Hull FC slay blunted Dragons
Hull FC kept their Grand Final dream alive by eliminating Catalan Dragons from the Super League play-offs with a hard-fought 14-4 win at the KC Stadium.
The Black and Whites toughed it out to hang onto a precarious lead as a moment of individual brilliance from Jamie Shaul separated the two sides for much of an attritional contest held in wretched conditions.
And after fending off everything the Dragons could muster, Gareth Ellis added a second try to Shaul's 80-metre solo effort to give the home side some breathing space late on.
Hull now advance to the second round, where they will face a team which finished the regular season in the top four, while the Dragons' campaign, and the career of their veteran forward Steve Menzies, ended in a disappointing defeat.
In persistent rain the Dragons sorely missed the kicking game of scrum-half Scott Dureau, who was missed the end of the season with a quad muscle injury.
The only try of an error-strewn first half came two minutes before the interval when rising star Shaul collected Leon Pryce's towering kick in his own 20-metre area and blasted past the defence for an eye-catching score.
Danny Tickle added the conversion - to make up for an earlier long-range penalty miss - as Hull led 6-2 despite being on the back foot for most of the first 40 minutes.
The Dragons had initially adapted better to the greasy conditions and forced three early goal-line drop-outs to lay siege to the Hull line.
The home side's defence held firm, and the visitors' only first-half points came from the boot of Thomas Bosc, deputising for Dureau from the tee.
The Dragons continued to apply the pressure after the break and cut the deficit to just two points on 56 minutes when Bosc opted to kick for goal when Hull were penalised for offside in front of their own posts.
It seemed a conservative decision to go for two and the points were cancelled out a minute later when Dragons replacement hooker Eloi Pelissier was pulled up for foul play and Tickle kicked a second two-pointer.
It appeared that Tickle's team-mate Danny Houghton was in front of him when he kicked the goal but that became irrelevant when scrum-half Jacob Miller sent skipper Gareth Ellis over for the clinching try on 67 minutes.
Tickle's third goal made it 14-4 and that is how it stayed after video referee Ian Smith ruled Menzies had lost control of the ball as he drove for the line two minutes from the end, cruelly denying him a farewell try.