Another reality check leaves Hull FC seeking swift response to St Helens’ mauling

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Danny Houghton is a Man of Steel who has always played like the title of Super League’s best player suggests.

Tough, resilient, uncompromising, the workaholic hooker epitomises what many believe the award should truly represent.

So when even he is being run ragged, as was the case in Newcastle on Saturday, you know there are problems.

Hull FC could have gone top of Super League – admittedly only briefly – if they had produced a sixth successive win.

Instead, though, with a humiliating display against rampant St Helens, they more resembled a side rooted to the bottom of the table.

Lee Radford’s side have still only lost four games this year but when they do lose they tend to lose big, this eight-try mauling coming after a 52-24 home defeat to Leeds Rhinos and a 54-18 loss against Salford last month.

St Helens' Tommy Makinson beats the challenge of Hull FC's Danny Houghton. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA

St Helens' Tommy Makinson beats the challenge of Hull FC's Danny Houghton. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA

It is a surprise, especially given the leaders in Hull’s ranks and a reflective Houghton conceded: “We definitely need to look at that. It’s never nice to go down like that. We do have characters but these results are happening and they need addressing. We don’t want it to happen again.

“There is no crisis here but we need to correct it and get back to what we do best. We need to get back on the horse at Leigh on Friday. We are a tight group and stick together. I’m sure we’ll come through the other side.”

The 45-0 loss was one of the heaviest defeats suffered by any side in 11 years of Magic Weekend and, for embarrassed Hull, it was the first time in more than three years they were kept scoreless.

In fairness, everyone expected Saints to respond having conceded 93 points in their previous two games alone given their new coach Justin Holbrook had flown in from Australia to take charge.

It’s back to the drawing board and it’s a huge reality check. I don’t think we turned up with the right mindset

Hull FC’s Danny Houghton

The former Sydney Roosters assistant only arrived on Thursday and took just one training session but the difference in their play was remarkable.

Hull had nilled a side the week before after vanquishing Catalans Dragons 62-0 in the Challenge Cup but they were the ones left despondent here.

They only trailed 19-0 at the break and, having recovered from a 22-4 interval deficit to win at Widnes a fortnight earlier, you sensed it was not beyond the realms of possibility they could recover in Newcastle as well.

However, alarmingly, matters only got worse as their defence continued to splinter, failing to deal with the likes of Alex Walmsley, the thunderous prop who was unplayable at times.

St Helens' Tommy Makinson celebrates his try with Adam Swift. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA.

St Helens' Tommy Makinson celebrates his try with Adam Swift. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA.

“Saints just turned up with a better attitude than us,” said Houghton.

“We had a lot to play for but for whatever reason we didn’t turn up. We’ve come back from those positions before after the break and we spoke about some things we needed to change at half-time but we didn’t get the response. That’s a big disappointment.

“It’s back to the drawing board and it’s a huge reality check. I don’t think we turned up with the right mindset and focus against a wounded Saints team.”

Hull had to start with second-row Jansin Turgut as a makeshift centre without Jake Connor, Mahe Fonua and Fetuli Talanoa but there were no excuses for this.

They actually started well but were completely undone by three tries via Walmsley, Ryan Morgan and Morgan Knowles inside just six minutes around the quarter mark to trail 18-0.

When Hull’s chances came they did not capitalise and, instead, the ever-reliable Saints scrum-half Matty Smith slotted a drop goal just before the break.

GOING NOWHERE: Hull FC's Albert Kelly is tackled by St Helens' Theo Fages at St James' Park. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA

GOING NOWHERE: Hull FC's Albert Kelly is tackled by St Helens' Theo Fages at St James' Park. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA

Walmsley barged over for his second in the 46th minute and more scores came from Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Tommy Makinson – with a fine 100m solo effort – and two from Regan Grace as Hull wilted further.

Hull FC: Shaul; Griffin, Tuimavave, Turgut, Michaels; Kelly, Sneyd; Taylor, Houghton, Watts, Manu, Minichiello, Green. Substitutes: Bowden, Fash, Thompson, Washbrook.

St Helens: Makinson; Swift, Percival, Morgan, Grace; Fages, Smith; Walmsley, Roby, Amor, Taia, Wilkin, Knowles. Substitutes: Douglas, Thompson, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Lee.

Referee: Robert Hicks (RFL).