St Helens 26 Hull FC 12: Injuries and the Easter schedule take their toll on tired Airlie Birds

Scott Taylor scores for Hull
Scott Taylor scores for Hull
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A BEAUTIFUL, pink, setting sun over Langtree Park last night at least pointed towards the miserable weather perhaps finally disappearing.

However, as Hull FC found to their cost, there is little sign of St Helens’ reign at the top of Super League changing any time soon.

Even without Man of Steel favourite Ben Barba – the genius Australian full-back was ill – they were still too dominant and slick for the East Yorkshire club, racking up a ninth win from 10 games.

Winger Tommy Makinson showed his England credentials and French half-back Theo Fages flourished as they combined to end Hull’s three-match winning run.

The ‘third’ game of the Easter period is often the one that really catches players out and there was certainly some jaded signs from the Airlie Birds at times last night.

In their defence, they were not helped by an early injury to in-form winger Fetuli Talanoa who limped off after just 15 minutes with a calf injury and had already seen Tonga captain Sika Manu – due to return from a calf strain – fail a late fitness test beforehand.

Hull FC's Chris Green is tackled by St Helens's Dominique Peyroux & Morgan Knowles.

Hull FC's Chris Green is tackled by St Helens's Dominique Peyroux & Morgan Knowles.

Coach Lee Radford will look back at a positive holiday period, though, having picked up wins on Good Friday and Easter Monday; few clubs regularly win all three contests.

They head to Widnes Vikings next Thursday when they should be bolstered by the return of Manu, Bureta Faraimo – banned here – and Mark Minichiello although Jordan Abdull will have a nervous wait having been put on report for an alleged ‘crusher’ tackle on Danny Richardson in the 47th minute.

In fairness, the FC loose forward did not seem to apply any pressure on the Saints youngster who was already in a difficult position so he may escape any suspension.

However, Hull did not even get on the scoresheet until 10 minutes later and even then they needed a large dose of good fortune. Saints fans were furious after officials missed a blatant forward pass from Jack Logan in the build-up to Albert Kelly’s try.

Coach Lee Radford will look back at a positive holiday period, though, having picked up wins on Good Friday and Easter Monday; few clubs regularly win all three contests.

Dave Craven

Jake Connor had met Saints’ England star Jonny Lomax with a heavy tackle on halfway to see the ball initially come loose and then Connor did brilliantly to set Logan on his way down the right flank before his final assist.

Video referee Ben Thaler, of course, could not rule on the forward pass, though, so Marc Sneyd converted for 14-6 to give the visitors a lifeline in the closing stages.

They were given another when Saints prop Luke Thompson seemed to have muscled over from close range between the posts soon after but Thaler ruled the slightest of fumbles.

Still, the damage had been done long before and it was no surprise when Zeb Taia – a constant menace on the left edge –did make sure when brushing off Albert Kelly to score again in the 67th minute.

It compounded matters for Kelly who, moments earlier, had wasted a fine attacking chance by inexplicably throwing a soft pass at a backtracking Saints player.

Admittedly, Hull had competed hard throughout but it was lax moments like that, an inability to deal with Fages’ destructive kicks that largely proved their downfall.

Thompson did eventually get his try as well, proving too strong against a tiring defence although Radford’s side did hit back again to score the final try via prop Chris Green.

That was well-worked; Kelly finding Adbull with a fine, flat pass in front of the sticks and the young forward managing to squeeze out his own pass near the line but it was a rare moment of productive creativity.

Saints were playing without Barba for the first time this season but it did not disrupt their cohesion, Taia going in for the first of his two tries after just eight minutes.

He sneaked in to steal Fages’ high kick and, though Hull’s Josh Griffin had an effort rightly ruled out, the opening exchanges were dominated by the hosts.

FC prop Brad Fash had to depart after a stray boot in the head – which broke his jaw – trying to tackle Makinson before Lomax spilled a glorious chance near the line after a clever switch play by the ever-brilliant James Roby.

Teenage Hull second-row Jordan Lane angled in off a fine pass from Danny Houghton – the Hull captain making his 300th appearance – but spilled under pressure just as he seemed destined for the line.

That meant Saints led just 6-0 at the break but they extended their lead soon into the second period when Logan – in for Faraimo – cheaply spilled Fages’ latest kick and, from the scrum, Lomax sent Mark Percival crashing through some poor defence.

When Connor was penalised for a dangerous tackle on England centre Percival, Richardson added a penalty.

He finished with five goals and a 100 per cent record.

Even the sight of England hooker Roby departing with an arm injury in the 50th minute did not improve Hull’s chances; Matty Smith came on for a rare appearance and Saints didn’t miss a stride.

Fages set one up for Regan Grace with a killer long pass but the winger somehow spilled with no one near.

Kelly briefly gave Hull hope but they needed more attacking threat more consistently.

St Helens: Lomax; Makinson, Morgan, Percival, Grace; Fages, Richardson; Amor, Roby, Thompson, Peyroux, Taia, Wilkin. Substitutes: Smith, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Douglas, Knowles.

Hull FC: Shaul; Logan, Griffin, Tuimavave, Talanoa; Kelly, Sneyd; Taylor, Houghton, Paea, Washbrook, Lane, Fash. Substitutes: Bowden, Connor, Green, Abdull.

Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham)