A MOMENT of madness cost Hull FC at least a point against Wigan Warriors last night as England scrum-half Matty Smith slotted two drop goals in the dramatic final stages.
Marc Sneyd had already cancelled out Smith’s first one-pointer in the 77th minute to leave the fixture at 25-25.
A point would have been the least Lee Radford’s side would have deserved for the courage shown in fighting back from 20-6 down just before the hour.
However, for only reasons he will know, Hull prop Liam Watts then inexplicably offloaded in front of his own posts to gift last season’s beaten Grand Finalists another shot.
Wigan – who have won all four of their opening Super League games without ever truly impressing – could not believe their luck.
With just 105 seconds left, Smith held his nerve once more to slot another and, this time, definitive drop goal to leave Hull’s players on their knees.
They had shown such doggedness and spirit to haul themselves back into the game with a stunning three-try salvo in just eight minutes.
Leon Pryce, Sika Manu and Steve Michaels, with his second, got the tries, Sneyd booting all four goals for a 24-20 lead.
Josh Charnley levelled with a try in the 72nd minute and, though Smith couldn’t convert from wide out, he did when it mattered most.
The Airlie Birds – who saw Frank Pritchard pull out late on due to a shoulder injury – said they wanted to make KC Stadium a fortress this season.
But this result means the citadel has been stormed twice already having thrown away a winning position against Castleford Tigers the previous week, too. Granted, they are only four games into the new campaign but it seems an eternity ago since they won in Perpignan and, if they are ever going to challenge for silverware, these are just the sorts of fixtures they must win.
There are plenty of positives, of course, not least their elusive full-back Jamie Shaul who was a constant thorn in Wigan’s side, and there was drama from the first seconds.
Carlos Tuimavave made a break from the first play only to ignore three men on his inside and, instead, go wide to Fetuli Talanoa.
Wigan eventually hauled Hull in and referee Ben Thaler pulled it all back for an initial forward pass in the hosts’ own 2o regardless.
To add insult to injury, the visitors scored from that set, Ben Flower pumping his legs from some timid tackling to cross within just seconds.
That seemed to initially stun Hull but they soon started to work their way into the game and were unlucky to see Gareth Ellis have an effort denied due to a forward pass from Danny Houghton.
It was the influential hooker Houghton, however, who did get it right in the 17th minute when his lovely cut-out pass allowed winger Michaels to sneak in at the corner.
Nevertheless, as soon as Radford’s side gained parity – Sneyd levelled from the touchline to cancel out Smith’s conversion – they relaxed inexcusably to allow their opponents right back into the lead.
George Williams may be the Super League Young Player of the Year but anyone would look quality given the amount of space and time Hull afforded him when he attacked their goalline from 15 out and duly scored.
Taulima Tautai was perhaps fortunate not to receive a card of some colour for a reckless high tackle on Hull prop Chris Green.
Instead, it was the home side who conceded a penalty that Smith slotted for a 14-6 lead.
Hull were fortunate not to go further behind when Charnley saw an effort ruled out for yet another forward pass. However, after poor Hull handling saw them waste another penalty, they imploded once more to gift Wigan their third score.
Firstly, Mark Minichiello blocked an opponent as the Wigan player looked to challenge Shaul for a kick and, from the resulting penalty, Sneyd made a complete mess of trying to deal with Smith’s standard grubber.
The ball ricocheted through his legs allowing John Bateman the simplest of scores.
That said, they kept at it and Houghton’s persistence allied to a smart Scott Taylor offload against his former club saw Pryce sidestep over and the fightback – ultimately in vain – was on.
Radford said: “I thought we did enough to get the result but it was not to be. We dominated territory and field position.
“What was disappointing was having so much possession down their end and getting not getting as much as we could.
“The game was played down their end of the field. I can’t knock their efforts but we’ve got to get better in a couple of areas.
“The amount of ball we had, we should have come away with more points and that’s an area we want to improve on.”
Hull: Shaul, Michaels, Logan, Tuimavave, Talanoa, Pryce, Sneyd, Taylor, Houghton, Watts, Minichiello, Manu, Ellis. Substitutes: Green, Thompson, Bowden, Washbrook.
Wigan: Tierney, Charnley, Gelling, Sarginson, Manfredi, Williams, Smith, Flower, Powell, Sutton, Farrell, Bateman, Burke. Substitutes: Clubb, Mossop, Tautai, Gildart.
Referee: B Thaler (RFL).