on international duty.
Danny Washbrook came into the starting 13 as well having started on the bench in the win against Catalans Dragons last week as the Airlie Birds went looking for their fourth consecutive win at Langtree Park.
Saints started the better of the two sides with Theo Fages just short of an attempted 40/20 and then, after a knock on by Danny Houghton they forced more pressure as a delicate chip by Luke Walsh forced Fetuli Talanoa to run the ball dead.
From the resulting possession a fast move to the left saw Mark Percival give the home side a deserved lead in the fifth minute, Walsh added the extras with the conversion from wide out.
Video referee Ben Thaler was called into action for the first time to award a try to Danny Houghton after the home side conceded a soft penalty for offside and, subsequently, former Saints player Leon Pryce put the Hull vice-captain through a big gap, Marc Sneyd brought the scores level with the conversion in the 11th minute.
Hull then took the lead as another penalty, this time for a high shot by Kyle Amor on Houghton, gave the visitors territory and possession and Scott Taylor proved too strong to crash over beside the posts, Sneyd made it a six point advantage with the inevitable conversion in the 14th minute.
Back-to-back knock on’s from Saints then ramped up the pressure on their defensive line but then another knock on from Hull lost them the momentum they had built up.
A huge 40/20 by Sneyd gave Hull another chance at the Saints end of the pitch and a beautiful move involving Houghton and Sneyd brought a simple try for Ellis, Sneyd was again successful with the conversion in the 21st minute.
St. Helens were next to threaten after a penalty gave them much needed possession in the Hull half but resolute defence from Hull kept them at bay and a last tackle kick by Fages was scooped up by Josh Bowden.
Another penalty for the home side gave them more territory and eventually Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook bashed his way over the line despite the attentions of Sneyd, Walsh made it 12-18 with the conversion in the 32nd minute.
Referee Richard Silverwood then called on video confirmation as Jamie Shaul crossed from dummy half after impressive power saw the Airlie Birds cover 50+ metres in next to no time, Sneyd restored their 12 point lead with the conversion three minutes before the break.
Sneyd then repeated the trick that bagged the Airlie Birds a single point victory at the same ground just over a month earlier with a drop-goal to make it a three score lead at half-time.
St. Helens had a lucky escape in the 2nd minute after a knock on saw the loose ball kicked through by Talanoa for the winger to eventually cross the whitewash but they were brought back for a knock on by Kirk Yeaman.
The home side then went straight down the other end as Luke Walsh was allowed to run 50 metres and stretch out to score as Shaul tried to effect the tackle, the aussie half-back then added the extras from near the touchline five minutes into the half.
Just as the home side seemed to have the momentum Hull went and took control back as Sneyd produced a superb cut-out pass to put Curtis Naughton over in the corner for his almost customary try at this ground, Sneyd was just wide with the touchline conversion after 53 minutes.
Sneyd then accepted the invitation to add two more points with a penalty in front of the posts after a high tackle on Mark Minichiello to make it a three score lead again after 58 minutes.
Another delightful kick by Sneyd under great pressure near the Saints line then produced another try as Talanoa beat two defenders to the ball and offloaded to Yeaman for the veteran centre to cross in the corner, Sneyd stretched the lead to 18-37 with the conversion with 15 minutes left to play.
Hull forced a goal line drop out with their next attack and the Airlie Birds took full advantage as a deft pass from Houghton manufactured a 2nd try of the game for Taylor, Sneyd made it 7 goals from 8 attempts with the conversion after 69 minutes.
Another handling mistake from Saints gave Hull another chance from a 10 metre scrum and Talanoa got the try he deserved with an athletic finish in the corner awarded by the video referee, Sneyd was just off target with the conversion with five minutes left on the clock.
Jack Owens was unfortunate in the final minute as he was denied by the video referee after he just put his foot in touch trying to grab a consolation.
Penalties: Saints 3 Hull FC: 6
Goal Line Drop Outs: Saints 1 Hull FC 2
40/20: Saints 0 Hull FC: 1
Man of the Match: Marc Sneyd
Thursday 10 March saw Hull FC unceremoniously thumped by Widnes Vikings at the Select Security Stadium, but something else happened there that night that was maybe of even greater significance.
After their unquestionably worst performance of the season so far, the wounded players from the KC Stadium locked the door of the changing room they occupied and, with no coaching staff present, had a meeting about what had just happened.
The players knew they had let themselves, the coaches, the directors, the club and the supporters down badly in a match everybody expected them to at least be competitive in, many, including myself, expected them to win.
