Super League: Wigan Warriors 28-18 Hull FC
|Wigan (14) 28|
|Tries: Tierney 2, Bateman, Powell, Gelling Goals: Smith 4|
|Hull FC (0) 18|
|Tries: Bowden, Watts, Michaels Goals: Sneyd 3|
Wigan Warriors edged a see-sawing Super League play-off semi-final against Challenge Cup winners Hull FC to book their Grand Final place.
The Warriors will meet Warrington at Old Trafford, their fourth visit in a row and a repeat of the 2013 showpiece.
Shaun Wane's side were cruising 14-0 up at half-time, but Hull scored three converted tries without reply to wipe out the lead and go 18-16 up.
Sam Powell and Anthony Gelling scored to see off the visitors' fightback.
Matty Smith's goal-kicking looked as though it might have let the home side down when counterpart Marc Sneyd tacked on the extras to tries from Josh Bowden, Liam Watts and Steve Michaels.
Michaels' try was on the back of lengthy video referee review, but Wigan overcame that disappointment as Powell and Gelling tries, converted by Smith, were a satisfactory buffer to ensure the Cherry and Whites would again take their place in the final.
Slow start costs Hull
Hull had lost three of the following four games since lifting the Challenge Cup and they were slow out of the blocks as Wigan stormed ahead.
Their comeback at Wembley came after Warrington had also led at the break, but despite a stirring revival, Wigan found another gear late on.
The absence of Gareth Ellis and Sika Manu left the Airlie Birds shorn of key personnel in the pack, and without their usual platform Sneyd was denied the space to play.
Forwards Watts, Mark Minichiello and Scott Taylor lifted the pace in the second half, but long spells of defence and the energy required to whittle down the deficit left them flat out when Wigan rallied late on.
'Greatest achievement' awaits Wigan
Injuries had also taken their toll at Wigan, with senior players such as Sam Tomkins and Sean O'Loughlin ruled out of the back end of the campaign.
Lewis Tierney's regular spot in the side has been down to the season-ending injury suffered by Dom Manfredi in August, and he repaid his coaches' faith with two smart tries on the left edge.
Senior professionals like Dan Sarginson, Liam Farrell and John Bateman - another try scorer in a dominant first-half display - stood up in their absence, notably when Hull began to find their foothold in the second half.
Sarginson got a bloodied nose for his trouble, but remained involved to delight coach Wane, who said pre-match that a Grand Final win amid such injury adversity would be a "great achievement".
Thanks to his side's mettle and resolve, they will get that chance next weekend.
Wigan head coach Shaun Wane told BBC Radio Manchester:
"Tough game, you'd expect that with Hull, they're a champion team, coached by champ. We were fortunate we got the win.
"First half was good, we defended really well and had patience with our attack, but to allow Hull back into the game was poor.
"I'm chuffed for all the young players, what they've done and come through the adversity, the fans who have stuck behind us, to get the win at home in the manner we did was great and exciting. Lewis is a junior full-back, playing on the wing and he's done really well.
"We've won one, we just need to make sure this fourth game is a must win, we've got players leaving the club and we need them to go out with a win."
Hull FC head coach Lee Radford told BBC Radio Humberside:
"It's been a really long season, team now hitting form have had a lot of blokes busted but we've been consistently fit, played a lot of footy and the players look drained, it's a real marathon.
"I'm actually pleased within myself in the way we finished, if we'd gone out the way we did in the first half you'd have been speaking to a very disappointed and frustrated coach.
"That's how we've played in these eights, the first period we had no real grit or desire to build pressure but we flick the switch at half-time and we really saw that response.
"99% of that group will be here next year and we'll be better for it."
Wigan: Sarginson; Charnley, Gelling, Gildart, Tierney; Williams, Smith, Crosby, Powell, Nuuausala, Bateman, Farrell, Isa.
Replacements: Tautai, Sutton, Shorrocks, Bretherton.
Hull: Shaul; Michaels, Fonua, Yeaman, Talanoa; Tuimavave, Sneyd; Taylor, Houghton, Watts, Pritchard, Minichiello, Washbrook.
Replacements: Green, Bowden, Thompson, Abdull.
Referee: Robert Hicks (RFL)