Hull FC kept their slim hopes of a place in Super League’s play-off places alive by holding off a late fightback from a Wakefield side returning from an extended layoff owing to a series of positive coronavirus tests to close the gap on the competition’s top four.
Wakefield, whose own chance of a play-off place is now all but over, were without 10 first-team players, a number of whom were still self-isolating after testing positive for Covid-19, which forced last week’s game against Leeds to be postponed.
Hull, who play again on Sunday against Castleford in the Challenge Cup, were also without a number of key names, but they were just about the better side in an error-strewn game which did little to enhance the credentials of either side as a realistic challenger this season.
Predicting how many wins it will take for Hull to qualify for the play-offs is harder than ever before, though. The Rugby Football League said on Wednesday that the table will be determined by win percentage as opposed to points this season, and while this win still moves Hull to 45%, it is still some way short of the 70% benchmark set by fourth-placed Wigan.
Hull held a narrow one-point lead at half-time after a try from Jordan Lane and a well-worked double for the wing, Adam Swift, put them 14-13 ahead. Wakefield, who fought well but were hampered by errors at crucial moments, replied with two tries from Max Jowitt.
A tentative, scoreless third quarter was ended when Andre Savelio forced his way over to put Hull two scores ahead, before victory looked assured when a Jake Connor kick bounced into the hands of Lane, who gave Connor a simple conversion to make it 26-13.
At that stage, Hull looked on course for a comfortable victory but two tries from the impressive Kelepi Tanginoa either side of Connor Wynne being sent to the sin-bin reduced the gap to only three points, setting up a tense finish. Wakefield could not cross again despite some late pressure, allowing Hull to hold on despite their numerical disadvantage.
Matty Ashton’s try two minutes from time strengthened Warrington’s position inside the play-off places, while also denting Castleford’s hopes of reaching the top four in the process. The Tigers, who were not behind all night until Ashton’s 78th-minute winner, led for the majority of the second half, after Derrell Olpherts put the Tigers 10-6 ahead courtesy of a superb finish.
The teams were level at 6-6 after a high-quality first half, and after several near-misses, Warrington finally made the Tigers pay for their own profligacy at the other end when Ben Currie’s break was finished by Ashton, who gave Stefan Ratchford the simplest of conversions to make it 12-10 to the Wolves.