St Helens hold off a brilliant Hull FC fightback to claim a Challenge Cup semi-final win.
|Hull FC (2) 18|
|Tries: Fonua, Houghton, Scott Goals: Sneyd 3|
|St Helens (14) 33|
|Tries: Grace 2, Fages, Welsby, Coote Goals: Coote 6 Drop-goal: Fages|
Saints looked in control after Marc Sneyd kicked Hull into an early lead.
Regan Grace touched down in spectacular fashion before Theo Fages dotted down after Josh Griffin released the ball after going down with an injury.
Jack Welsby added to their lead before Hull fought back to close within three points, but Grace intercepted to run in and Lachlan Coote went over to end it.
There had been little indication of the tremendous end to the match when Welsby gave Saints a 20-2 lead with just over 30 minutes to play.
However, Brett Hodgson’s men showed tremendous resilience to claw their way back thanks to tries from Mahe Fonua, Danny Houghton and Cameron Scott.
With time running out and Hull pushing for a stunning victory, Jake Connor’s pass was intercepted by Grace and the Welshman ran the length of the field to finally seal Saints’ place at Wembley.
Connor was then beaten to a high ball by the excellent Kevin Naiqama and Coote gave match a somewhat unjust final scoreline.
Victory for St Helens means they now have the chance to make it a Challenge Cup double this season after their women’s team beat York City Knights earlier at the Leigh Sports Village.
Black and Whites fightback falls short
Prior to Hull’s excellent comeback it had looked like the game would be defined by a controversial moment midway through the first half.
Fages touched down unchallenged after Griffin collapsed with what looked like an Achilles injury as he looked to bring the ball away from his own line and dropped it as he fell to the ground.
Hull had made the brighter start and took a deserved lead through Sneyd’s penalty but Saints soon made the most of their first decent field position to get on the scoreboard through a wonderful touchdown in the corner from Grace after a fine pass from Fages.
Fages then met with the ire of the Hull fans when he made the most of Griffin’s misfortune to score Saints’ second try.
Welsby showed good awareness to get the ball down on the line when he was being tackled to stretch their lead to 18 points but Hull quickly got their first try of the game when Fonua crashed over.
That gave Brett Hodgson’s men a second wind and, despite Fages kicking a drop-goal to leave them needing three scores, they showed resilience in adversity as Houghton touched down after Carlos Tuimavave’s offload to give them a lifeline once more.
Scott then ran in as Hull suddenly closed the deficit to three points to set up a grandstand finish before Grace’s breakaway try in searing temperatures ended a pulsating game as a contest and Saints will now look to claim a first Challenge Cup since 2008.
Hull FC boss Brett Hodgson told BBC One:
“The middle part of the first half, we lost the game. Unfortunate circumstances of Josh Griffin going down but I don’t know if the scoreline reflects the second half.
“We think Josh has done his Achilles quite badly, it is a bad one.
“It is the rules of the game, Theo Fages has the opportunity to pick it up, it is fair play.”
St Helens’ Morgan Knowles told BBC One:
“Really good, it was a tough game in this heat. They gave us a bit of a scare in the second half but Regan Grace got the intercept.
“I just try to do some of the hard work, kick chase and knock off the sets. Pleased to get the win.”
St Helens: Coote, Makinson, Naiqama, Welsby, Grace, Lomax, Fages, Walmsley, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Mata’utia, Thompson, Knowles.
Interchanges: Amor, Batchelor, Dodd, Norman.
Hull FC: Connor; Swift, Griffin, Tuimavave, Fonua, Reynolds, Sneyd, Sao, Houghton, Satae, Savelio, Ma’u, Lane.
Interchanges: Brown, Fash, Bowden, Scott.