Despite frustrations elsewhere, you have to get your own house right, and in that department Hull FC certainly struggled.
Against teams like St Helens, you have to be ruthless, you have to build pressure, and then post points. Hull were nowhere near patient enough to do that and made some stupid unnecessary errors. Ultimately that paved the way for the Saints, Super League’s runaway leaders, to record a 12-40 win.
During their most prominent spells St Helens were slicker, faster and stronger than Hull. They looked better conditioned. Better drilled. Like a team embedded into everything head coach Justin Holbrook teaches them. Hull had no answer to that. Especially their pace which was telling in racking up a 0-40 lead. Hull’s heads then were dropping, but they at least rallied slightly to prevent the scoreboard from bordering on the embarrassing.
It was a tough night and despite being second best Hull at times weren’t that far away. For instance a 0-18 half time score wasn’t a reflection of the first half. Hull were right in it. They moved the ball well to get down the field but unfortunately the execution in the last twenty was poor. On the contrary, St Helens were clinical and despite one or two questionable incidents, they played some absolute sublime rugby league.
Hull had plenty of opportunity. It wasn’t like the side were starved of possession. The loss was somewhat self-inflicted, but that’s also disrespectful to the opposition. Sometimes you’re just beaten by the better side, and it’s something Hull not only have to take on the chin, but respond from. The frustration though was apparent. A lot of Hull’s play near St Helens’ line was forced, the door was opened numerous times to post points, but the side just couldn’t get a foothold. Fluency was absent and Hull were scrambling – they couldn’t build themselves into the game.
That was down to many reasons. St Helens without doubt played on the front foot and therefore got the rub of the green which massively swung the ascendancy in their favour, but some of the decisions for one from referee Chris Kendall were atrocious. There’s a difference between pointing out an officials incompetence and blaming an official for a defeat. We’re going for the former. He just doesn’t have a clue does he and winds up every set of players in every game he takes charge off. To see Albert Kelly lose his rag like that was unheard of. Jake Connor too had his verbals. Kendall was abysmal. He has an arrogance about him and, probably like us, needs to locate an up to date rule book.
It’s not the first time we’ve had a pop at some of Super League’s officials either, but ironically the other times we’ve done it this year have all come after a win, so it’s far from a ‘we lost so blame the ref’ scenario. Hull lost because St Helens were better, but Kendall was strutting around the place like one of the three blind mice. Absolutely hopeless. Both sides’ pivots passed for a combined forward gain even the great Tom Brady would be proud of. It was bad. It got under the skin of Hull too, who were rattled throughout. They was a real lack of composure.
So, some positives? Well Hull’s best player on the night was Carlos Tuimavave, who came into the game off the interchange and was back to his silky best. He weaved out of tackles and looked to spread the ball, and was arguably better than the pivots in doing so. Tuimavave was closely followed by Kelly, who gave everything. Brad Fash also poked some holes in the St Helens defence too, and was the pick out of some underwhelming forwards. Jamie Shaul after a tough start got better, but the side were sadly just outclassed.
It wasn’t a horrendous performance by any stretch of the imagination, just Hull were lacking in street smarts. They played some good stuff, admittedly some of which came when the Saints took the foot of the gas. Still, two late tries from Shaul and then Ratu Naulago gave a boisterous home crowd something to shout about. It was the finesse lacking near the try line that was the problem. You could argue too there were one or two shady defensive efforts, and it’s a result no one wants to linger on.
St Helens were better in every department. They move the ball superbly, keeping it alive with offloads, and their back rowers, Dominic Peyroux and young Morgan Knowles were excellent, as was Matty Lees. Young lads but tough and pacey. Their pivots ran the show. Lochlan Coote and Jonny Lomax, laterally who in this writer’s humble opinion is the best player in Super League. Lomax was incredible at times, and links so well with both Coote and Theo Fages. They are just so fast. There’s no substitute for speed.
The Saints were fortunate with some of their tries, of which Hull handed a couple on a plate, but there were a couple in the second half that were sublime. That was a reward for their perseverance and their class. They are by far the best side in the competition, and Hull will have to be much better the next time they meet. That goes without saying. For all the frustrations, Hull are a better rugby league side than that, and must show as much in the imminent future to keep a grip on third place.
Hull Starting XIII: 1. Jamie Shaul, 33. Ratu Naulago, 14. Jake Connor, 4. Josh Griffin, 2. Bureta Faraimo, 6. Albert Kelly, 7. Marc Sneyd, 8. Scott Taylor, 9. Danny Houghton, 23. Mickey Paea, 21. Sika Manu, 12. Mark Minichiello, 13. Joe Westerman. Interchange: 10. Josh Bowden, 34. Gareth Ellis, 20. Brad Fash, 3. Carlos Tuimavave.
Hull Tries: Shaul, Naulago. Goals: Sneyd 2/2
Hull 3-2-1 Man of the Match: 3pts Carlos Tuimavave, 2pts Albert Kelly, 1pt Brad Fash
St Helens Starting XIII: 23. Lochlan Coote, 2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Kevin Naiqama, 4. Mark Percival, 5. Regan Grace, 1. Jonny Lomax, 6. Theo Fages, 8. Alex Walmsley, 22. James Bentley, 10. Luke Thompson, 17. Dominic Peyroux, 15. Morgan Knowles, 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook. Interchange: 12. Junior Paulo, 16. Kyle Amor, 19. Matty Lees, 20. Jack Ashworth.
St Helens Tries: Knowles, Fages, Coote 2, Grace, Ashworth, Lomax. Goals: Coote 6/7.
Scoring System: 0-6, 0-12, 0-18, 0-22, 0-28, 0-34, 0-40, 6-40, 12-40
Referee: Chris Kendall