RADFORD PRE­PARES FI­NAL HE­ROES FOR NEW CHAL­LENGE

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FRONT PAGE - RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER ■ Email: dave.craven@ypn.co.uk ■ Twit­ter: @DCravenYPS­port Dave Craven

ELATED head coach Lee Radford knows Hull FC have a new and “dif­fi­cult” chal­lenge still await­ing de­spite se­cur­ing back-to-back Wem­b­ley vic­to­ries.

The East York­shire club re­tained the Lad­brokes Chal­lenge Cup with a thrilling 18-14 win over Wi­gan War­riors on Satur­day.

They had waited 87 years to pros­per at the na­tional sta­dium but, re­mark­ably, have now done so twice in­side 12 months.

It was just the fifth Chal­lenge Cup win in their en­tire his­tory but the ap­petite of Radford – al­ready ce­mented as a club leg­end – is far from sated.

He is des­per­ate to see his side lift a maiden Su­per League ti­tle, too, a chance they squan­dered last year when, de­spite be­ing top of Su­per League at this point, they fell away badly in the af­ter­math of their Wem­b­ley cel­e­bra­tions.

Cur­rently, Hull are third but they head to sec­ond-placed Leeds Rhi­nos on Thurs­day in a cru­cial Su­per 8s con­test.

They are three points adrift of their York­shire ri­vals with four games still to play so need a win to keep alive hopes of sec­ond place and a home semi-fi­nal.

FC will leave the KCOM Sta­dium on an open-top bus at 1.30pm this af­ter­noon to weave their way to­wards another civic re­cep­tion at Hull City Hall.

Last year, cel­e­bra­tions lasted well into Tues­day but Radford con­ceded that can­not hap­pen again with the prox­im­ity of the Leeds game.

“Af­ter that (Mon­day) we will be fo­cus­ing on Leeds,” he said.

“It is not a big­ger chal­lenge than the fi­nal, but it’s a dif­fer­ent one.

“Thurs­day is dif­fi­cult. I’m un­der no il­lu­sions. There’s the psy­cho­log­i­cal emo­tions to deal with, too.

“We’ve had to play for 80 min­utes against this Wi­gan side – we knew we’d have to – and there’s the phys­i­cal chal­lenge as well for Thurs­day.

“I know what Thurs­day is go­ing to be, but this time around we will be bet­ter.

“We will be bet­ter pre­pared. We haven’t been great all year, but we’ve been great when we needed to be.

“If we can get in the top four – whether we are at home or away – we will be great.”

Radford has plenty of op­tions to freshen his squad with the likes of Steve Michaels, Jor­dan Thomp­son and Brad Fash all be­ing left out at Wem­b­ley.

How­ever, he main­tains he will name his strong­est side and his Chal­lenge Cup he­roes will “backup” in a bid to gain two cru­cial points.

Mean­while, he con­ceded be­ing “ner­vous” through­out Satur­day’s game, not least the dra­matic fi­nal stages.

He ad­mit­ted they “dodged a bul­let” when Wi­gan’s Tony Clubb had an ef­fort con­tro­ver­sially ruled out by video ref­eree James Child as he thought it was a try.

Dom­i­nant Hull had im­pres­sively built an 18-10 lead in the third quar­ter but Joe Burgess got Wi­gan back in touch­ing dis­tance with his 73rd-minute ef­fort.

The Eng­land winger then sprinted in with just 50 sec­onds to go but, to the re­lief of around 30,000 Hull fans in the sta­dium, ref­eree Phil Ben­tham called it back for a for­ward pass.

Radford said: “I said I wanted an en­ter­tain­ing game – but not that en­ter­tain­ing!

“I wanted it in the bag a lit­tle bit ear­lier, but there were some phe­nom­e­nal ef­forts.

“We went into our shell a bit with 10 min­utes to go, were a bit reclu­sive, and played into their hands a bit.

“Wi­gan don’t go away and I never felt com­fort­able, but the scram­bling de­fence was a great ad­ver­tise­ment for the team.

“We had to scram­ble re­ally hard to­gether and that was the key.”

Radford paid trib­ute to Marc Sneyd, who won the Lance Todd Tro­phy – as man of the match – for a sec­ond suc­ces­sive year.