What was said in that changing room that evening can only be speculated about which isn’t my style so I’ll leave it up to you to decide what you think might have been said, the one thing I will say is, whatever was said in there, it definitely worked.
At the time Widnes coach Denis Betts said he would never be locked out of his team’s changing room under any circumstances and he proceeded to express his disdain at the Hull FC players who took matters into their own hands.
Since that night the Airlie Birds have gone on a winning run, 4 games, 4 wins seems a pretty powerful argument in favour of what the Hull players did, especially considering this has taken in the notoriously busy Easter weekend.
First up after that night for the then much maligned black and whites was a home game against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats with Chris Chester newly installed as coach a few days before, they were dispatched 22-4 without ever really looking like a risk.
Good Friday duly arrived and Lee Radford’s men traveled to their nearest and dearest Hull KR, with nearly an hour gone in the derby it looked like maybe the win against the Wildcats was just a false dawn as the Robins took a seemingly unassailable 20-0 lead.
What happened in the last 22 minutes of that derby will go down in Hull FC folklore as they turned the match on its head with four tries and three goals to win having scored at a rate of a point a minute to leave Rovers feeling like they’d been ambushed and robbed of two league points and those all important bragging rights.
Next up saw then unbeaten Super League leaders Warrington Wolves roll into town, with former favourites Tom Lineham and Joe Westerman in their ranks, playing against a Hull side with more than half their expected match day squad sat in the stands.
Surely against such a depleted side the Wolves, conquerors of Widnes on Good Friday, would have little trouble beating a side missing the likes of Frank Pritchard, Sika Manu, Jordan Thompson, Carlos Tuimavave, Leon Pryce, Fetuli Talanoa, Mahe Fonua, Jack Logan and Mark Minichiello!
Another lead was taken by the opposition as the Wolves circled and went into half time with a 20-10 scoreline thanks to tries for the likes of Lineham, Sandow, Penny and Atkins, surely the leaders would press home their advantage in the second half, wouldn’t they?
The answer to that was an emphatic NO WAY! With tries in the first half from Marc Sneyd and Jamie Shaul the black and whites were just warming up, signalling their intent if you wish! The second half brought tries for Kirk Yeaman sandwiched between two for Curtis Naughton and with that the Wolves unbeaten start was brought to its end.
Another game, the 3rd in eight days, another comeback, St. Helens at Langtree Park were seemingly on their way to victory, 16-6 ahead, but the comeback kings were in no mood to finish their post-dressing room-gate recovery.
The same double act on the left hand side produced tries again, before a 45 metre drop goal with four minutes left put paid to the Saints in similarly dramatic fashion as the late tries against the Robins and the Wolves.
Question for Denis Betts, is a players only meeting in a changing room such a bad idea after all?
It’s coming up to that time of year when Super League squads get tested, coaches sprout a few more grey hairs, supporters cheer themselves that bit more hoarse, the whole two games in three days debate rears its head again and a feast of rugby league keeps us all riveted while the men and the boys get separated.
It all starts on Maundy Thursday as the Tigers and the Rhinos lock horns in The Jungle, then after that starter we have a main course, a desert, coffee and liqueurs, after dinner treats and the Easter eggs (for want of a better way of putting it) if you please.
The Saints take on the Warriors in their little spat and while the Wildcats will try to cut the Giants down to size, the Wolves will be hungry to deal with the Viking invasion in Cheshire and the Red Devils and the Dragons will try to put out each others fire.
But on the banks of the Humber something quite different will take place as red and white and black and white will charge at full pelt into each other quite unlike any two other teams in this great feast of uncompromising sport.
In the heat of the battle between two quaintly nicknamed teams, known as the Robins and the Airlie Birds, performance will mean nothing, the result will mean everything as families, friends, work colleagues and acquaintances will be split down the middle of a divided city.
Win and you walk into work the next day, or week, with a glow and aura surrounding you like no other, lose and you want the ground to open up and swallow you and it had better be bloody quick about it.
Blood and thunder has nothing on the Hull Derby, there could be an apocalypse and it wouldn’t matter as long as you hold the bragging rights and the great, and scary, thing about it is that it comes around again and again and again.
Easter Monday is like the warm after-glow, or a chance for part redemption, with six more games as the Dragons tackle the Tigers, the Giants greet the Red Devils, the Champions at home to the Wildcats and the Vikings against the Saints.
But elsewhere the red and white half of Hull will travel to face the Warriors and the black and white half will return home to tackle two of their former employees with the men that replaced them as the Wolves come to the next City of Culture, one will be looking for redemption while the other will basque in the glow of a derby victory.
Easter is looming large on the horizon, are you excited yet about what could hatch?
