What a game of rugby league – comfortably the best we’ve seen this season, as St Helens edged out Hull FC 25-22 in the Challenge Cup quarter-final.
Both coaches lavished the praise on the two sides post-match, especially Hull FC, who defied the odds with several players already missing, and then to lose three to the sin bin and two to further injuries, still almost pulled off a shock victory.
It was a heroic effort but Saints’ quality in the first half, admittingly when they had a numerical advantage, told, as they progressed to the semi-final double-header at Bolton’s Macron Stadium.
For Lee Radford at least there was a sense of pride, but also frustration.
“I’m as disappointed as I’ve been for a long time,” he explained post-match. “We had nothing left in the end and sometimes as a coach that’s all you can ask for.
“The commitment was great. We kept showing up for each other time and time again. We just didn’t lay down and kept coming.
“I was really pleased at half time and I thought we’d scrambled really well. We were running on fumes though in the end and it cost us.”
The frustration obviously comes in the form of those three sin bins, but also Hull’s last tackle options, something which is normally taken care of by the presence of Marc Sneyd.
“I thought we out matched them, except the two areas of discipline and kicking,” Radford continued. ” I’m not happy with the sin bins, obviously. We didn’t get the decisions, but I won’t go into that.
“One area we were poor in was our kicking. It was genuinely horrible. We haven’t kicked as bad as that for a long time.
“For all you Marc Sneyd knockers out there who are sat in their armchairs or doing radio shows and all the rest of it, eat your words as much as you possibly can.
“Sneydy puts the ball where we needed to put it at Saints. We haven’t kicked that bad for a long time.”
And as for the injuries Radford pretty much summed it up in a nutshell, “I’m sick of injuries now. It does make me question when it actually is going to stop.”
Justin Holbrook meanwhile commended Hull for their effort.
“I’m relieved to have won that game. You can see today how Hull have won it the last two years. They kept coming and coming at us,” Holbrook explained.
“I thought we were ready to control the game but never really had it. I have to give Hull a massive wrap and they really stuck it to us.
“The period when they had two in the bin probably won it for us. But it did unsettle us too.
“It unsettled them even more and they did it tough but we thought we had to win it in that little stint but it was important to get points and the tries we did.
“We tried to put them away but couldn’t and credit to Hull for that.”