|St Helens (4) 20|
|Tries: Davies, Bennison 2, Welsby Goals: Lussick 2|
|Hull FC (0) 12|
|Tries: Taylor, Clifford Goals: Clifford 2|
Champions St Helens ended a two-game Super League losing run with a hard-earned victory over a dogged Hull FC in a ferociously physical encounter.
Ben Davies opened the scoring before half-time for Saints after a bruising first half, but Scott Taylor powered over in reply for Hull after the break.
Jon Bennison and Jack Welsby then went over for Saints, before Jake Clifford punished a spill to score for Hull.
Bennison finished bravely in the corner to leave Hull rueing missed chances.
Both sides came into the game on the back of difficult patches; Saints having endured a post-World Club Challenge hangover with their losses to Leeds and Leigh, and Hull having been thrashed at home by Salford last time out after a heavy loss at Catalans.
Hull were far improved from the side that shipped 60 points to the Red Devils, with real tenacity in defence in particular set by their forward pack – notably Brad Fash, whose tackling and line-speed led the way throughout.
They also showed much more in attack, with Clifford’s prompting with hand and boot unlocking Saints, while Taylor’s score owed much to spirit and determination.
Had Cam Scott not seen an intercept tumble from his grasp, and Brad Dwyer not fumbled a kick through, it might have been Tony Smith’s side who were back to winning ways.
Instead it was Saints had enough to come out with the points, drawing on the experience of their four straight Super League Grand Final wins and the experience of leaders such as hooker James Roby, playmaker Jonny Lomax and powerful props Alex Walmsley and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook.
They also have a brains trust with the future in mind as half-back Lewis Dodd was involved in slick moves to create space for Bennison’s score, and England international Welsby celebrated his 22nd birthday with fingerprints of his own over the win, including a timely try to drag the scoreline away from Hull.
Davies was also heavily involved, scoring the opening points having snared a drop-out and then limping off with a knee injury, having already sustained a cut to the head.
St Helens head coach Paul Wellens told BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra:
“It was toughed out, there are certain parts of our game that aren’t clicking at the moment, but in terms of grit and the effort side of things you want to see as a coach, that was there in bucket-loads, which is pleasing.
“It was important just to get the two points and rewards for your efforts, but I am keen as a coach not to get too downbeat and dispirited when we do lose games, but also on the flip side not get too carried away when we do win.
“We’ll assess this game and go back to the drawing board, look at areas where we can improve and there are plenty of those, but I’m really pleased for the players to get the rewards for their efforts.”
Hull FC head coach Tony Smith told BBC Radio Humberside:
“We were drastically different [to last week]. We had to go out and prove a bit to ourselves really, and that’s the first time we’ve been able to dig that deep defensively and for as long a period as we did.
“That’s the best Saints have played since they played Penrith [in the World Club Challenge], from what I’ve seen. They came up with some good plays and they had to, we made them earn it. As good as Salford were, we didn’t test them.
“I thought we were a bit unlucky, our own luck. It’s fine margins. If Cameron Scott puts that ball down from that intercept within a fingertip – wow. And Brad, he’s fumbled close to the line, and had he dived on it he would have slid five yards in there. It’s easy in the stand. But we caused our own problems as well.”
St Helens: Welsby; Makinson, Davies, Ritson, Bennison; Lomax, Dodd; Walmsley, Roby, Lees, Bell, Sironen, Knowles.
Interchanges: Lussick, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Pa’asi, Wingfield.
Hull FC: Hoy; Swift, Griffin, Scott, Litten; Lovodua, Clifford; Brown, Houghton, Satae, Savelio, Sao, Fash.
Interchanges: Cator, Dwyer, Lane, Taylor.
Referee: Liam Moore