Wigan keep dream alive
Hull FC beaten in elimination semi-final thriller
Last Updated: 30/09/07 12:20am
Barrett: cool head
Wigan Warriors' bid to become the first team to win the Grand Final after finishing sixth in the Super League remains alive after a 21-18 victory over Hull FC in Saturday evening's elimination semi-final at the KC Stadium.
Australian stand-off Trent Barrett provided the creative spark for Wigan to come from 14-10 behind at the break with two tries mid-way through the second-half for a fully deserved triumph.
The result secures Wigan a meeting with Leeds Rhinos at Headingley Carnegie on October 5 for the right to face St Helens in the Grand Final.
The crowd at the KC Stadium were treated to a superb match, during which the momentum swayed back-and-forth and ended with Hull camped on Wigan's line searching in vain for a match-winning try.
Hull had made a nervous start with an early unforced turnover, and it was not long before another mistake gifted Wigan the game's opening try in the second minute.
Barrett's high kick bounced off Richard Whiting's chest as he attempted to collect it, allowing the onrushing Pat Richards to collect and touch down. The video referee confirmed the score, ruling that none of four Wigan players standing in an off-side positions had interfered with the action.
Danny Tickle, playing against his former employers, got the Black-and-Whites on the board with a 15th-minute penalty after Barrett was penalised for a high shot.
The game began to open up with both sides adopting surprising tactics, Wigan by kicking early in the count to secure field position and Hull by offloading in the tackle at every opportunity.
The first moment of real promise for Hull was an end-to-end break from winger Matt Sing that was stopped just short of the line Mark Calderwood, who cynically held on in the tackle to earn himself 10 minutes in the sin-bin.
Richards slotted a penalty to extend Wigan's advantage to 8-2, and they had almost come through Calderwood's 10-minute absence unscathed when Thomas Leuluai's dithering proved costly.
The Wigan scrum-half was shepherding a kick into touch behind his own goal line, oblivious to the fast approaching Gareth Raynor, who sneaked up and got downward pressure on the ball.
Hull added a second try in the 32nd minute, also a result of comical Wigan defending, as Richard Horne was allowed to ground the ball despite the attentions of three defenders, who really should have been capable of holding him up.
Tickle's touchline conversion gave Hull a six-point lead, although Richards added his second penalty from in front of the posts to reduce that to 14-10 at the break.
It was Wigan who came out and forced the action after the break, gaining reward for their adventure with tries in the 50th and 53rd minutes to regain the lead.
Second-rower Gareth Hock skipped away from Danny Washbrook's weak tackle to cross for the first, while Liam Colbon followed him across the whitewash three minutes later.
Barrett's mis-pass created the space for Colbon to finish in the left corner and put Wigan back in front at 20-14 - Richards' scuffed conversion keeping Hull within one score.
Wigan's Shane Millard was lucky to stay on the field when he hit Matthew Head with a late elbow in the 58th minute, referee Steve Ganson missing the incident and opting to place the hooker on report.
The furious pace of the game began to take its toll on both sets of forwards as the match entered the final quarter.
The destiny of the game appeared to finally be settled in the 71st minute when Richards stood back in the pocket and drilled a drop goal to take Wigan two scores clear at 21-14.
And although Raynor swooped over in the left corner for his second try three minutes from time to set up a grandstand finale, it was Wigan who held firm to secure the result.