St Helens v Hull FC: Saints game a good measure of our progress - Carlos Tuimavave

FOR everyone at Hull FC, there is a growing confidence they can challenge the best, something which will certainly be put to the test tonight.

Big test: Hull FC's Carlos Tuimavave. Picture by Ed Sykes/SWpix.com

They head to champions St Helens looking to demonstrate just how much they have advanced under Brett Hodgson’s command, the Australian head coach who has made an instant and positive impression on the East Yorkshire club.

Reaching Saints’ high level of performance is something all sides aspire to in Super League; they have won the competition in each of the last two seasons and look more than capable of completing a trio of titles.

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That said, they did slip up for the first time this year when losing 20-16 in Perpignan on Saturday, a result which arguably only makes Hull’s task this evening all the more invidious.

It was only the second league game Kristian Woolf has lost since taking over as Saints head coach at the end of 2019 and a response is expected.

Nevertheless, given the way Hodgson’s side have defended this term – with such steel and authority – they will have rarely been in a better position to blunt the Saints’ star-studded attack.

Carlos Tuimavave, the stylish Kiwi centre who has been a beacon of consistency for Hull ever since joining in 2016, conceded: “Saints are always setting standards.

“They have been the best team for the last few years so it’s going to be a tough game.

Brilliant record: St Helens' head coach Kristian Woolf. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

“In the past, some teams have probably gone to St Helens and thought they have already lost.

“You can’t take anything away from them.

“But I think we’re going to go there and keep playing how we’ve been playing.

“Hodgo has got us all as a tight-knit group. It shows on the field.

Decent start: Hull FC coach Brett Hodgson. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

“We’re turning up for each other and have each other’s back. It’s a good sign.

“Friday will give us a good gauge to see where we’re at.”

Furthermore, Hull have risen to this sort of challenge before, beating current leaders Wigan Warriors in their Challenge Cup quarter-final earlier this month.

Ironically, they play St Helens again in next Saturday’s semi-final for a place at Wembley but Tuimamave – who won the Cup with Hull in 2016 and 2017 – maintains they are not thinking that far ahead.

“We had the same situation with Wigan – we played them in the league the week before the Cup,” he recalled.

“We’ll worry about this week first and then next week will come. We know Saints are the team to beat. They are tough to break down.

“We’ll have our hands full but I’m sure Hodgo will sort a good game plan for us and we’ll try expose them on Friday.”

Ever-present Tuimavave, 29, has been brilliant once more for Hull this year, forming arguably the best centre pairing in Super League with England hopeful Josh Griffin.

Their battles with England star Mark Percival and young Grand Final hero Jack Welsby should be fascinating while another in-form Hull player – five-try winger Adam Swift – will relish his return to his former club.

Hull got back to winning ways themselves when they won 18-12 at Leeds Rhinos on Sunday night.

In the outstanding team defensive display, Tuimavave recollected his remarkable try-saving tackle on Leeds winger Tom Briscoe, who was already over the line when the Hull player made his first contact to hold him up.

He said: “It happened quite fast. He just kind of rolled. I don’t know why he rolled but he rolled and then I was able to get on top of him and hold the ball up.

“I was quite lucky but stopping that try probably helped us win the game in the end.

“I was a bit 50-50 (when the decision went to the video referee). I knew I’d held him up for a little bit but I wasn’t quite sure how long he let play go on because he grounded it in the second attempt. The main thing we worked on in pre-season was our defence and it’s definitely showing out on the field at the moment.

“Everyone is turning up for each other; even when people are making bad reads or missing tackles, the next guy is there to clean up.”

As champions Saints could well find out tonight.

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