WATCH - Hull FC 43 Leeds Rhinos 24: Kelly returns to inspire Hull back to Wembley

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IS THAT saying - something about two buses - really going to come to fruition for Hull FC?

They waited 74 years to win at Wembley before finally doing so with last season’s epic win Challenge Cup final success over Warrington Wolves.

Hull FC v Leeds Rhinos
Hull players celebrate going to Wembley.
29th July 2017.
Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

Hull FC v Leeds Rhinos Hull players celebrate going to Wembley. 29th July 2017. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

Now they are back there again after this hard-fought and utterly absorbing semi-final victory over Leeds Rhinos.

If they play like this again versus the victors of tomorrow’s other semi-final between Wigan Warriors and Salford Red Devils then that second bus will surely be rolling in.

It was Hull’s first win over their Yorkshire rivals in nine attempts and what a time - and manner in which - to end the drought that dated back to 2014.

With talismanic Albert Kelly in imperious form on the Australian half-back’s return from a calf injury, Marc Sneyd as controlling as ever and some superb contributions from Liam Watts, Chris Green and Mark Minichiello up front, Lee Radford’s side eventually emphatically pulled clear at Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium.

Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final.
Hull FC v Leeds Rhinos
Rhinos Ryan Hall scores the opening try.
29th July 2017.
Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final. Hull FC v Leeds Rhinos Rhinos Ryan Hall scores the opening try. 29th July 2017. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

In front of a sell-out crowd of 14,526, Leeds had led during the first period with the help of two tries from Ryan Hall, the England winger who scored a Challenge Cup semi-final double for the fourth time.

On each of the last three occasions - in 2010, 2012 and 2014 - they reached Wembley but not this time as rampant Hull took control by dominating the second period.

It was a disappointing afternoon for Leeds, who had high hopes of winnig the Cup for the third time in four years.

But they can have few complaints given the quality of Hull’s play - they were simply far more efficient in all aspects of play.

Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final.
Hull FC v Leeds Rhinos
Rhinos Danny McGuire tries to rally his troops.
29th July 2017.
Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final. Hull FC v Leeds Rhinos Rhinos Danny McGuire tries to rally his troops. 29th July 2017. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

Leading 18-12 at the break, FC did squander a fine chance to extend their lead at the start of the second period when - after Kelly’s classy break and Josh Griffin’s chip ahead - Sneyd ruined an overlap by firing a needless pass past his helpless winger Fetuli Talanoa.

It mattered not, though. In the 46th minute, last year’s Lance Todd winner did get it right as his crossfield kick was palmed down perfectly by Talanoa into the waiting of arms of Carlos Tuimavave, the Kiwi centre who finished off his second try of the afternoon.

Alarmingly, there had been no challenge from Leeds’ wide defence so perhaps they only had themselves to blame.

From thereon in, there only ever looked one winner.

Leeds were spirited, as ever, and McGuire, who departs for Hull KR at the end of the season, looked to inspire them with a clever chip-and-regather but his kick on just eluded the chasing Briscoe.

Instead, it was Briscoe - the former Hull winger left grounded for Tuimavave second - who then senselessly blocked Talanoa as another Sneyd kick came their way.

From that penalty, FC proved patient and judiciously worked the position for Sneyd to slot a drop goal and make it 25-12.

It meant Leeds had to score three times and, even with 26 minutes still to go, given how tights things had been, it already looked unlikely.

That said, Kallum Watkins crossed on the hour mark with a wonderfully created try, McGuire slotting an unorthodox midfield grubber through on halfway for the England centre to collect and finish well.

Watkins - in the absence of Liam Sutcliffe - slotted his third conversion to set up hopes of a dramatic final quarter.

But the holders soon doused that as, after McGuire was forced into a drop-out from Jamie Shaul’s astute kick, Kelly came to the fore once more with a lovely deft pass for Watts to crash over.

There was few more deserving scorers than the Hull prop, who was colossal up front and caused Leeds no end of problems.

Radford’s side made sure in the 72nd minute when Shaul - the matchwinner at Wembley last year - picked up Watkins’ grubber and raced 80m to score in front of their delirious fans.

With their opponents fading, Scott Taylor, the England prop who also excelled on his 200th career appearance, barged over from close range, Sneyd finishing with all seven conversions.

Ashton Golding crossed at the end for Leeds but it was mere consolation.

The signs were there for Hull that they were ready for this challenge against a side who sat second in Super League, just above them.

They twice came from behind before eventually taking the lead with a brilliant try from the final play of an absorbing first half.

Leeds had done well to scramble and keep them out before McGuire got the merest touches to Sneyd’s crossfield kick.

Kelly altered his stride to stretch above his head and take the deflected kick on the run in the shadow of Leeds’ posts and looked certain to score his second try of the game.

The Australian was just denied but he managed to squeeze out a pass to Green, the prop who fell over the line to put them in front.

Replays suggested Kelly’s delivery may have been forward but, with Sneyd adding his third conversion,FC fans were not complaining.

There had been few chances beforehand in what was generally a high-quality first period.

Hall scored twice for Leeds, both times benefitting from Mahe Fonua mistakes, the Hull winger who, unlike most on display, endured a particularly poor performance.

The Tonga international was left rooted to the spot as Hall sneaked in in front of him to claim McGuire’s pinpoint kick for the game’s opening score in the 19th minute.

Fonua then spilled behind his own line under no pressure to concede a drop-out that led to Leeds’ second in the 32nd minute.

To rub salt in, the former Melbourne Storm star - who heads back to the NRL with Wests Tigers in 2018 - was also dozing when Kallum Watkins, having crabbed across field, dabbed in a grubber kick behind.

He looked surprised when Hall appeared once again to produce an unlikely finish close to the deadball line.

Fortunately for Fonua, one of their 2016 try-scoring heroes at Wembley, FC responded positively and instantly after each setback.

Kelly sneaked over with a lovely sidestep from close range to leave Rhinos clutching at thin air and then Sneyd put Tuimavave in with a perfectly-delayed pass.

Each time Sneyd converted and, despite Hull rightly having a Mark Minichiello effort ruled out in the seventh minute, it was about right on the balance of play.

But then up popped Kelly with that wonderful assist and the holders never looked back.

Hull FC: Shaul; Fonua, Griffin, Tuimavave, Talanoa; Kelly, Sneyd; Taylor, Houghton, Watts, Manu, Minichiello, Ellis. Substitutes; Connor, Green, Bowden, Washbrook.

Leeds Rhinos: Golding; Briscoe, Watkins, Keinhorst, Hall; Moon, McGuire; Cuthbertson, Parcell, Singleton, Ward, Ablett, Jones-Buchanan. Substitutes: Garbutt, Ferres, Mullally, Lilley.

Referee: Phil Bentham (Warrington)