He said: “I am glad he is on our side. Look at the im­pact he has had on our club since he walked through the door. He’s had to face a lot of crit­i­cism, but if he is not win­ning peo­ple over now I don’t think he ever will.”

Wi­gan coach Shaun Wane said: “We had a chance at the end.

“Whether we de­served it or not I’m not sure.

“The way we started the sec­ond half – we had a 58 per cent com­ple­tion rate in a Chal­lenge Cup fi­nal and that’s not go­ing to win it. We weren’t good enough.”

I said I wanted an en­ter­tain­ing game – buit not that en­ter­tain­ing!

Vic­to­ri­ous Hull FC coach Lee Radford on his side’s Chal­lenge Cup fi­nal win.

BE­FORE­HAND, Lee Radford had high­lighted the dan­ger Wi­gan War­riors’ Ge­orge Wil­liams, more than any­one, would pose his Hull FC side in this Chal­lenge Cup fi­nal given the Eng­land stand-off ’s stel­lar short-kick­ing game.

By the end of an epic fi­nale, though, it was only the kick­ing prow­ess of his own half-back Marc Sneyd that peo­ple wanted to eu­lo­gise about.

The Air­lie Birds No 7 pro­duced one of the most com­plete dis­plays of that art form ever wit­nessed in the Wem­b­ley show­piece to see Hull re­tain the Cup but also be­come the first player to win out­right the Lance Todd Tro­phy in suc­ces­sive years.

Sneyd sim­ply ter­rorised baf­fled Wi­gan with the ac­cu­racy of his left boot, a mix­ture of telling kicks in­clud­ing one cru­cial 40/20 in the sec­ond half that en­abled his side to build up an 18-10 lead their re­lent­less de­fence would then just – the em­pha­sis on just – man­age to pro­tect dur­ing a thrilling con­clu­sion.

Watch­ing on from the stands was Andy Far­rell, the for­mer Wi­gan and Great Bri­tain cap­tain, who knows a thing or two about kick­ing him­self, with his son Owen, the Eng­land and Bri­tish Lions fly-half, whose own reper­toire is not too shabby ei­ther.

As much as it will have pained them see­ing their home­town club be­ing dis­sected by Sneyd’s pin­point pre­ci­sion, they will have ad­mired his tal­ent as well, as must on­look­ing Garry Schofield, the ex-Hull cen­tre who played in the clas­sic 1985 fi­nal be­tween th­ese sides and has, at times, been one of the 26-year-old’s big­gest crit­ics.

Un­doubt­edly, Sneyd has drawn crit­i­cism be­fore, of­ten unfair and un­war­ranted, but such is his cool de­meanour he has al­ways re­mained un­per­turbed.

In­deed, in the post-match press con­fer­ence, when asked if it did af­fect him, Sneyd did not have time to an­swer be­fore Gareth El­lis, the Hull cap­tain play­ing his last Chal­lenge Cup fi­nal be­fore re­tir­ing, in­ter­jected: “No, he’s more both­ered about check­ing the Man United score!”

Radford con­firmed that as­cer­tain­ing the re­sult against Le­ices­ter at Old Traf­ford, in fact, was the first thing Sneyd asked him when back in the ec­static Wem­b­ley dress­ing room.

A diehard Red Devils fan, it is per­haps no sur­prise the Old­ham­born player is so good with his feet, twice loft­ing kicks that led to tries, for Fe­tuli Talanoa and then, af­ter a fine chase and palm down by Al­bert Kelly, the first of Mahe Fonua’s brace.

Peo­ple for­get that it was only three years ago that Sneyd was ‘hooked’ just 25 min­utes into his first Wem­b­ley ap­pear­ance with Castle­ford Tigers as they lost to Leeds Rhi­nos. He does not stay down for long. “In my eyes it helped me out a lot that loss, that dis­ap­point is­ap­point­ment, as the next time I came I was pre­pared for it a lot more,” ex­plained Sneyd, whose kick­ing qual­ity wass cru­cial in that win over r War­ring­ton Wolves 12 2 months ago, Hull’s long awaited first-ever victo ry at Wem­b­ley.

“I knew how to take e it in more. I never want t ed to feel that again s it prob­a­bly made me gog a lot bet­ter. As for criti icism, I en­joy go­ing hom me af­ter a game, sit­ting ono Twit­ter look­ing at a few w peo­ple giv­ing me stick.

