As Hull City started wild celebrations, having won the Championship play-off final at Wembley to return to the Premier League – that triumph’s estimated worth is £200m – their tenants at the KC Stadium took satisfaction at having edged a tense game that saw them return to the top of Super League.
It was far from spectacular but offered yet more evidence that this might just be the year they hoist some silverware.
Having forged 12-0 ahead inside just 16 minutes with tries from Gareth Ellis and Mahe Fonua, Hull – freely offloading and surging – looked capable of repeating the sort of carnage inflicted when winning 47-18 at St Helens in the Challenge Cup earlier this month.
However, in the end, with their visitors finding some form from somewhere, it proved more like their 17-16 win at Langtree Park last month as Lee Radford’s side eventually battled their way to an 11th victory in a dozen games.
That they were 18-14 behind at the break, Jonny Lomax scoring one try, creating another for Adam Swift and Atelea Vea benefitting from a ludicrous missed forward pass, says plenty about Hull’s spirit.
In previous years often they would have shrunk, doubted themselves, found ways to lose. Here, though, the Airlie Birds just recalibrated and started again.
“This is another one we’ve come from behind in and we have managed to see out,” said Radford.
“I thought we got giddy when momentum was in our favour; we pushed too many passes and that’s not something we’ve generally been guilty of this year.
“We’ve tended to put points on teams and I’d like us to be a bit more clinical in that regard when we have the opportunities. But we almost got punished so to see them come back and close the game out like that was pleasing.”
Credit must go to Radford. At 37, he may still be young for a head coach but showed again he is able to make tough decisions.
Dropping Leon Pryce, for instance, cannot have been easy.
Hull’s coach played alongside the former Great Britain star and good friend for eight seasons in a trophy-laden Bradford Bulls side but, having seen Carlos Tuimavave inspire from the bench to help defeat Hull KR at Magic Weekend, Radford left the decorated veteran out of his 17.
It proved an inspired decision; Tuimavave, the Kiwi who has had an injury-blighted debut campaign in East Yorkshire after moving from the NRL, darted over in the 56th minute to reclaim Hull’s lead and soon after applied the kick that led to Scott Taylor’s try, a fifth in five games for the brilliant prop.
“I thought Carlos played very tidily for us today,” admitted Radford. “It was a big call and in an ideal scenario you’d like an extended bench.
“But that’s not the case and I just felt we were a little bit light in terms of middles against Hull KR – so I was always going to go with one or the other. Thankfully, the one we got paid off.”
It was third win of the season against Saints. This statistic alone shows the strides Hull are making. That said, they should have won given they prospered from a 13-2 penalty count awarded by referee Gareth Hewer, something that left opposition head coach Keiron Cunningham fuming.
“We were hard done to,” he said, having suffered a third loss in four games. It was a 10-2 penalty count at half-time and if you can tell me Hull were eight penalties cleaner than us then I’ll call you a liar.
“If one of my players wasn’t fit for purpose, they wouldn’t be playing, that’s for sure.”
Jack Ashworth’s 70th-minute try and Jack Owens’s fourth conversion got Saints back to within two points but Danny Washbrook, with his first try since rejoining Hull from Wakefield last autumn, made sure, Marc Sneyd enjoying a perfect six from six with his goal-kicking.
They host Widnes next. The last time they met, Hull lost 46-6 and Radford was “locked out” of the dressing room by his players.
So many people presumed FC were in crisis. They have lost just once since.
Hull FC: Shaul; Naughton, Fonua, Yeaman, Talanoa; Tuimavave, Sneyd; Taylor, Houghton, Watts, Minichiello, Manu, Ellis. Substitutes: Thompson, Hadley, Bowden, Washbrook.
St Helens: Lomax; Owens, Dawson, Turner, Swift, Fages, Walsh; McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Roby, Amor, Wilkin, Vea, Knowles. Substitutes: Walmsley, Tasi, Richards, Ashworth.
Referee: G Hewer (Whitehaven).