Hull earn another chance to expunge the unwanted record that has haunted the club when they play in the Challenge Cup final next month. They were just too determined to be beaten by the strong favourites and recent Wembley specialists Warrington in a nerve-jangling semi-final. They now play Wigan in a repeat of the 1985 final that many consider the best ever.
Hull, who have famously never won at Wembley, were boosted by the return of Daniel Holdsworth as stand-off and his kicking and organising proved crucial. His early 40-20 touch-finder came to nothing, however, and he was powerless to prevent the Wolves from taking a two-try lead.
The first was beautifully crafted, from Micky Higham’s crossfield probe, through Ben Westwood’s storming run, to Joel Monaghan’s expert finish. The second was a messier affair, Trent Waterhouse winning a scramble for a rolling ball behind the try-line.
The turning point of the first half came when Warrington looked likely to score again, only for Tom Lineham – surely the find of the season – to pluck Chris Bridge’s kick out of the air and run away to score at the other end. The change of mood was complete two minutes later when Holdsworth delayed his pass to put Richard Whiting through a gap for the try that put Hull ahead.
Tony Smith, the Warrington coach, tried to engineer a turning point of his own with a triple substitution to bring on three of his most experienced forwards, but neither side could control the ball well enough to add to their score.
It was at least competitive and unpredictable – everything the previous day’s semi-final had not been. Waterhouse was held up over the line at the start of the second half, but it was Hull who got the points to extend their lead to eight when Holdsworth’s neat angled kick was dropped on by Aaron Heremaia and Danny Tickle added his second conversion.
The Wolves were making too many handling errors to stage a real recovery and their best attack ended with Higham knocking on. Ten minutes from time, Chris Riley was agonisingly close to scoring in the corner, but was just forced into touch. Ben Currie did score from Riley’s intercept and break five minutes later, but Hull held on.
The Hull coach, Peter Gentle, was quick to praise Holdsworth. “ We wouldn’t have won without Daniel out there. It was a six week [calf] injury, but we got him back in three,” he said.
His opposite number, Smith, said: “We just made too many errors. We don’t normally mind making a few errors, but we need to make them on our own terms.”
Hull: McDonnell; Lineham, Arundel, Yeaman, Briscoe; Holdsworth, Miller; Watts, Houghton, O’Meley, Ellis, Tickle, Westerman..Substitutes used: Lynch, Pitts, Whiting, Heremaia.
Warrington: Hodgson; J.Monaghan, Bridge, Grix, Riley; Briers, Ratchford; Wood, Higham, Hill, Waterhouse, Westwood, Cooper. Substitutes used: Morley, M.Monaghan, Carvell, Currie.
Referee: R.Silverwood (RFL).