High times for Hull

Huddersfield 18 Hull 31
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Hull will be where they belong, playing Super League rugby next season, after recovering from the sort of start at Huddersfield that suggested that they were not sure they wanted to go up.

The staggers set in last week against Featherstone and, for the first quarter of this game, it looked as though the First Division leaders might again fail to score the victory they needed to clinch the championship.

Hull trailed 12-0 at that stage, thanks mainly to a close-range try from Matt Sturm and a quite brilliant one from Garry Schofield.

Schofield, who began his long career with Hull and the manner of whose departure has seen him vilified there ever since, produced a flash of his own genius to send Craig Weston racing through and then supported him to take his pass and touch down.

It was not the only vintage moment from Schofield, as he gave a reminder of Hull's last golden age, but their present heroes eventually began to take control and upstage him.

They had their share of luck as they did so. There was a question mark over Matt Schultz's pass to Andy Fisher for their first try and a bigger one over Fisher's part in the build-up to Graeme Hallam's efforts.

But the referee, Steve Presley, saw nothing wrong with either and Hull were level, even if Paul Cook put Huddersfield briefly back in the lead with his third goal.

The vital breakthrough came just before half-time when Mark Hewitt's grubber kick caught Huddersfield flat-footed and Mike Dixon dived through to score.

Four minutes after the interval, Gary Lester made a telling break, Rob Danby supported and Kevin Gray finished off, with the home supporters again howling for a forward pass.

From their point of view, all four Hull tries had had an element of doubt about them, but Huddersfield finally had a call in their favour when Gray's interception try was disallowed for offside.

Huddersfield showed why they have been the only side to chase Hull with any conviction this season by refusing to bow to the inevitable. A quality pass from Schofield sent the equally experienced Paul Dixon powering over and they were only six points in arrears with 15 minutes to play.

But Hewitt put over an insurance drop goal and then kicked his fifth conversion after Lester had darted over from acting half.

Several thousand travelling fans from Humberside were able to relax at this point. They, and after the necessary strengthening, their team will be an asset to Super League next season. The potential and the ambition at the club are virtually unlimited and they could be the Rugby League story of 1998.

Huddersfield: Cook; Butt, Weston, Bunyan, Bell; Booth, Davys; Fozzard, Russell, Neill, Bowes, Sturm, Schofield.

Substitutes used: Veivers, P Dixon, Richards, Berry.

Hull: Holmes; Gray, Nolan, Hallas, Johnson; Lester, Hewitt; Craven, M Dixon, Ireland, Fisher, Boyd, Schultz.

Substitutes used: Hepi, Wilson, Wheeler, Danby.

Referee: S Presley (Castleford).