Hull FC can attack! Yes the team known for their defending and low risk strategy are flinging the ball around with absolute abandon, and it’s working spectacularly well at the moment, as evidenced by their two games so far this year.
As we all know, their near neighbours were gobbled up and spat back out with absolutely genuine contempt, and now in their opening game of Super League Salford Red Devils have been treated with similar disdain.
It’s no joke, when the Airlie Birds make a break with one of their punishingly big forwards, there are 4,5,6 or even more players to be seen charging forward in support, both backs and forwards turning opposition players, particularly full-backs, into mere traffic wardens pointing players in different directions to the try line.
Power and drive are a big part of Hull’s game now and the pack will get lots of headlines and rightly so, but like the old saying tells us, forwards win you matches, but your backs decide by how many points and, with blistering pace and guile and enthusiasm, Hull’s backs are definitely taking full advantage of the gaps being presented to them.
As evidence of this, Hull scored 8 tries against the Red Devils, all from different try scorers, and 6 of those came from backs, with Marc Sneyd, the only back not to score, pulling his former clubs defence apart due to the time and space he was afforded behind a pack that was utterly dominant.
Carlos Tuimavave is proving to be a big success thus far, the half back is relishing playing at centre and producing breaks, passes and tries with monotonously stunning regularity.
In the process he’s leaving defenders floundering in his wake and producing gaping holes in opposition defensive lines as wide as the Humber to put his winger, full-back or himself through.
On the other side young Jack Logan is sniping and getting on the shoulder of his big forwards to get on the end of a move and, when he can’t finish it himself, he’s producing a peach of a pass to his winger or whoever’s closest to him in a black and white shirt.
With Jamie Shaul expertly positioning himself to make a break or profit from one with his searing pace and excellent vision let’s not forget that this back division has got enough to challenge, and hurt, certainly most sides in the competition.
We also need to remember the supporting cast for this back division includes the likes of Callum Lancaster and Curtis Naughton both of which Super League are certainly aware of with both having scored tries, indeed hat-trick’s to boot, against notable opposition such as St. Helens, Castleford, Widnes and Warrington between them.
So yes everybody keep lauding the pack put together by former forward Lee Radford, just don’t forget that’s not all that Hull have in their locker, either on the pitch or waiting in the wings.
It was billed as the 150th anniversary year of Hull FC, despite the feeble attempt at billing it as the 15th anniversary by a small amount of fans from the other side of Hull, but while the Airlie Birds can point to clear progress on their dismal 2014 Super League campaign and the fact that they currently hold the bragging rights over their close neighbour’s Hull KR having won the derby series 2-1 and finished above them in the table the end of term report once again looks back at a very frustrating campaign when the sleeping giant failed to awaken from its slumbers.
It all started rather well as a black and white army converged on the birthplace of the game Huddersfield as a new look FC side started their campaign in emphatic fashion by inflicting an embarrassing defeat on the Giants who most experts expected to be genuine Grand Final contenders, nil-ling them in the process.
The next game saw a single point defeat to Warrington Wolves in Hull’s first home game of the season, despite that setback everything still looked very positive as Lee Radford’s men looked very competitive and able to handle the inevitable extra pressure that came with such a landmark season doubled with the start of a new experiment for the First Utility Super League with the tag line of “Every minute matters”.
The first alarm bells started to ring with a shock defeat at big spending Salford when the Red Devils found it far too easy to score points against a side who had only conceded one try in their opening two games, which was scored by the reigning Steve Prescott Man of Steel Daryl Clark.
Hull’s next game, at home against eventual treble winners Leeds Rhinos, almost encapsulated the Black and White’s season in 80 minutes, holding a deserved 12-0 lead at half time Hull were applauded off the pitch and seemingly back in the groove as they produced some of the best rugby they had played up to that point in the still fledgling season, what followed was frankly quite embarrassing as the Rhinos cut loose and scored 43 unanswered points too easily in the second 40 minutes.
Playing away to eventual Grand Finalists Wigan Warriors in their next game the Airlie Birds showed some genuine dogged determination, guts and pride but fell just short by a single point for the second time in the campaign, although a better more controlled pass in the last minute would surely have seen them gain the reward their efforts deserved as 2014 player of the year Fetuli Talanoa would surely have scored a match-winning try if the ball hadn’t flown into touch.
After that near miss at the DW Stadium Hull finally gave their fans something to shout about as Catalans Dragons were brushed aside far easier than the 11 point winning margin would seemingly suggest. Hull were then unlucky in defeat away to Castleford Tigers and then came the lowest point of the season without doubt as Hull KR breezed into the KC Stadium and left with the two points and bragging rights on offer far too easily as the Airlie Birds produced probably their worst performance of the season and almost gift-wrapped the game for Chris Chester’s side.
