Two-try Chris Satae proves to be Hull FC’s unlikely hero

IT is not often Hull FC’s Chris Satae scores one try, let alone two.

Hull's Chris Satae goes over for a first half try. Pictures: Tony Johnson
Hull's Chris Satae goes over for a first half try. Pictures: Tony Johnson

A powerful, robust prop, who weighs in at almost 18 stone, his main job requirements are two-fold: run hard and tackle hard.

The 28-year-old Tongan did both of those with extra menace on Saturday as Hull executed a perfect gameplan to leave stunned Wigan flustered, befuddled and out of the Betfred Challenge Cup.

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However, Satae’s rare tries –one in each half and both showing strength and desire from close range – essentially proved the difference as the East Yorkshire club set up a semi-final with St Helens on Saturday June 5.

Having joined Hull in August 2019, he had only previously scored two in his entire professional career, against Castleford Tigers and Warrington Wolves last season.

Admittedly, the statistic is slightly disingenuous – a late starter, Satae’s senior career only actually began at the age of 24 when he made his senior debut with New Zealand Warriors.

He never did cross the whitewash with them in his 15 NRL games but now he has doubled his tally with Hull.

“I’m very happy with that and very fortunate,” conceded Satae.

Hull's Chris Satae grounds the ball for his second try.

“It would have meant nothing if we didn’t get the win but the boys worked hard and really helped me in those positions.

“I’m glad for the boys. We dug in for each other especially against a good Wigan side.

“You know what Wigan are going to bring; they play for 80 minutes and I’m really proud of the boys and the coaching staff.”

Wigan had not lost all season but they had no answer to the energy, drive and detail of Brett Hodgson’s side.

Satae’s relentless carries, hitting hard into the heart of their pack, was particularly important given Hull were missing four other props through injury or suspension, something many believed would leave them out-gunned in an absorbing, rain-lashed tie at Emerald Headingley.

When Jack Brown, the young front-row who got his chance with Scott Taylor and Brad Fash missing, was also sin-binned for a cannonball tackle in the 35th minute, you sensed the Airlie Birds would eventually wilt.

That is what tends to happen against a Wigan side who sense and then exploit any weakness.

However, Adrian Lam’s team could not score against 12-man Hull: Hodgson has improved their defence significantly since being appointed in the autumn and that has never been more obvious than on Saturday.

Satae confirmed: “Hodgo has come in with a lot of good ideas.

“With Gaz (Ellis) and Purts (Kieron Purtill), they’ve worked really hard to give us a gameplan and make sure our D (defence) is on.

“Especially our defence. You could see that out there; on our tryline we worked really hard for each other. We knew with the weather we had to keep the ball tight, nothing fancy and just put all our effort into our defence and putting them into the corner.”

Victory came just nine days after Wigan had ended Hull’s unbeaten start to the campaign with a 16-14 Super League defeat at DW Stadium, a controversial match which saw Warriors prop Tony Clubb racially abuse FC’s Andre Savelio and subsequently receive an eight-game ban.

It was not surprising that there was plenty of niggle in this game, too, and not only because of the fall-out from that incident.

However, it was Hull who largely retained their composure as Lam’s side badly spluttered.

They had opened the scoring via Jake Bibby in the tenth minute. However, after Satae’s second try put Hull 16-4 ahead in the 65th minute, they did not cross again until Dom Manfredi, the winger playing his first game of the season, crossed two minutes from time.

Harry Smith converted to set up a tense finish but, typically, Wigan spilled when a golden chance arrived and Adam Swift picked up to race 70m and score with the final play of the tie.

Marc Sneyd, who had improved Satae’s tries and added two penalties, did not even bother with the conversion attempt as the celebrations began.

Winger Swift excelled having filled in at full-back for the suspended Jake Connor – another key player Hull were missing – especially in comparison to opposite number Zak Hardaker.

One of Super League’s form players, England international Hardaker put two restarts out on the full, hit a post with a simple penalty and also dropped one straight-forward kick.

When Hull lost centre Josh Griffin to a second-half HIA, Swift reverted to the wing and youngster Connor Wynne came on at full-back, showing some nice touches of his own.

Hull, who beat Wigan in the 2017 final, will have to raise their game again against Saints to reach Wembley but do not be surprised if they do.

Hull FC: Swift; Fonua, Tuimavave, Griffin, Scott; Reynolds, Sneyd; Sao, Houghton, Satae, Savelio, Ma’u, Lane. Substitutes: Johnstone, Cator, Brown, Wynne.

Wigan Warriors: Hardaker; Bibby, Isa, Farrell, French; Smith, Hastings; Singleton, Powell, Byrne, Bateman, Smithies, Partington. Substitutes: Manfredi, Bullock, Harvard, Shorrocks.

Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham).

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