CUP HOLD­ERS HULL DE­NIED

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FRONT PAGE - Dave Craven AT LANGTREE PARK Email: dave.craven@ypn.co.uk Twit­ter: @DCravenYPS­port

Hull FC’s two-year un­beaten run in The Chal­lenge Cup fi­nally came to an end yes­ter­day as form team St He­lens held off a late fight­back from the Air­lie Birds to book them­selves a semi-fi­nal tie against Cata­lans Dragons.

WHEN Jamie Shaul threw a for­ward pass with the very last play of a thrilling quar­ter-fi­nal, the Hull FC full-back knew his club’s hold on the Lad­brokes Chal­lenge Cup was fi­nally over.

Like so many of his col­leagues, he col­lapsed onto the pitch, not just due to the ut­ter dis­ap­point­ment re­al­is­ing they had lost an epic con­test but moreso prob­a­bly just sheer ex­haus­tion.

Trail­ing 25-22, Hull didn’t even have any right to even be in the con­test as they kept the ball alive in those last few sec­onds des­per­ately seek­ing the try that would deny Su­per League lead­ers St He­lens.

Con­sid­er­ing they had been shown three yel­low cards – they de­fended for nine min­utes with just 11 men to­wards the end of the first half – and los­ing two key play­ers to in­jury, they should have been ut­terly over-run by the most dom­i­nant side of 2018.

But Lee Rad­ford’s side, who have won at Wem­b­ley the last two years, love this com­pe­ti­tion and they sim­ply re­fused to yield un­til – as Shaul’s tired fi­nal pass demon­strated – they were just left with noth­ing else to give.

In the end, de­spite great ef­forts from the likes of Jamie Shaul, Scott Tay­lor and fit-again Al­bert Kelly, they were run­ning on empty, pay­ing the price for those ear­lier in­dis­cre­tions, their over-worked defence all the more taxed given the bak­ing con­di­tions.

Fur­ther­more, loose-for­ward Dean Hadley had limped off in­side the open­ing minute with an an­kle in­jury and cap­tain Danny Houghton departed in the 49th minute fol­low­ing a sick­en­ing head in­jury.

The East York­shire club – who had not lost a Chal­lenge Cup tie for three years – had al­ready re­cov­ered well from fall­ing 10-0 be­hind in­side the open­ing 13 min- utes. Half-back Kelly, back early from a ham­string in­jury, showed he was clearly fit with a lovely dum­my­ing and step­ping run from 15 out to beat Jon Wilkin and Ben Barba and score.

Jake Con­nor im­proved and did so again when prop Chris Green ig­nored the pres­ence of four Saints de­fend­ers to bun­dle his way over in the 22nd minute.

That left them 12-10 ahead but mat­ters turned dur­ing a chaotic 60 sec­onds.

Houghton was sin-binned for an al­leged crusher tackle on Danny Richard­son, al­though re­plays sug­gested it was only pres­sure from Con­nor com­ing in to com­plete the tackle that led to the dan­ger­ous fin­ish.

Straight from the penalty, there was an al­ter­ca­tion af­ter St He­lens’ Louie McCarthy-Scars­brook was tack­led by Brad Fash which led to Danny Wash­brook – for the sec­ond time this sea­son – be­ing yel­low-carded for knee­ing an op­po­nent as he re­turned to his feet.

It meant Hull were down to 11 men for nine min­utes and Saints, as you would ex­pect, made the ex­tra ad­van­tage pay.

Winger Re­gan Grace grabbed his sec­ond try of the af­ter­noon and Eng­land cen­tre Mark Per­ci­val also ex­ploited the ex­tra space to dou­ble his tally for Richard­son’s third con­ver­sion to make it 22-12 be­fore ei­ther FC player re­turned.

Richard­son added a drop-goal just be­fore the half-time hooter but the hold­ers – de­spite that mas­sive ex­tra ef­fort ex­erted in the first half – re­fused to yield and started well in the sec­ond pe­riod.

They were for­tu­nate when Zeb Taia blew a golden op­por­tu­nity, spilling over the line af­ter Shaul had just de­nied Jonny Lo­max and their kick­ing game con­tin­ued to strug­gle.

But Tay­lor got them back in the con­test with a typ­i­cal try, the Eng­land prop some­how twist­ing through and over McCarthyS­cars­brook, James Roby and Barba to get the ball down be­tween the sticks on 53 min­utes, Con­nor im­prov­ing.

Trail­ing just 23-18, it seemed like the vis­i­tors were well-poised to make a` push but they al- most in­stantly self-im­ploded. Young prop Masi Ma­tongo hit Lo­max late af­ter the ball and be­came the third FC player to be sin-binned.

He could have few com­plaints al­though Lo­max will have; the Eng­land player had to briefly go off in­jured.

Richard­son slot­ted the re­sult- ing penalty to give then a cru­cial seven-point ad­van­tage.

Al­though Hull did not con­cede a try while down to 12 men this time, their en­ergy lev­els were fur­ther de­pleted es­pe­cially as they were now down to just two fit in­ter­changes af­ter Houghton was deemed un­able to re­turn.

Still, they some­how kept com­ing back with winger Hakim Miloudi do­ing bril­liantly to claim Kelly’s cross­field kick to score in the 70th minute and, even though Con­nor missed the con­ver­sion at­tempt, set up that fran­tic fin­ish.

Hull tried all sorts but sim­ply ran out of en­ergy at the death, il­lus­trated by Shaul’s fi­nal ef­fort.

It was left to Rad­ford to be­moan his side’s kick­ing dis­play and con­ceded they badly missed half-back Marc Sneyd.

He said: “One of the ar­eas we got beaten in was the kick­ing and I thought our kick­ing game was hor­ri­ble.

“For all the Marc Sneyd knock­ers on ra­dio shows and phone ins– eat your words. Marc puts the ball where we need to put the ball. We didn’t kick the ball well at all to­day.”

PIC­TURE: PAUL CUR­RIE/SWPIX.COM

PIC­TURES: PA

CUP EXIT: St He­lens’ Zeb Taia is tack­led by Hull FC’s Danny Houghton, who was sent to the sin bin, inset, at St He­lens.

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