After that contemptuous low the Old Faithful still traveled in large numbers to the home of reigning champions St. Helens in the first game of the now annual Steve Prescott Memorial Trophy and a stunning comeback that few would have thought possible at the start of the Easter Weekend was capped by one of the tries of the season from full-back Jamie Shaul as Hull banished the memories of the previous Thursday night with a stirring 20-28 victory at Langtree Park.
Next up for the Airlie Birds was a home game against Widnes Vikings, on that evening Tom Lineham proved once again what a potent finisher he is with a hat-trick including two 95 meter interception tries, after that the Airlie Birds hit the road to Wembley dispensing of Sheffield Eagles at Bramall Lane in comfortable, if not entirely convincing, fashion before returning to Super League matters with a truly dismal performance against Huddersfield Giants in which Hull only just avoided the ignominy that they inflicted on the Giants on the opening weekend with a very late try by Steve Michaels.
The following week was quite a comedy with next opponents Salford Red Devils asking the Airlie Birds to postpone the game due to the injury and suspension crisis they were going through which Hull, understandably, flatly refused so the game went ahead as scheduled, despite their pleas and protestations the team built expensively by Dr Marwan Koukash arrived much healthier than first envisaged, sporting seven internationals, a spirited performance almost saw them through, but once again a gutsy comeback which was crowned by an individual barnstorming try by Setaimata Sa saw Hull eek out a victory that would have been predicted.
Lee Radford then told his side to take off the shackles and start to attack with more purpose, this appeared to be going slightly wrong for Hull in the next game away to Warrington Wolves but, yet again, Hull showed a spirit that proved they never knew when they were beaten as they came from 10 points behind in the last 10 minutes to grab a priceless victory with a drop goal from Marc Sneyd with just three seconds remaining on the clock to send the Old Faithful into very noisy raptures and gain sweet revenge for their single point defeat earlier in the year.
Castleford Tigers were the visitors to the KC Stadium in the 6th round of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup and a hat-trick from new young signing Curtis Naughton saw the previous years beaten finalists put to the sword in sizzling fashion as more evidence of Hull taking off the shackles was put on full display.
However the positive mood that was sweeping the team and supporters was soon dampened down as Saints came to town and won an arm wrestle game although not by enough to rob Hull of the Steve Prescott Memorial Trophy.
Magic Weekend, however, delivered another high note as close neighbours Hull KR, holding smug bragging rights since the Easter derby, were taught a very harsh lesson as they were thoroughly whipped by an arrogant Hull in record fashion as they ran up a record 46 points in a competitive derby topping the 44 points they had hit Rovers with in 2008, at this point I suppose for the benefit of certain friends that Rovers do still hold the record for the biggest winning margin by 36 points in 2007.
The following week saw Hull travel to Widnes for what was seen as a defining match as both sides were competing for the coveted Super 8s spot with just 1 league point separating them, with the Vikings storming into a 12 point lead it was fast starting to look like a forlorn journey for Hull, however another Tom Lineham hat-trick allied with a try from Leon Pryce and a delicious kick and gather try by Marc Sneyd swept Hull home to a convincing victory.
Unfortunately after that success Hull’s season began to almost implode with defeats away to Catalans Dragons and Leeds before being unceremoniously dumped out of the cup by the Rhinos at the KC Stadium and then an embarrassing defeat at basement side Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, in this topsy turvy season however the Black and White’s rallied once again and, in their second double header, they gained revenge over the Wildcats, by now being coached by former Hull coach Brian Smith, with a victory which maybe wasn’t really deserved but, after a three game losing streak, it was a priceless victory which breathed much needed new life into a faltering season.
The top 8 cause was then further aided with another gutsy comeback victory at the KC Stadium against Castleford Tigers as the Tigers were given little choice by the intensity of Hull’s performance but to surrender an eight point half time advantage.
The game that mattered most though was taking place in front of the Sky cameras the following Friday at the KC Lightstream Stadium as the biggest rivalry in Super League was pushed to the forefront with the promise of victory holding the key to the door of the much vaunted Super 8s and defeat promised the ignominy of a place in the dreaded Middle 8s and the knowledge that it was your closest rivals who would have put you there.
