WATCH - Hull FC 12 St Helens 40: Lee Radford bemoans pivots' lack of "composure" as Hull FC outclassed by leaders

THERE was the rarity of the ‘shot clock’ being sounded in the 66th minute tonight.

St Helens' Morgan Knowles scores his team's opening try at Hull FC.
(PIC: Dave Howarth/PA Wire)
St Helens' Morgan Knowles scores his team's opening try at Hull FC. (PIC: Dave Howarth/PA Wire)

How Hull FC must have longed for it to be the final hooter instead; at that point, they were already 40-0 down against St Helens, the classy Super League leaders who ran amok yet again and moved 10 points clear at the top.

The ‘shot clock’ buzzer sounded when Justin Holbrook’s side were too slow to pack down at a scrum. It was one of the few times they were slow at anything.

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In fairness to Hull, it stirred them into action, Jamie Shaul scoring in the next set and then Ratu Naulago backing it up to help them save some face at least.

St Helens' Morgan Knowles scores his team's opening try at Hull FC. (PIC: Dave Howarth/PA Wire)

Still, there is no denying this was another chastening defeat especially on the back of a far narrow derby loss at Hull KR.

Moreover, given Lee Radford’s side sit third in Super League, the size of the loss shows just how far everyone - Warrington Wolves aside - are realistically currently behind Saints who did this even without a regular hooker at the helm.

That said, Hull had been competitive in the first half and unfortunate, in many ways, to be 18-0 down.

However, after Regan Grace quickly increased the deficit after the interval, there was no excuses as Saints then raced in three back-to-back tries inside just five minutes from Jack Ashworth, the excellent Jonny Lomax and peerless Lachlan Coote who finished with a personal haul of 20 points.

St Helens' Matty Lees is tackled by Hull FC's Mickey Paea (left) and Sika Manu during the Betfred Super League match at the KCOM Stadium, Hull. (Photo: Dave Howarth/PA Wire)

Amid it all, Jake Connor, Hull’s England centre, limped off with what looked like a groin strain.

It would be no surprise if he misses their next game when joint-bottom London Broncos arrive at the KCOM Stadium on Thursday.

There was positives; Albert Kelly looked dangerous whenever in possession on his return from the calf strain that kept him out of the derby and captain Danny Houghton was as tireless as ever.

But that first half cost his side. It seemed strange the Black and Whites were 18-0 behind. It did not seem that sort of game.

Hull FC's Bureta Faraimo is brought down by a swarm of St Helens defenders. (PHOTO: Dave Howarth/PA Wire)

Their opening couple of sets were impressive, playing with the purpose and directness needed to have a chance against Saints.

Even when they conceded back-to-back tries to go 12-0 behind inside eight minutes, there was no real thought that the visitors would run away with things as they did.

Morgan Knowles got in initially following one missed tackle from Kelly and then, for what felt like the first time in his Hull career, Naulago dropped a high kick gifting Theo Fages a try.

Coote, whose ability to launch towering left-footed kicks did cause Hull issues, converted both and Radford’s side had it all to do.

Still, Saints were far from infallible; Luke Thompson spilled after Houghton and Mark Minichiello smashed into him from a restart and fellow England prop Alex Walmsley did so with no one near him coming out of his own 40.

The problem was Hull failed to capitalise on either chance. Against Saints, you have to.

Connor coughed up after Kelly’s ill-judged decision to throw a ball wide on the last tackle saw him ambushed by England rival Mark Percival and then Minichiello made the first of his two dropped passes that eventually saw him replaced by Carlos Tuimavave before half-time.Next, Kelly made a stunning break but kicked ahead without even looking to see the support either side, and Saints recovered easily.

Joe Westerman made a fine angled run through to set up another promising position only for Marc Sneyd this time to try an offload that was never on.

There was no composure. No calm. Just rushed plays like there was 10 minutes to go rather than 60.

Instead, the leaders extended their lead, with another helping hand from Hull.

Tommy Makinson, the England winger who moments earlier had been riled by Naulago’s latest bone-rattling challenge, escaped down the right.

He was well covered so dabbed infield where Sneyd seemed to be in control.

However, as Kevin Naiqama tackled him, the Hull scrum-half spilled behind his own line and Coote mopped up, adding the extras.

Gareth Ellis, back after an eight-week absence, came on and instantly made an impact with his solid drives down the middle.

He helped them defend their line for a sustained period of pressure, too, only to then be forced off with a head knock.

Shaul managed to grubber through for Naulago to dive over only to be pulled back for an obstruction that left everyone baffled and Kelly incandescent.

At one point in the first half, Hull trailed five-one in the penalty count and players’ frustrations continued to simmer.

And their errors continued, too, Kelly sniping through only for Josh Bowden to lose under Saints’ enveloping pressure on the last play of the half. It summed up their night.

Hull FC: Shaul; Naulago, Connor, Griffin, Faraimo; Kelly, Sneyd; Taylor, Houghton, Paea, Manu, Minichiello, Westerman. Substitutes: Tuimavave, Fash, Ellis, Bowden.

St Helens: Coote; Makinson, Naiqama, Percival, Grace; Lomax, Fages; Walmsley, Bentley, Thompson, Peyroux, Knowles, McCarthy-Scarsbrook. Substitutes: Paulo, Amor, Lees, Ashworth.

Referee: Chris Kendall (Huddersfield)