“You give them a li it­tle ‘favourite’ and ca an just imag­ine what they’ re like sat at home snap­pin ng while you’re laughin ng your head off. The (Lan nce Todd) tro­phy can go ba ck in my win­dow now. It gotg picked up last week butb I won’t have to re­placee it any­more. It can go straight back up. Any­one who comes in, it’s one of the first things they’ll see. Win­ning the Cup was the main thing, though. This is just a bonus.”

Aus­tralian Kelly had his own Wem­b­ley night­mares to ban­ish hav­ing been in the Hull KR side hu­mil­i­ated 50-0 by Leeds in 2015.

The stand-off came up with some classy mo­ments of his own while jug­ger­naut prop Liam Watts was colos­sal, pro­duc­ing a se­ries of hard-hit­ting car­ries to drain the Wi­gan de­fence. Jamie Shaul was ex­cel­lent, de­liv­er­ing a vi­tal try-sav­ing tackle on Joe Burgess as Shaun Wane’s side threat­ened a come­back.

It was hard to get away from Sneyd, though, whose fault­less goal­kick­ing – three from three com­pared to Wil­liams’s soli­tary con­ver­sion – was the dif­fer­ence on the score­board.

“I’m sure he had that foot­ball on a string,” ad­mit­ted Kelly.

“He lays it in the right place from the word go. He was out­stand­ing. His 40/20 helped change the game.

“Your best play­ers should be crit­i­cised each game. It does fall on him all the time be­cause he’s the colonel. But he’s a dou­ble dou­ble win­ner now!”

Fonua was asked how Sneyd ranked com­pared to other sev­ens he had played with. Af­ter a brief pause, the for­mer Mel­bourne Storm star an­swered: “He is a re­ally good player. But the only other seven I’ve re­ally played along­side is Cooper Cronk so….!”

Clearly, Sneyd can­not be com­pared to the Kan­ga­roos leg­end but his im­por­tance to this dou­ble-chas­ing Hull side is un­ques­tioned. The £100,000 they paid Sal­ford Red Devils at the end of 2014, which many raised an eye­brow at, now seems a snip.

This was the per­fect way to re­spond af­ter Hull’s for­get­table 16-0 loss to Wi­gan in the 2013 fi- nal although the War­riors – who trailed 12-10 at the break af­ter John Bate­man and Oliver Gil­dart tries – know they could have at least sent it into ex­tra-time at the death.

Burgess scored in the 73rd minute then raced in with just 50 sec­onds left only to dra­mat­i­cally be de­nied due to a for­ward pass.

Ear­lier, Tony Clubb had an ef­fort strangely ruled out, too, although Fonua had a hat-trick try chalked off per­haps harshly.

Re­gard­less, this was Hull’s day. And Sneyd’s yet again.

The (Lance Todd) tro­phy can go back in my win­dow now. Marc Sneyd, Hull FC half-back, af­ter re­tain­ing man of the match tro­phy.

PIC­TURE: PAUL HARDING/PA

JU­BI­LA­TION: Hull FC cap­tain Gareth El­lis, left, leaps into the air with de­light at the sound of the fi­nal hooter, and to his left, team-mates cel­e­brate vic­tory as Wi­gan’s play­ers sink to their knees. In the back­ground, the Hull fans rise to their feet.

PIC­TURES: PA

WEM­B­LEY MO­MENTS: Left to right, Wi­gan War­riors’ Joe Burgess scores his side’s third try, Hull FC’s Mahe Fonua cel­e­brates vic­tory, and Hull’s Fe­tuli Talanoa claims his team’s fi­first try.

PIC­TURES: AL­LAN MCKEN­ZIE & RICHARD BLAXALL/SWPIX.COM

CU UP KINGS: Hull FC cap­tain Gareth El­lis holds the Lad­brokes Chal­lenge Cup tro­phy aloft af­ter his si ide de­feat Wi­gan at Wem­b­ley. Inset, El­lis – who will re­tire at the end of the sea­son – with the Cup, an nd, right, Lance Todd Tro­phy win­ner Marc Sneyd takes a selfie in front of the Hull sup­port­ers.

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