Everything seemed to be going wrong in the derby match, losing their two most influential players Leon Pryce and captain Gareth Ellis to injury in the heat of the battle in the first half, trailing 12-4 when they lost Ellis to a snapped Achilles Hull looked in desperate trouble on a ground where only Leeds and Castleford had previously triumphed this season, but that fast growing resolve was soon on show again as Hull out-fought and out-thought their nearest and dearest enemies to take charge with another stirring comeback which saw them take the lead by half time and then produce a masterclass in how to control an opponent and a game at arms length to wrap up the points, the bragging rights and the place in the Super 8s in one evenings work which led to jubilant celebrations among the Old Faithful.
With so much attention and emphasis having been placed on the derby match it was probably not a surprise that the first phase of the season for Hull ended with a whimper as Wigan Warriors arrived at the KC Stadium and inflicted a heavy defeat on the home side.
The Super 8s was something of an anti-climax for the Airlie Birds due to the fact that they were playing teams who were in some cases superior sides who were always expected to be pushing for the semi-finals and a trip to Old Trafford and the Grand Final, having started brightly away to Castleford with two early tries the old frailties once again took over and Hull slipped to an unfortunate defeat but nobody could really say the Tigers didn’t deserve their victory.
The following week Hull again traveled to the home of the defending champions and, as on Easter Monday, Saints were ambushed by yet another comeback, including another hat-trick by Curtis Naughton, and soundly beaten 22-32.
The epitaph on this season will show that Hull lost all of their last 5 games, however it must be said that is far from the end story under the circumstances. With a growing injury list which included Gareth Ellis, Leon Pryce, Josh Bowden, Chris Green, Steve Michaels, Jordan Thompson, Setaimata Sa, Joe Westerman, Kirk Yeaman, Fetuli Talanoa and Dean Hadley for at least some, if not all, their Super 8s games Hull could possibly have been excused for asking to delay some games due to their unprecedented injury crisis, however no such Salford-like request was forthcoming, or even entertained, by the Black and White’s as they put their trust in youth.
A week before their Wembley date against Hull KR, Leeds rolled into town and rested some stars although not many as they still had Challenge Cup Final places up for grabs, Hull had some senior stars playing, such as new joint-players of the year Mark Minichiello and Liam Watts, but there was also more than just a smattering of under 19s players present in the match-day squad and, indeed, the 17 man match team, the Rhinos inevitably won but, according to Rhinos coach Brian McDermott afterwards, only because they got a few opportunities that only men like Ryan Hall and Rob Burrow could finish despite their inability in certain quarters to breakdown an enthusiastic Hull side.
Unfortunately the down side to using lots of youth is sometimes it breeds inconsistency and so it proved as Warrington Wolves were handed the points on a plate at the Halliwell Jones Stadium two weeks later, more injuries ensued in that game and Hull were only able to name 18 men instead of the regulation 19 in advance of the trip to Wigan for their one and only appearance in front of the Sky cameras in the Super 8s the following Friday.
In a match that was seen as a chance for the battle-hardened Warriors, who were just coming into top form, to put a severe dent in Leeds Rhinos points difference advantage at the summit of the table, Hull had to name seven youth players and were given no chance and were indeed tipped to succumb to a worse beating than 60-0 thrashing the Warriors had inflicted on a similarly severely under-strength Hull KR earlier in the season but somebody forgot to give the script to the kindergarten Hull side.
Although the Warriors squeezed out a thoroughly and totally undeserved 30-24 win a Hull team containing Curtis Naughton, Jordan Abdull, Jack Logan, Masimbaashe Matongo, Jansin Turgut, Brad Fash and Jack Downs left a more than lasting impression on the crowd in the DW Stadium and, no doubt, had fans of other teams sat at home glued to their television sets and cheering them on as they gave Shaun Wane’s side the fright of their lives.
Hull then returned home for their heritage week games against Huddersfield Giants and Catalans Dragons, with youthful enthusiasm on their side, but also a great deal of in-experience, the Airlie Birds fall to two more narrow defeats that could surely have been avoided with a bit more know-how.
The 14 point margin of victory for the Giants looks much more comfortable than it was, a point made very succinctly by coach Paul Anderson, the four point victory for the Dragons didn’t flatter them but could again have been avoided by Hull if only tries had been scored further infield rather than right in the corner every time.
Reaching the Super 8s was set as a minimum requirement by owner Adam Pearson at the start of the season and that was duly achieved. There was also some major highlights in the season for instance the two victories over Hull KR, the manner of them and what both meant to the supporters cannot be overestimated and the emergence of some genuinely exciting youth is a major plus.
The down-side, it was yet another false dawn in a lot of ways, certain players have clearly just been taking money from the club and not giving much in return and, in my humble opinion, Tom Lineham should never have been sold but that’s now water under the bridge and we’ll have to get used to the sight of him in primrose and blue.
