Jesus Christ. That was tough to take, wasn’t it?
An amazing game, but a fucking heart breaking finish.
Having thrown away a 10-point lead, Wire were pressuring the Hull line when that Danny Houghton tackle, in the vinegar strokes of the game, denied Ben Currie a certain match-winning try.
Both players had been fantastic throughout the game and the image of Houghton halting Currie just inches away from the try line, after the second rower had brushed aside two tired Hull defenders, must surely go down as one of the iconic images of the history of the competition. Up there with that image of Mike Gregory’s diving try, Martin Offiah’s celebration and ‘poor lad’ Don Fox missing the conversation from bang in front of the sticks.
How Houghton wasn’t awarded the Lance Todd Trophy for man of the match for that tackle alone beggars belief, but the fact that it was the bloke’s 53rd tackle of the game, having played the entirety of the match in the most physically demanding position on the pitch, on top of the influence he had on Hull’s attack from dummy half, just amplifies his performance.
The fact that he didn’t even get a single vote for man of the match makes you wonder who they’re handing out press passes to these days. (Not bitter at all. Honest.)
It also raises questions on when they take the vote. Like in 2005, when Danny Brough should have been named man of the match for his performance, but Kevin Sinfield was announced with 10 minutes to and Leeds still leading the game.
It has to be conceded that the ‘new’ Wembley has finally had the classic final the sport has been craving since the showpiece occasion moved back to the National Stadium.
Arguably, the last time a Challenge Cup final was this enthralling, it was when Hull upset Leeds in Cardiff in the aforementioned 2005 final.
The black and whites have been involved in two Wembley damp squibs since then, while we have ran out quite comfortable winners in three finals, so for the neutral, it makes a nice change to see an entertaining final.
But, from a purely selfish point of view, we’d have taken a victory in a shit match any day.
We had highlighted Houghton as a threat in our preview and the tactical battle between the hookers was an interesting sub-plot throughout the game.
Midway through the first half, Tony Smith threw on Brad Dwyer to play alongside Daryl Clark, both of them jumping out of dummy half to probe the Hull defence, but the massive Hull pack held firm.
Houghton, however, was constantly punishing in defence and effective in attack, whether jumping from dummy half and hitting a runner or his simple, but impressive, consistently accurate distribution to his pivots.
After a tense opening, both sides exchanged field position and it was Sandow, not Sneyd, that found his kicking range earliest. The mercurial Australian found touch with a booming 40/20 in the opening quarter and his clearance kicks penned Hull back on their own line at the end of our sets.
Sneyd’s long kicking game was shaky, to be kind, early on, but a bit of innovation almost caught the Wire defence off-guard, when his bomb went no further than ten yards, he caught a sweet left-footed volley to nudge the ball towards our try line, but Stefan Ratchford was on hand to clear up just in time.
For our slight edge in the territorial stakes, we failed to register any points on the board until just before the break, when Chris Sandow intercepted a pass in our 20 and raced towards the try line. He was held just short by a desperate tackle from Jamie Shaul, but Matty Russell was on hand to scoot over from dummy half for a simple try.
The flying Scotsman should have opened the scoring moments earlier to be honest, when he failed to collect a Ryan Atkins offload in the corner.
It would one of a few chances that went begging that would have swung the game in our favour. The ball slipping out of the grasp of Currie, Gidley’s missed goals… tiny margins that cost us dearly.
We extended the lead 13 minutes after the break when a series of offloads gave Daz Clark the space to break downfield, draw the full back and put Currie away in the corner for one of the most aesthetically pleasing tries to grace the occasion.
Gidley’s missed conversion, along with the penalty goal he poked wide of the post ten minutes earlier, would ultimately prove crucial.
Currie’s try would be the height of our joys. Shortly afterwards, Ben Westwood left the field with a pectoral injury and Gidley with a head injury. Neither would return and the damage done to our structures and game plan would prove terminal.
Hull, if you’ll pardon both the cliché and the awful pun, had the wind in their sails. Sneyd’s influence on the game began to grown and his 40/20 on the hour mark swung the pendulum of momentum in their favour.
From the resulting set of six, the former Salford and Cas halfback put up a pinpoint bomb to the corner that Mahe Fonua plucked out of the air to crash over and firmly get Hull back in the game.
Sneyd then played a big role in Hull’s winning try. A left foot bomb down the blind side saw Fonua leap higher than Ratchford – marginally again – to tap the ball back inside to the supporting Sneyd who tipped it on to Jamie Shaul to run in under the sticks with only eight minutes left on the clock.
Sneyd converted both kicks and confirmed his name on the Lance Todd trophy.
We had our chances to win it; we threw the ball around, but the best chance came when Currie was denied by Houghton. We were throwing it around again when the hooter went but we were too far out to really threaten the Hull line and the ‘wide to west’ moment was never going to happen.