Lee Smith’s late drop goal gave Wakefield Trinity Wildcats a thrilling 27-26 Super League victory at Hull FC on Monday night.
Wildcats showed plenty of grit and determination, along with some inspirational kicking from Tim Smith, at the KC Stadium to post a third win on the spin in a see-saw encounter that could have gone either way.
Wakefield held a deserved 16-10 lead at the break but the Black and Whites hit back with two tries, the second a controversial hat-trick try for on-song Ben Crooks, to lead just before the hour mark.
That was until Tim Smith provided a superb 40-20 which led to Lee Smith scoring and minutes later planted a brilliant kick to the touchline for Peter Fox to bring down and score his second of the match.
Richard Agar’s men looked to have thrown the win away when bad defending allowed a Jacob Miller kick to bounce around before Gareth Ellis picked the ball up and put Kirk Yeaman in to level.
But Lee Smith’s drop goal with just over a minute to go was enough for Wildcats to win it and haul themselves to within two points of the play-offs with a game in-hand on their rivals.
Wildcats made one change to the side that beat London Broncos last time out with hooker Paul Aiton returning from suspension to replace Matty Wildie.
Hull struck first after five minutes when Crooks crossed for his 17th try of the season on his 20th birthday. Justin Poore was penalised for holding down in the tackle and from the last tackle of the next set Daniel Holdsworth provided the killer pass for Crooks to get over the line. Holdsworth kicked the extras.
Wakefield soon settled and hit back after 12 minutes when Tim Smith took advantage of penalty in his side’s favour and provided a killer ball for Dean Collis to break the Hull line and give a brilliant off-load for Fox to score in the corner. Lee Smith levelled the scores with the kick.
The visitors had the momentum and another penalty against Hull from kick-off handed Wildcats good position in which former FC man Danny Washbrook came within inches of touching down a reverse Tim Smith grubber.
But Wakefield did not have to wait long to take the lead and again took advantage of poor discipline from their hosts. Paul Sykes traded a one-two with Lee Smith and powered over the line after 18 minutes for his second try in as many matches.
Wildcats looked good for their lead but a sloppy error allowed the Black and Whites to get back on level terms. FC had been kept away from the visiting line but Fox knocked-on from the first tackle and Hull took the advantage through Tom Lineham crossing in the corner.
Errors and sloppy play from both sides started to dominate midway through the first half but Wildcats got their noses back ahead two minutes before the break.
It was easy for Wakefield, with Paul Aiton picking out Oliver Wilkes with a pass five yards from the line and the forward went powering over. Lee Smith converted to put the visitors 16-10 up at the break.
The first try after the restart was going to be crucial and it was Hull that got it on the counter-attack. Tim Smith’s grubber kick towards the FC line was scooped up by Crooks and the birthday boy hit turbo to race away from the Wakefield line and run the length of the pitch to score a superb individual try. Danny Tickle took over kicking duties and levelled the scores.
Crooks was the man of the moment and he grabbed his hat-trick try in the 56th minute to swing the game in the hosts’ favour, albeit in controversial circumstances.
Former Wildcat Ellis powered forward to get Hull in good position but Wildcats appealed for a knock-on when the ball came loose. The hosts played on and Tickle put Crooks in for his treble, which was given the green light following a long examination by the video referee.
Wakefield would not lie down and allow the Airlie Birds an easy ride and a superb 40-20 kick by Tim Smith, followed by a penalty against Hull, gave the visitors a real chance near the home try line.
Ben Galea made a superb tackle to deny Justin Poore, who was earlier put on report for a dangerous tackle, but from the next play Lee Smith went over the line. The centre could not add the extras to leave Wildcats two points short of their hosts.
It gave Agar’s men a real boost and just minutes later Kyle Amor broke away and fed Paul Aiton, who was stopped short. But from the next set Tim Smith produced another brilliant kick out wide to the touchline and Fox brought it down superbly to score. Smith’s kick put the visitors four points ahead.
But for all Wildcats’ exciting attacking rugby, a piece of indecisive defending allowed Hull to level the scores.
Jacob Miller produced a superb high kick but Wildcats let the ball bounce around for Ellis to collect and pass for Yeaman to score in the corner. It left Tickle a difficult kick to fire the hosts ahead and he sent it wide.
With the minutes ticking down both sides attempted long-range drop-goals to win it. Sykes kicked his attempt dead for Wildcats but Shannon McDonnell spilled the ball from the restart and from the next set Lee Smith kicked the winner over the posts.
Hull FC: McDonnell, Lineham, Crooks, Yeaman, Briscoe, Holdsworth, Miller, Watts, Houghton, O’Meley, Ellis, Westerman, Galea. Subs: Lynch, Heremaia, Johnson, Tickle.
Wildcats: Mathers, Fox, Collis, L. Smith, Cockayne, Sykes, T. Smith, Poore, Aiton, Amor, Mariano, Kirmond, Washbrook. Subs: Raleigh, Lauitiiti, Wood, Wilkes.