The up-side, Hull FC do have a lot of very exciting youth that they need to keep hold of in future, the likes of Jack Logan, Callum Lancaster, Jordan Abdull, Jansin Turgut, Brad Fash, Jack Downs, Masimbaashe Matongo and Curtis Naughton are all seemingly very exciting players and that’s before we think about the likes of Reece Dean and Harry Tyson-Wilson.
Future. It’s no secret Hull do have some financial problems mainly due to having to pay off dead wood with some big money plus the big payout to Willie Manu but with great support, season pass membership sales, merchandising etc I’m sure they can get over the worst of it.
New Signings. Frank Pritchard, Sika Manu, Scott Taylor, Danny Washbrook, Carlos Tuimavave and Mahe Fonua are genuinely very impressive additions especially the forwards who will be added to an already mean pack that is bristling with quality.
Controversy. There is clearly absolutely no need for a ‘Super Academy’ merger with Hull KR.
Positive. The creation of an under 23s side with Richard Horne as its boss will give certain players more chance to develop and will hopefullt dispense with the ridiculous dual-registration idea.
Super League Grand Final, Wigan Warriors 20 Leeds Rhinos 22, Rhinos Wrap Up Treble Triumph Thanks To Josh Walters Winning Try
Teenage star Josh Walters scored a try he will never forget to make sure Leeds Rhinos departing stars Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai went out on the back of a thoroughly deserved outstanding treble triumph as this champion team wrote yet another chapter in the history of this great sport.
The proceedings began with the entry of the First Utility Super League trophy before superstar rock band The Charlatans were formerly introduced to the army of supporters who were amassing in Old Trafford for this eagerly anticipated Super League Grand Final which was the first time that Wigan and Leeds had contested it since they were the headline act at the first ever one in 1998.
Classical star Laura Wright then gave an uplifting performance of Jerusalem before the battle hardened Rhinos and Warriors entered the Theatre of Dreams to a cauldron of expectant noise for the formalities before the kick off.
Shaun Wane started Dominic Manfredi and John Bateman in his three-quarter line along with 19 year old Centre Oliver Gildart, his counterpart Brian McDermott also sprang a surprise with Brad Singleton being named in the starting line-up for the Rhinos and offload machine Adam Cuthbertson dropping to the bench where he sat with teenager Walters.
Brett Delaney also somehow made it into the 17 after departing Headingley on crutches after their semi-final win over St. Helens the previous week.
The men from Headingley started with more purpose but it was the Warriors drew first blood in the fourth minute as Liam Farrell caught Rhinos captain Kevin Sinfield out of place and raced through before handing on to Sydney Roosters bound Joe Burgess for the winger to repeat his try scoring performance from 12 months ago, retiring Matty Bowen added the conversion to give them a six point lead.
Leeds responded immediately though after Matty Smith knocked on from the restart and after the resultant scrum a deft grubber by Sinfield was pounced on by Danny McGuire to score beside the posts, Sinfield’s inevitable conversion brought the Rhinos level in the seventh minute.
Wigan forced the Rhinos to drop out after Tom Briscoe was forced behind his own line and with the sustained pressure Michael McIlorum made a dive for the Leeds try line but he dropped the ball just short.
Tempers threatened to boil over as Brad Singleton was penalised for tackling Burgess in the air from a high kick close to the Warriors line.
The game settled into an arm wrestle in which the most noteworthy incident was a clash of heads between Sinfield and Cuthbertson requiring both Rhinos players to have running repairs with strapping going round their profusely bleeding heads.
A cross-field kick by Steve Prescott Man of Steel winner Zak Hardaker then caused panic in the Warriors defence which ensued in the tackle count being wiped clean by referee Ben Thaler, in a frantic period of play Leeds flung the ball right to left and then back to the right and, despite a possible knock on in the build up by McGuire, the video referees awarded an eventual try to Joel Moon to a chorus of boos from the supporters in Cherry and White, uncharacteristically Sinfield missed the conversion to leave it a four point gap after 28 minutes.
The Warriors then marched to the Leeds end of the pitch and forced some sustained pressure on the Rhinos defensive line with a knock on by Ryan Hall giving them head and feed 10 meters from the Rhinos line but an organised defence from the men in Blue and Amber held them at bay.
Leeds then suddenly cut the Warriors apart with breathtaking speed and ingenuity as Wembley hero Briscoe engineered a break to put Kallum Watkins away down the right and the England Centre handed inside to put McGuire in for his 2nd try of the match, Sinfield’s conversion gave them a 10 point lead that they held for the last four minutes of the half.
