There have already been plenty of glimpses of promise for Hull FC fans this season as their new era under the stewardship of Brett Hodgson gets under way, but this was arguably their most encouraging afternoon yet.
This was not an occasion where we were ever likely to see two teams that relish attacking at their best. Miserable conditions in West Yorkshire scratched out any opportunity of a fast, free-flowing game meaning defence, and the team who made the least errors, were always likely to be the ones who booked their place in the Challenge Cup semi-finals.
On that note, it is hard to imagine how Hull FC would have won a game like this, against an opponent as good as Wigan, last year. Hodgson’s impact since his arrival as coach has already been evident, but this was emphatic in terms of the defensive intent and spirit he has instilled into his side in a few months.
Yes, Hull capitalised on crucial errors from an out-of-sorts Wigan at the opportune moments. But the game was won at the other end, as Hull’s defence, coupled with two tries from the outstanding Tevita Satae, laid the platform and moved them to within one win of a third final in six seasons with St Helens next in line on 5 June.
“I’m very proud,” Hodgson said. “They stuck to the plan, because against Wigan, you don’t win unless you play for 80 minutes. Our defensive intent was great, we kept turning up for each other, I’m so proud of them.”
However, Hull were fortunate they caught their opponents on an off day. Wigan have impressed in the opening weeks of the Super League season, a point reinforced by their win against the Black and Whites last week. That game led to Tony Clubb’s eight-match suspension for his racial abuse of Andre Savelio.
Adrian Lam, Wigan’s coach, said: “We weren’t Wigan today. We put ourselves under too much pressure. It’s not who we are, and we need to take a good look at ourselves.”
They certainly started well enough, with fast hands leading to the right-winger Jake Bibby crossing in the corner.
But as the game wore on, Hull established control. Satae, and a Marc Sneyd goal, moved them ahead, before Sneyd added a penalty on the stroke of half-time to make it 8-4.
Not even Jack Brown being sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle could buckle Hull’s defensive resilience, with Wigan spurning numerous opportunities to at least level the scores.
That would prove decisive. Another penalty from Sneyd make it 10-4, before Satae barged over for his second.
Wigan finally made some pressure tell in the dying minutes when Dom Manfredi crossed, but any hopes of extra-time were snuffed out when another Wigan error proved decisive, as Adam Swift’s try put the tie beyond doubt.
The other semi-final will be between Warrington and Castleford, who beat Salford 19-18 thanks to a Gareth O’Brien drop goal after two minutes of golden point extra time.