In a repeat of the Challenge Cup Final, Hull FC were the hosts as a Wigan Warriors side intent on revenge, visited the The KCOM Stadium.
Wiganís coach Wane initially stuck with the same seventeen who were defeated by 18-14 at Wembley a fortnight ago but the very late withdrawal of Joe Burgess saw Liam Marshall come into the starting line up. FCís coach Radford made a number of forced changes for the Airlie Birds with Thompson for Tuimavave, Bowden for Ellis and three changed faces on the bench including Fash, Green and Masimbaashe Matongo making only his fifth appearance since his debut against Wigan two years ago.
A win for Hull would put them within a point of securing a play-off place and keep alive their outside hopes of second (depending on the Rhinos outcome at Castleford). A win for Wigan would lift them into the third play-off place above last nights narrow losers Wakefield Trinity and push tonights hosts into fourth.
Marc Sneyd made the most of a Frank-Paul Nuuausala holding down offence when he opened the scoring with a forty-five metre penalty kick to open Hullís account on four minutes.
The first try of the game went Wiganís way on seven when Oliver Gildart took a delightful Liam Farrell offload to run through a gap to score. George Williams added the conversion from wide for a 6-2 lead.
On eleven Mahe Fonua pushed his way past the Wigan defence to ground one-handed in the right corner after taking a Jake Connor pass. Sneyd missed the conversion from the right touchline to leave the sides tied up.
Tempers had been bubbling to the surface throughout the opening twenty and erupted on eighteen with all twenty-six players involved in a various brawls. The result was a penalty for Wigan which Williams kicked from twenty-metres out to edge the Warriors ahead.
On twenty-one Liam Watts was sent off for the use of the elbow while carrying the ball into a Michael McIlorum tackle. McIlorum caught the elbow square in the face and was helped from the pitch after appearing to momentarily lose consciousness.
Interference at the play the ball by Brad Fash on Liam Farrell gifted Williams with another penalty opportunity on thirty-six but he pushed the ball wide of the uprights and Wigan went into the interval with a two point lead.
With the second half just two minutes old Anthony Gelling intercepted a loose Mark Sneyd pass and went sixty metres to go under the sticks for Wigans second try of the night. Williams kicked the conversion for a bit of daylight between the two sides.
On forty-eight Tom Davies grabbed Wigans third when he took a Gelling outside pass, with a suspicion of forwards, to go outside the Hull winger and dive over from ten metres out. Williams slotted the ball between the uprights for 20-6 and Wigan could start to taste revenge.
Sika Manu got his first try of the season on the hour mark pushing through two Wigan defenders to ground the ball on the line for a four-pointer. Sneyd added the extra two for 12-20 with plenty of time for Hull to get themselves back into the game.
On sixty-four Sneyd won a foot race to ground an Albert Kelly grubber under the Wigan sticks and when he added the conversion the twelve men of Hull were back within two points at 18-20.
As the half wore on Wigan looked exhausted but Hull looked keener and sharper.
On seventy Sam Tomkins made an awful mistake in failing to take a high kick under pressure with Connor picking up the ball and passing to Fonua who juggled the ball behind his back before grounding for his second of the night. Sneyd pushed the conversion wide but Hull were back in the lead at 22-20.
Wigan threw everything at Hull and with three minutes left on the clock Anthony Gelling found his way over off a San Tomkins pass to round towards the sticks and improve the angle but Williams failed to add the extras leaving the Warriors two points up.
In the last minute John Bateman went from dummy half to step past four exhausted Hull defenders and cross by the uprights to seal the Wigan win against the tweve men of Hull. Williams kicked the conversion to seal a 30-22 revenge win for the Warriors.
This win sees Wigan leapfrog FC into third place in Superleague and blow the race for the remaining two play-off places wide open. It was a blood and thunder game with plenty of bad tempered exchanges. When the sides decided to play rugby there was some scintilating skill on show and right up to the killer Bateman try in the last minute it was anyones guess as to who would take the two points.
The Wigan win confirms that the Leeds Rhinos will finish in second place and have a home semi-final in the play-offs, despite them losing at Castleford tonight. Next Thursdays game between Hull FC and Wakefield looks like it could be a play-off for a top four position.