Wigan had the first surge into enemy territory of the 2nd half but a pass from Bowen was knocked on by Farrell so the chance was squandered.
A knock on by McGuire then presented the Warriors with territory and possession and then a high shot by the retiring Kylie Leuluai gave the Warriors more possession and then a dangerous grubber was knocked dead by Sinfield forcing the Rhinos to have to drop out from under their posts for the second time in the game.
Sustained pressure from the Warriors on the Rhinos line eventually saw a high bomb from Sean O’ Loughlin stolen by Manfredi from the clutches of Hall for the Wigan man to dive over and put his side back in the contest, Bowen added the extra two points to bring them back within four points seven minutes into the half.
Within two minutes of that the Warriors were back in front for the first time since the 7th minute as Bowen cut his way through feeble Rhinos defence and raced in under the posts and then added the conversion to his try to make it 18-16 to the men from the DW Stadium.
Watkins gave away a soft penalty for a high shot on Farrell which led to more pressure on the Rhinos but this time Wigan managed to lose the ball over the Leeds try line in a frantic piece of play.
McIlorum then claimed a clever penalty as he threw a pass against Watkins in an offside position at the play-the-ball and with 19 minutes remaining Bowen duly obliged to stretch their lead to four points as the pendulum continued to swing their way.
Three minutes later this great sport wrote another great fairytale chapter as young Josh Walters, coming off the bench in his first ever play-off game, scrambled over after the Warriors made a hash of clearing up a high kick and two passes later the teenager was in, Sinfield restored the Rhinos lead with the conversion.
A pitch invader then caused a short stop a few minutes later before the game resumed with the Warriors in possession.
Enthusiasm then got the better of Manfredi as he raised Hall in a dangerous tackle and dumped the England winger on his shoulder.
Desperate defence by the Warriors then led to a scrum for Leeds 10 meters from the line and then more desperation from the Warriors held them at bay somehow.
McIlorum then scragged Burrow to the ground with a head high tackle giving the Rhinos another penalty which was duly dispatched into touch.
Leeds kept forcing the issue but a very well organised defence still kept them out but then just as Tony Clubb seemed to be creating a break in midfield he tried to pass but the ball went forward and hit the deck.
For all the times that commentators Eddie and particularly Stevo kept referring to the superstar names in the Rhinos line-up as the ones who could put this game beyond the Warriors they somehow kept contriving to blow guilt edged chance after chance but, importantly held on to their two point lead.
In a breathless finish the Warriors tried everything they could after gaining possession with a scrum 10 meters from their line but a frantic kick wide was eventually defused by Hall giving way to absolute unbridled joy as they completed the Super League Leaders Shield, Ladbrokes Challenge Cup and Grand Final treble and defeated the Warriors in a major final for the first time in their distinguished history.
Penalties: Wigan 4 Leeds 5
Goal Line Drop Outs: Wigan 0 Leeds 2
Harry Sunderland Trophy Man of the Match: Danny McGuire
Hull FC were left ruing some basic mistakes as they pushed the table-topping Leeds Rhinos all the way but were ultimately undone by their more clinical opponents leaving them feeling what might have been as their slim top 4 hopes were dealt a decisive blow in the Super 8s.
Lee Radford brought back Jack Logan, Steve Michaels and Feka Palea’aesina after they missed the win against Super League champions St. Helens at Langtree Park last week.
Tom Lineham dropped out of the side that stunned the champions for the visit of the Rhinos to the KC Stadium while Jamie Shaul kept hold of his place along with hat-trick hero Curtis Naughton and teenagers Brad Fash and Jack Downs also deservedly kept their places.
The first chance came to the Airlie Birds in the first minute as Logan made an impressive break down the left before passing to Michaels who was just brought down short and forced into touch.
Despite the bright start by the home side it was the Rhinos who drew first blood after a devestating break by Zak Hardaker saw them go from one end to the other before the ball was finally handed to Ash Handley to dive over in the sixth minute, the conversion from captain Kevin Sinfield gave them a six point advantage completely against the run of play.
However it didn’t take the home side long to draw level as another foray into the Rhinos danger zone saw Mark Minichiello completely wrong-foot the defence to stroll through under the posts, the inevitable conversion from Marc Sneyd restored parity after 10 minutes.
Hull were clearly willing to chance their arm against the Wembley-bound Rhinos and Logan made another significant break in broken field but his final pass was ruled a touch forward by referee Joe Cobb to give the Rhinos a relieving scrum inside their own 20 meter area.
Leeds were afforded another chance against the run of play after being awarded a harsh penalty but an organised and resilient defence from the black and white’s kept them at bay.
