After their surprise victory over the Warrington Wolves in last weeks’ opening play-off game, Hull FC were looking to take the scalp of the minor premiers, Wigan Warriors, to secure a trip to their own stadium for next Friday’s Grand Final.
Wigan came into the game after a week off but in great form after overtaking St Helens to finish top of the league while FC had the luxury of naming the same seventeen which did the business last time out. The bookies had the home side as firm favourites, but coach Adrian Lam would have been emphasising the importance of a good start, and a top-drawer performance, during training this week.
It was ‘do or die’ for both sides.
After an end to end opening Hull FC took the lead on twelve minutes when Harry Smith interfered at the play the ball, Marc Sneyd slotting over the two pointer. Wigan went straight on the offensive but great Black & Whites defence held first Joe Burgess up over the line and within a minute Oliver Partington was also denied.
An uncharacteristic error from Bevan French looked to have gifted Hull a try but a push on Zak Hardaker by Sneyd in the build-up saw the try ruled out.
On twenty-six the Airlie Birds defence was finally breached when Joe Burgess found space on the overlap to go over in the left corner and round closer to the sticks to make the Hardaker conversion a formality.
On thirty-two the Warriors extended their lead when Harry Smith chased and collected a Burgess grubber through the defensive line to walk in from ten metres to score. Once again Hardaker was able to add the extras for 12-2, a painful and costly six-minute spell for FC.
A Smith drop goal on the half-time hooter extended the lead to 13-2 at the interval, Wigan good value for their lead, as the two sides faced up to one another as the sides left the field.
It was looking like game over on forty-four as Hardaker took a pass on the FC forty and went through the line to score under the sticks. The Wigan centre converted his own try for 19-2, FC needed to dig deep to rescue their season.
With twelve minutes remaining the last hope of a Hull fightback was snubbed out when Sneyd lost the ball under the tackle of Bevan French just a metre from the line after he took a Josh Griffin pass.
Danny Houghton had a try turned down on seventy after a knock-on in the build-up, it just wasn’t Hull’s night.
Jake Bibby took a French pass on the right wing, in acres of space, to get the fourth Wigan try of the night on seventy-five. Hardaker was wide of the target with his kick but it mattered for nothing, the game was won and Wigan were the victors.
The icing on the Wigan cake came on seventy-eight when Gildart was the provider to French to slide in for the try. Hardaker added the conversion for a final scoreline of 29-2.
Wigan eased into the Grand Final after a comprehensive, but low scoring, win over Hull FC. They defended like a team with every intention of adding the Super League trophy to the Minor Premiership shield which they collected a couple of weeks ago. Wigan are off to the KCOM Stadium in Hull in a weeks’ time and will eagerly await the winners of tomorrow nights other semi-final between the Dragons and Saints.
Wigan Warriors: French (T), Burgess J (T), Gildart, Hardaker (T, 4G), Bibby (T), Smith (T, DG), Leuluai, Bullock, Hastings, Singleton, Farrell, Isa, Partington. Subs: Clubb, Flower, O’Loughlin, Smithies.
Hull FC: Connor, Naulago, Fonua, Griffin, Faraimo, Tuimavave, Sneyd (G), Taylor, Johnstone, Bowden, Ma’u, Savelio, Cator. Subs: Houghton, Satae, Sao, Fash.
Referee: Chris Kendall.
Half Time: 13-2.
Full Time: 29-2.
Venue: DW Stadium, Wigan.