Hull hail magnificent strangers

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The Independent Online

One of the many intriguing aspects of Hull's magnificent progress to the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup was that many of those urging them on at The Boulevard on Saturday were not entirely sure who was playing.

One of the many intriguing aspects of Hull's magnificent progress to the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup was that many of those urging them on at The Boulevard on Saturday were not entirely sure who was playing.

That uncertainty was understandable. Most of the team that deservedly knocked Wigan out of the Cup were imported en masse from Gateshead during the surreal events of the winter. They might have been strangers to most Hull fans then, but they are a lot more likely to be recognised now.

As Wigan's Frank Endacott admitted, Hull's collection of itinerant tradesmen outplayed them in every department. If Wigan had sneaked home, as they looked ominously like doing in the second half, it would have been a travesty.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the two sides was in their defences. There is a theory that the tightening of their import quota next season means that most of their Australians have a limited shelf life, and Hull might struggle to establish a real esprit de corps. There was absolutely no sign of that on Saturday.

Inspired team performance though this was, the victory was built on a series of individual circumstances. Apart from mighty displays from Will Robinson and Paul Broadbent, there were crucial contributions from three fringe players - and three non-Australians at that.

Seventeen-year-old Richard Horne was given scrum-half responsibilities and responded with an astonishingly mature performance. "I've been holding him back because I thought he needed another year," said the Hull coach, Shaun McRae. "What he's shown me is that he's ready."

Wayne McDonald, the towering Wakefield forward, scored the try that clinched it; and then there was the bizarre and timely intervention of the Irishman, Brian Carney.

Carney was returning from the sin-bin in first half injury time when he looked up to see Steve Renouf charging down the opposite wing. "I just saw this flash, so I ran on and kept running," he said.

He made the vital tackle, although Wigan supporters will wonder what has happened to Renouf's old pace - and indeed to their team as a whole. They have what, on paper, is the most potent back line in the country, but there is no width to their play. This defeat leaves them with much to ponder.

Hull: Sammut; Carney, Bird, Collins, Daylight; W Robinson, Horne; Broadbent, Jenkins, King, Wilson, Felsch, Maiden. Substitutes used: Gene, McDonald, Simon, Fletcher.

Wigan: Radlinski; Dallas, Connolly, Renouf, J Robinson; Smith, Peters; Malam, Newton, Cowie, Cassidy, Betts, Farrell. Substitutes used: Gilmour, Johnsoon, Haughton, Mestrov.

Referee: Russell Smith (Castleford).

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