Match Report: St Helens 28-18 Hull FC
A strong defensive effort from St Helens saw the Black & Whites defeated in their final pre-season game of 2019 at the Totally Wicked Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
A game celebrating Jonny Loamx’s testimonial, it was Justin Holbrook’s side who ran out 28-18 winners in bitterly cold conditions, with the 2018 League Leaders proving difficult to break down throughout the contest.
Lee Radford’s men had impressive moments with scores courtesy of Carlos Tuimavave, Jamie Shaul and Bureta Faraimo, but a first-half brace from Golden Boot winner Tommy Makinson proved pivotal in the proceedings.
The Black & Whites welcome five key stars into the squad for the first time in 2019, with Sika Manu, Mark Minichiello, Carlos Tuimavave, Marc Sneyd and Josh Griffin all making their first appearance of 2019 at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
The Saints meanwhile boast a full strength side, with new signings Kevin Naiqama, Joseph Paulo, and Lachlan Coote all included in the line-up. Alex Walmsley made his long-awaited return from injury, with testimonial man Jonny Lomax staring in the halves.
The first clear-cut chance of the game came to returning England forward Alex Walmsley. A barraging run by the powerful prop saw him crash over the try-line, but some heroic defending from fellow international team-mate Jake Connor kept the teams on level terms.
The introduction of the shot-clock, visible for the first time in a game of Rugby League in the UK, was reflected with a pacey opening quarter of the game, with both the Black & Whites and the 2018 League Leaders Shield winners having several attacking chances at either end of the ground.
Justin Holbrook’s men though were rewarded for some consecutive set pressure as Zab Taia forced his way over the try-line after 20 minutes, with Jake Connor sent to the sin-bin for dissent in the process. Coote converted.
The pressure continued from the hosts, who earned more consecutive sets with a goal-line drop-out, with Tommy Makinson going close in the corner. But a strong tackle from trailist Ratu Naulago on testimonial man Jonny Lomax saw Saints cough up possession, and Hull relieve the pressure against them.
The Black & Whites opening try of the contest came with 15 minutes in the half remaining through Carlos Tuimavave. Marc Sneyd created a smart move in centre-field, allowing space for the centre to challenge the Saints defenders on the line - the Kiwi has the power to force his way over and score. Sneyd adding the goal after his assist.
Hull’s lead only lasted a matter on minutes however, with an eye-catching diving finish from 2018 Golden Boot winner Tommy Makinson putting St Helens back ahead. Coote was unsuccessful with the boot.
Saints made it back-to-back scores straight away, with Makinson bagging his first-half brace. Attacking straight from the scrum, Hull’s left edge was caught napping as the winger touched down in the same spot as moments earlier. Coote sent the kick wide.
The hosts were dealt a blow though on the strike of half-time after new-man Lachlamn Coote was withdrawn after a heavy collision with Danny Houghton.
There was still time in the half though for Saints to add a forth score through Welsh winger Regan Grace. Naulago did his best to prevent the try but acrobatics from Grace saw him able to place the ball down in the field of play. Makinson missed the goal.
HALF-TIME: St Helens 18-6 Hull FC
Lee Radford made several changes at half-time, with Jack Logan and Cameron Scott replacing Carlos Tuimavave and Josh Griffin in the centres.
FC began the second-half defensively strong, however a mistake from Jamie Shaul 15 minutes after the restart allowed the Saints to force a goal-line drop-out and pile the pressure on the visitors. And the resulting set would end in success as Matty Dawson-Jones failed to stop former team-mate Adam Swift from sliding over in the corner. Richardson was handed the goal kicking duties but couldn’t add the extras.
Saints extended their lead with their sixth try of the game courtesy of young hooker Aaron Smith, who broke free of a would-be tackle on the 10 metre line to cross the try-line unchallenged. Richardson kicked the goal.
Head coach Lee Radford attempted to inject life back into the game, bringing on prop pairing Scott Taylor and Masi Matongo, alongside Hakim Miloudi and Bureta Faraimo in the final 20 minutes of the contest.
A moment of creativity from Hakim Miloudi with eight minutes left the game gave the travelling Black & Whites something to celebrate in the second-half, with the Frenchman providing a pin-point accurate cross-field kick, to find Jamie Shaul who climbed high above the Saints defence to collect and touch down. Sneyd converted.
Despite the result, Hull had the last say in the game with Bureta Faraimo touching down in the final seconds of the game.
FULL-TIME: St Helens 28-18 Hull FC
St Helens:Lachlan Coote, Tommy Makinson, Kevin Naiqama, Mark Percival, Regan Grace, Jonny Lomax, Theo Fages, Alex Walmsley, James Roby, Matty Lees, Zeb Taia, Dominique Peyroux, Morgan Knowles.
Interchange: Danny Richardson, Joseph Paulo, Kyle Amor, Louis McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Luke Douglas, Adam Swift, Jack Ashworth, Aaron Smith, James Bentley, Matty Costello, Joe Batchelor, Josh Eaves, Jack Welsby, Tom Nisbet, Josh Simm.
Hull FC: Jamie Shaul, Bureta Faraimo, Josh Griffin, Carlos Tuimavave, Matty Dawson-Jones, Jake Connor, Marc Sneyd, Scott Taylor, Danny Houghton, Masi Matongo, Sika Manu, Mark Minichiello, Dean Hadley.
Interchange: Brad Fash, Jack Brown, Jordan Thompson, Jez Litten, Danny Langtree, Jordan Lane, Jack Logan, Cameron Scott, Hakim Miloudi, Levy Nzoungou, Ratu Naulago.
St Helens Tries: Taia (21), Makinson (28, 33), Grace (39), Swift (55), Smith (60)
St Helens Goals: Coote (1/3), Makinson (0/1), Richardson (1/2)
Hull FC Tries: Tuimavave (23), Shaul (72), Faraimo (79)
Hull FC Goals: Sneyd (3/3)