Hull coach Brett Hodgson has no problem with Theo Fages after controversial try
Hull coach Brett Hodgson absolved Theo Fages of any wrongdoing after he took advantage of a cruel injury to Josh Griffin to score a try in St Helens’ 33-18 Betfred Challenge Cup semi-final victory.
Saints had to withstand a tremendous late comeback from Hull before securing a trip to Wembley, but the game at Leigh Sports Village will be remembered for a horrific-looking injury to Griffin that gifted Fages a crucial 26th-minute score.
Saints were leading 8-2 when former Salford centre Griffin, running the ball out of defence, suddenly collapsed to the ground as his Achilles tendon gave way and, clearly in agony, let go of the ball.
Instinctively, Fages picked it up and cantered the 15 metres to the line and referee Liam Moore had no alternative but to award the try after initially conferring with video official James Child.
Fages was branded a “cheat” by the Hull fans at Leigh Sports Village. but Hodgson says he had no problem with the Frenchman playing to the whistle.
“It’s part of the game,” he said. “It was an error. I don’t think it was disrespectful to Josh’s injury. Theo Fages saw the ball on the ground and did what he had to do.”
Asked if he was disappointed that his players failed to play to the whistle, Hodgson said: “I think everyone was more concerned with Josh, I can’t be too angry at the players for that.”
St Helens coach Kristian Woolf said of the incident: “It’s play on. If that happened to one of us, we’d expect them to do that to us.”
It was also a costly injury for Griffin from a personal viewpoint.
Hull had a ready-made replacement on the bench in Cameron Scott, who went on to score during his side’s late rally, but the injury looks to be season-ending for Griffin, who was in contention for England’s mid-season international.
“He’s not good,” Hodgson said. “It looks like he’s ruptured his Achilles. He’s obviously hurting bad at the minute.”
Woolf said: “It’s really unfortunate for Josh Griffin, it’s a terrible injury. It takes a long time to come back from, it’s really bad luck for him.”
Fages’ try helped Saints open up a 14-2 lead and teenager Jack Welsby scored nine minutes into the second half before Hull mounted a stirring fightback.
Tries from Mahe Fonua, Danny Houghton and Scott enabled the Black and Whites to cut the deficit to just three points and they were pressing strongly for victory when St Helens winger Regan Grace intercepted Jake Connor’s pass to score his second try of the match.
Lachlan Coote also scored just before the end to give the back-to-back Super League champions a flattering margin of victory.
“It’s obviously very hard to take at the moment,” Hodgson said. “We were effectively one play off scoring at the back end of the game.
“Jake hits that pass 99 times out of 100 and the one time he doesn’t, it ends up in the hands of Regan Grace. It’s fine margins.
“There are a few boys shedding some tears in there. There was a lot of effort and the way it went at the back end was not indicative of the performance.
“The injury to Josh affected our rotation but that’s part of rugby league unfortunately. You’ve got to adapt. We tried our best and fell just short on the day.
“We’re disappointed but we need to make sure we process it and move on.”
St Helens will now be favourites to lift the trophy for the first time since 2008 and Woolf says there is more improvement to come from them.
“It was a very tough second half,” he said. “To Hull’s credit, they kept on coming.
“We made it difficult for ourselves at times but we did what good teams do, we found a way to win.”