Hull FC Academy saw their 2023 campaign draw to a close as they suffered a 28-8 loss to St Helens Under 18s in the play-off semi-final at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
The visitors had an early lead when Roman Dawson crossed the try line inside four minutes, but Saints landed four key blows to establish a 16-point lead at the break.
They built on their lead in the second-half with a further two tries, but Hull’s tenacity was rewarded with a late try from Mackenzie Harman.
Hull were giving a helping hand inside St Helens territory in their first set of the game, with referee Matty Lynn awarding a penalty for a high tackle. With just three minutes on the clock, the visitors landed the first punch, with fullback Logan Moy sending Dawson over in the right corner.
Looking to build on their early lead, FC’s eagerness came to their detriment when they conceded three penalties in quick succession, with the first for an offside deep inside the St Helens half. It gave the hosts the territory they needed to find away over the try line, which came when Alfie Sinclair barged over from close range.
Hull struggled to wrestle back control in the tie after Saints got their tails up, and they added a second try when Jonathon Vaughan pierced through FC’s defensive line from 35 metres out after taking a short pass from Sinclair under his spell, managing to beat Moy with some tidy footwork.
Ten minutes later, Vaughan had his second try when he rose highest to beat Callum Shaw to pluck a kick out of the air and dot down in the left corner.
Despite seeing precious little possession deep inside St Helens’ half since their early try, Hull were still competing well with a strong, physical opposition. But a hammer blow was landed on the stroke of half-time when Ben Will finished off a deadly move which included three offloads
HALF-TIME: Saints Academy 20-4 Hull Academy
The Black & Whites took a conservative approach to the start of the second-half, content to go set-for-set with their North West counterparts.
But Saints were able to break the set-for-set spell when Vaughan evaded the challenges of Shaw and Dawson to complete his hat-trick.
With a trio of tries, Vaughan showed his charitable side when he shipped a ball wide to his winger Owen Dagnall, who finished with ease in the corner.
Another dominant Saints spell in the game came to an end when Noah Stephens made an uncharacteristic ball-handling error inside his own half. Saints thought they had regained possession when they dragged Shaw over the touchline, but the referee awarded Hull a penalty because the winger had grounded his ball-carrying arm before being taken into touch.
The field position gave FC the impetus again – Harman spotted a gap 15 metres out from the St Helens try line and the halfback darted through to earn a consolation try.
Hull could have cut the deficit further in the closing stages with possession inside the Saints half, but the hosts’ scramble defence kept the Black & Whites at bay.
There was a moment of concern for the visitors with just four minutes to play when Vaughan charged down Sully Medforth’s kick, but such was the intensity of his effort, his follow through saw the FC halfback requiring oxygen and the incident was placed on report.
FULL-TIME: Saints Academy 28-8 Hull Academy
Squads & Scorers
Hull: Moy, Shaw, Dawson, Westerman, Ward, Charles, Medforth, Armstrong, Hodgson, Thompson, Bursell, Kirby, Harman
Hull Interchanges: Clark, Haldenby, Horsfield, Hutchinson
Hull Tries: Dawson, Harman
Hull Goals: Harman (0/2)
Saints: Roberts, Will, Sambou, Vaughan, Dagnall, Robertson, McGucken, Stephens, Nolan, Sinclair, Braddish, Davies, Cowen
Saints Interchanges: Carty, Frost, Oakes, Pemberton
Saints Tries: Sinclair, Vaughan (3), Will, Dagnall
Saints Goals: McGucken (2/6)