WARRINGTON Wolves were made to work hard for their first win of the 2014 Super League season.
Having opened an 18-6 lead by the break thanks to tries from Stefan Ratchford, Trent Waterhouse and Ben Evans, Hull emerged from half time with a renewed vigour.
Danny Houghton’s try in the first half had given them hope, and some ferocious defence coupled with some attacking flare and a healthy dose of penalties gave the Airlie Birds and chance to steal at least one of the league points in the final minutes.
Wolves had the help of a fair few penalties themselves thanks to Hull’s delaying tactics, but despite some extended periods on the Hull line they failed to break the visitors down in the second half.
Thankfully, they had done enough in the first half to record a much-needed victory.
Despite a brief scare in the opening minute when Tom Lineham’s break up the wing threatened to give Hull a brilliant start, Wolves controlled the early stages. Once Hull’s attack had broken down with the concession of a penalty, Wolves leapt on to the front foot and made it count. Gareth O’Brien’s kick to the corner forced an excellent spell of pressure, which ended when Richie Myler’s grubber on the last bounced kindly into Stefan Ratchford’s grasp as he crossed the Hull line. Ratchford added the extras himself and Wolves led 6-0 after five minutes.
But that try seemed to spark Hull into life, as the visitors went on to camp out on Wolves’ line straight from the restart. Wolves carried the kick off into touch, resulting in a goal-line drop-out that allowed Hull some chances at the Warrington line. The Airlie Birds’ hooker Danny Houghton eventually made the breakthrough, burrowing over from dummy half and giving Ben Crooks a chance to make it 6-6 after 13 minutes.
A Ratchford knock on 40 metres from Wolves’ line then threatened to give Hull the advantage, but some stout defending kept the Black and Whites at bay.
Hull’s wrestling and delay tactics were attracting the ire of the home crowd as well as the attention of referee James Child. Wolves won five first half penalties, largely for holding down in the tackle and problems around the ruck. On 20 minutes, Wolves used one of these to their advantage when Trent Waterhouse took Micky Higham’s short pass and charged over in the left corner. Ratchford could not convert, but Wolves had recaptured the lead.
The home side were unfortunate not to extend their lead in the following 15 minutes, firstly from a superb kick return from Stefan Ratchford on the half hour. The run led to Hull being stripped of a man for the rest of the first half, as full back Jamie Shaul saw yellow after hauling his opposite number down and preventing him from playing the ball. The resultant attack was ended when Richie Myler’s pass evaded Gene Ormsby on the wing.
Wolves had another chance to extend their lead less than five minutes later, when Ben Currie and Joel Monaghan broke brilliantly up the right wing only for Currie to trip his teammate accidentally after he had released him up the flank. Hull scrambled to get back and Wolves’ fleeting chance broke down when Anthony England dropped Myler’s pass.
Warrington, though, were looking to make their man advantage count. They got closer and closer as the half wore on, with O’Brien’s sublime chip to the corner just bouncing unkindly for the chasing Joel Monaghan. From the resulting goal-line drop-out though, Wolves struck. O’Brien again provided a lovely kick, this time a teasing grubber into the path of Ben Evans, who beat the chasing defender to touch down. Ratchford added the conversion and a late penalty shot to give his side an 18-6 lead at the break.
As the second half began, so did the icy rain. Conditions were miserable as the two teams kept each other to stalemate in the opening 10 minutes of the half. That was not for lack of trying from either side, as Hull made a dangerous break after 48 minutes that almost resulted in Jamie Shaul crossing on the right. Having committed Ratchford, Shaul looked sure to score until Joel Monaghan’s superb covering tackle dragged him short of the line.
Wolves were starting to fall foul of Child’s whistle themselves and it was Chris Hill’s concession of a penalty for holding down that allowed Hull to reduce the deficit on the hour mark. Hull moved the ball down the line in a style Wolves themselves would have been proud of and Tom Lineham dived over Ormsby’s tackle to score. Crooks missed the kick, leaving Warrington with an 18-10 lead.
The following 10 minutes saw a defensive showcase from both sides, as first Hull and then Wolves demonstrated some outstanding line defence to keep the scores unchanged. Fetuli Talanoa’s knock on right next to his own line was followed by back-to-back penalties for more disruption tactics around the ruck. Try as they might, though, Wolves could not unlock Hull’s line.
It was a similar story at the other end, as some brilliant scrambling defence saw Michael Monaghan and a his teammates hold up a Hull defender as he crossed the line.
The game was descending into a penalty-fest, but unlike Wolves, Hull were able to make their count and set up a tense final few minutes. Back-to-back penalties sent them just short of the line and spotting an overlap in the corner, Aaron Heremaia’s cut-out pass sent Talanoa diving over in the corner. Crooks landed a towering touchline conversion to cut Wolves’ lead to two with three minutes remaining.
Luckily, that was the end of the scoring. Hull threatened to break free up the right edge, but Wolves defence held firm and the hosts ran out the clock to record an extremely hard-fought first win of the 2014 Super League season.
Wolves: Stefan Ratchford; Gene Ormsby, Ryan Atkins, Chris Bridge, Joel Monaghan; Gareth O’Brien, Richie Myler; Chris Hill, Micky Higham, Roy Asotasi, Trent Waterhouse, Ben Westwood, Ben Currie. Subs: Michael Monaghan, Anthony England, James Laithwaite, Ben Evans.
Hull FC: Jamie Shaul; Tom Lineham, Ben Crooks, Kirk Yeaman, Fetuli Talanoa; Jordan Rankin, Richard Horne; Mickey Paea, Danny Houghton, Josh Bowden, Gareth Ellis, Jay Pitts, Joe Westerman. Subs: Richard Whiting, Aaron Heremaia, Jordan Thompson, Feka Paleaaesina.