A valiant effort wasn’t enough for Hull on a wet and windy evening on Merseyside, as St Helens showed their title credentials.
A try on debut from Lewis Martin, and a long range interception from Cam Scott were Hull’s try scorers, as they regained the Steve Prescott Trophy on aggregate 58 – 56 for the first time since 2017.
Tony Smith made a whole host of changes from last week’s game against Huddersfield Giants.
The headlines for Hull were that 19 year olds Lewis Martin and Zach Jebson made their debuts, lining up on the wing and on the interchange bench respectively.
Also coming into Smith’s side this week were Davy Litten who returned at fullback, captain Carlos Tuimavave came back in after concussion, Brad Dwyer returned for is final outing for the Black & Whites and Will Gardiner took his place on the interchange bench.
Making way were the departing duo of Andre Savelio and Adam Swift with back issues, whilst Danny Houghton wasn’t risked after struggling with a calf issue. Liam Sutcliffe’s season was prematurely ended by a knee issue which required surgery in the week and the young pair Harvey Barron and Nick Steveley dropped out.
Paul Wellens’ St Helens side, who were chasing the League Leaders Shield welcomed back experienced internationals Alex Walmsley after a knee injury that looked to keep him out for the rest of the season and Tongans Will Hopoate and Konrad Hurrell in addition to young prop George Delaney.
They took the place of youngsters Ben Davies, Jon Bennison and Sam Royle whilst James Bell was rested ahead of the Saints play off clashes.
In a low scoring half, Mark Percival scored al 8 points in the first half, in horrible conditions for Rugby League.
It was with a penalty goal that Saints scored the opening points, testmanent to Hull’s gritty defence after holding out the Saints for several sets in a row on their own goalline.
After those opening points Hull grew into the game, and went close on both touchlines, first through debutant Lewis Martin who on a dryer day might have backed himself to beat Konrad Hurrell but on the wet track cut inside. On the next play the ball went wide to Darnell McIntosh who got on the outside of Hopoate but couldn’t quite get to the line.
After that promising period, Saints turned defence into attack, and Mark Percival got through the gap between Carlos Tuimavave and Darnell McIntosh to score the half’s only try, which he converted himself for the final points of the half.
The hosts went close again as Jack Welsby broke through several tackles after an exchange of passes, but good defending from Litten and Clifford brought him down just shy of the line before he reached out again with a double movement to give Hull a penalty to clear their lines.
The next chance was Hull’s, as McIntosh broke down the right hand touchline, though as he cut back infield his pass was intercepted by Hurrell.
On the next play Saints spread it wide and Satae and Dwyer came over to force Makinson into touch with a spectacular tackle as he went for the line.
Half Time: St Helens 8 – 0 Hull FC
The second half couldn’t have started much worse for Hull, as they conceded points without touching the ball.
Giving away a six again during the first set of the half, Dodd grubber kicked through and he grounded the bouncing ball himself before the deadball line, with Percival converting from in front of the posts.
From that Hull hit back brightly, Clifford smartly drilling the restart into touch, before Hull earned a six again.
Will Gardiner forced his way over the line from Brad Dwyer’s short pass, but enough Saints bodies surrounded the ball to prevent him from touching down, before Clifford, ever growing into the game, grubbered through for a goal line drop out, that Hull weren’t able to take advantage of.
Hull continued their god momentum, and this time were able to turn it into points.
Darnell McIntosh passed to Jordan Lane, running one of his trademark lines from deep, and as Lane approached the full back Lewis Martin came steaming through on the inside and this time trusted his pace to race round the full back and score, with Tex Hoy able to kick his first Super League goal from the touchline.
Saints were lucky to escape a red card, as George Delaney caught Will Gardiner with a swinging arm to the head, but referee Ben Thaler elected to instead put the incident on report as Gardiner was helped from the field with concussion.
From there, St Helens gathered momentum, with three back to back penalties, but defended their line strongly and Lomax’s pass to Makinson could only find the touchline rather than its’ intended target.
Saints sealed the victory with 15 minutes to play, Jonny Lomax carrying strongly at the line and had too much power and momentum for the Hull defenders to prevent him from grounding. Percival maintained his perfect kicking record from out wide.
Saints went back to back from the kick off set, a neat exchange of passes around the ruck exposing a tiring Hull middle, and Jack Welsby had the pace and presence of mind to slide over to extend Saints lead, which Percival again converted.
Hull soon hit back though, as Cam Scott snatched a Saints pass out of the air and raced away 75 meters on the heavy turf to score an interception try and reduce the deficit, which Tex again converted from the touchline.
The heavy ground took it’s toll on Scott though, as he had to leave the field with cramp straight away after his try.
Welsby raced away for his second in the final minute of the game, but Percival’s missed conversion meant it was the Black & Whites who took home the Steve Prescott Trophy for the first time since 2017, edging the overall aggregate score against the Saints this season by two points.
Full Time: St Helens 30 – 12 Hull FC
St Helens: Jack Welsby, Tommy Makinson, Konrad Hurrell, Mark Percival, Will Hopoate, Jonny Lomax, Lewis Dodd, Matty Lees, James Roby, Sione Mata’utia, Joe Batchelor, Curtis Sironen, Morgan Knowles
St Helens Interchange: Alex Walmsley, George Delaney, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Moses Mbye
Hull FC: Davy Litten, Lewis Martin, Carlos Tuimavave, Cam Scott, Darnell McIntosh, Tex Hoy, Jake Clifford, Chris Satae, Brad Dwyer, Scott Taylor, Jordan Lane, Brad Fash, Joe Cator
Hull FC Interchange: Jack Brown, Joe Lovodua, Will Gardiner, Zach Jebson
St Helens: Mark Percival, Lewis Dodd, Jonny Lomax, Jack Welsby
Goals: Mark Percival (5/5)
Hull FC: Lewis Martin
Goals: Tex Hoy (1/1)
Rowe Freight Man of the Match: Lewis Martin