The second quarter of the game descended into a multitude of mistakes as both sides continually coughed up possession and territory with embarrassing regularity.
Finally Hull seemed to get hold of the ball and use it with some purpose after a kick from Leeds went out on the full leading to them being handed possession just inside the Rhinos half but the chance came to nothing as Sneyd’s grubber went dead in goal.
Soon after that Naughton made a dash from inside his own 20 meter area before finally being caught 30 meters from the Leeds line, another Sneyd grubber went through and had to be kicked dead by Handley to force a goal line drop out.
Another dab through from the boot of Sneyd then unfortunately hit the outside of the post padding to deny the on-rushing Joe Westerman and give the Rhinos desperate defence a chance to run the ball back into the field of play with five minutes to go to the break.
The Rhinos gained another chance as they were given a scrum in Hull territory when referee Cobb deemed that a pass had gone forward before hitting the ground, the resulting attack then saw Jamie Peacock held up over the line by a committed and tenacious defence leaving the score at 6-6 at the break.
The Rhinos were the first side to force a chance in the early part of the 2nd half with a break in midfield but eventually Jimmy Keinhorst was held up just short of the Hull line as they started the half with more purpose.
Hull suddenly sparked into life as Jordan Rankin made a break in the middle of the park, Jamie Shaul took over and then gave a deft pass to Michaels for the Australian to cut inside and give the home side the lead in the 48th minute, Sneyd was unable to add the kick from wide out to leave the hosts leading 10-6.
The league leaders were soon on attack however after being awarded a very harsh penalty and eventually the pressure told as Carl Ablett crossed the whitewash on the left side to bring the sides level in the 52nd minute, the conversion from Sinfield edged the Rhinos back in front by two.
The Rhinos were seemingly taking the game by the scruff of the neck and were finding yards alarmingly easy to come by and another break from Hardaker saw Rob Burrow race in under the posts to stretch their advantage after 55 minutes, the conversion from Sinfield took them two scores in front and in the blink of an eye Hull looked to be facing mission impossible to save their ailing play-off hopes.
On Hull’s next attack another grubber from Sneyd found its way through and the Old Faithful thought Rankin had touched it down but referee Cobb rightly ruled he had knocked it on rather than grounding it.
That setback didn’t seem to worry Hull though as a minute later Jamie Shaul raced onto an offload 10 meters from the home sides line to race 90 meters to touchdown under the posts, the conversion from Sneyd brought Hull back within two points with 20 minutes left to play.
Hull though made a mess of the short kick-off from Leeds and Ryan Hall gleefully took full advantage to race 40 meters to take Leeds out of range again and the conversion by Sinfield again made it a two score lead for the Rhinos.
However Hull weren’t done yet and a chip over the top of the Leeds defensive line from Jordan Abdull was snapped up by Shaul moving at the speed of a race car and then a delightful pass put Rankin in at the right corner, the majestic touchline conversion from Sneyd again brought Hull back within two points with 15 minutes left to play.
Two minutes later Hull forced a big mistake as a high kick was spilled by Hardaker under pressure from three players 10 meters from his own line but the pressure was relieved with a knock-on by Hull two tackles later.
Another high kick from Hull was then dropped by Ash Golding 10 meters from the Rhinos line and Hull again pressed from the scrum but a wayward pass was snapped up by former Hull favourite Tom Briscoe who then raced 90 meters to go under the posts after 72 minutes, the conversion from Sinfield again took Leeds eight points clear and time seemed to be running out for the black and white’s.
A short kick-off from Hull gave them possession but another mistake led to another penalty for the Rhinos to march to the other end again but this time Hull were able to keep them out.
The Rhinos then wrapped up the points with three minutes left as Sinfield made a dart down the left and his pass inside put Burrow over for his 2nd of the game, the conversion from the Leeds skipper stretched the lead to a harsh 14 points which rubbed salt into already gaping wounds for Hull.
Radford bemoaned a lack of a cutting edge when they needed it, he said: “If you likened that to a boxing event we jabbed their head off but when they got their opportunities they landed a great big haymaker straight on our chin.
“That performance showed why Leeds are where they are.
“They’ve got blokes that take their opportunities. We made plenty of line-breaks but we got mopped-up.”
Echoing his counterparts words Leeds coach Brian McDermott thought a 14 point winning margin for his side was a harsh reflection on Hull, he said: “We got three breakaway tries, we call them opportunist, but I don’t feel we broke Hull down, I don’t feel we were better than them.”
Penalties: Hull FC 3 Leeds Rhinos 3
Goal Line Drop Outs: Hull FC 1 Leeds Rhinos 1
Man of the Match: Jamie Shaul