Hull FC cast aside their dismal Super League form to pull off a surprise victory over holders Warrington and reach next month’s Tetley’s Challenge Cup final.
The Black and Whites recovered from the blow of losing full-back Shannon McDonnell inside seven minutes and conceding two tries inside the first 12 to overcome the Wolves in a nailbiting semi-final at Huddersfield’s John Smith’s Stadium.
Their reward is a trip to Wembley to face Wigan on August 24 in a repeat of the classic 1985 final which they lost 28-24 in a game still revered for the exploits of great Australian halves Brett Kenny and Peter Sterling.
Hull will now be hoping their current Australian half-back Daniel Holdsworth can take his semi-final form into Wembley after he made a man-of-the-match return from a calf injury.
How Hull missed the creative kicking of the former Salford stand-off during their five-match losing run which has put them in danger of missing the play-offs.
Makeshift full-back Richard Whiting was Hull’s other hero of a thriller which was in sharp contrast to the first hopelessly one-sided first semi-final 24 hours earlier - Wigan beating London 70-0.
The game was high on errors, most of them the result of a series of crunching tackles which were celebrated by players and fans alike with as much delight as any of the six tries, but never short of drama.
Warrington provided an early glimpse of their threat out wide when second rower Ben Westwood burst clear only to see his pass to winger Joel Monaghan ruled forward by busy referee Richard Silverwood.
There was no problem with the final pass minutes later when Monaghan held off Tom Briscoe’s last-ditch tackle to finish off another Westwood break.
It looked ominous for Hull when McDonnell went off after pulling a hamstring in his vain attempt to chase down Monaghan, especially when Warrington scored again through second rower Trent Waterhouse, who won the race to touch down Stefan Ratchford’s grubber kick.
Unfortunately for the Wolves, Ratchford, given the kicking duties ahead of Brett Hodgson, was unable to convert either try and Hull struck back with two tries in five minutes to take the lead.
Their first came out of the blue, with right winger Tom Lineham gathering Ratchford’s wayward lofted kick five metres from his own line and sprinting unopposed to the other end.
Danny Tickle’s successful conversion cut the gap to two points and the Black and Whites were in front when Holdsworth cleverly switched the point of attack to open up the Warrington defence for Whiting to stride through it.
The second quarter was scoreless, largely due to Hull’s tigerish defence, and it was a similar story at the start of the second half, with Whiting managing to get his body under the ball when Waterhouse crossed the line hoping to get his second try.
It proved a turning point as Hull worked their way upfield and promptly scored their third try when replacement hooker Aaron Heremaia touched down Holdsworth’s pinpoint kick.
Tickle’s second goal opened up an eight-point lead and gave Hull the confidence to go on and win it.
Hooker Danny Houghton was held up over the line as the Yorkshiremen went for the killer blow but they lived dangerously in the last 15 minutes.
They had a let-off when Warrington hooker Mick Higham failed to take Westwood’s pass with the Hull line breached and were relieved to see winger Chris Riley lose the ball in Holdsworth’s tackle as he crossed at the corner.
The drama continued right to the final hooter as the Wolves came roaring back.
An interception by Riley set up the position for second rower Ben Currie to go over five minutes from the end.
Hodgson was wide with the conversion attempt to leave his side trailing by four points but Hull were forced to hang on for dear life as Warrington camped in their 20-metre area for the gripping finale.
For Dave Craven’s report read Sports Monday, free inside tomorrow’s Yorkshire Post.