RADFORD PREPARES FINAL HEROES FOR NEW CHALLENGE
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.
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.
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.
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...