After Saints crown slipped in the south of France last weekend when they lost their first game of the season, they knew that a home game against Hull FC awaited them on their return to blighty.
A win for FC would put them within a point of both Saints and the Catalans Dragons and level on win percentage with the Wolves but unless they ran in plenty of points it wouldn’t lift them from fifth in the table. A loss for Saints would drop them further down the table in advance of the Dragons v Warriors match tomorrow afternoon.
Saints were big favourites with the bookies but there was the added emotion for both sides of the game being the first leg of the Steve Prescott Trophy in 2021 as the great man was honoured once again.
Seventy-five seconds was all that the clock was showing when Jack Welsby took a long ball from Jonny Lomax to go ten metres down the wing and score unopposed. Lachlan Coote added the touchline conversion.
Coote was over for the second Saints try on six minutes taking a Theo Fages pass and showing a dummy before dipping the shoulder. The full-back failed to add the conversion but at 10-0 with seven minutes on the clock it looked like Saints had been smouldering all week after their French trip.
FC stopped the rot on nine minutes when Adam Swift collected a Jake Connor kick through to take a couple of steps and ground in the left corner. Marc Sneyd pushed his conversion attempt across the face of the posts, FC behind by six.
On sixteen minutes Morgan Knowles took a Fages pass after a great effort from James Roby, the loose forward crashing over the line to ground. Coote added the conversion for a 16-4 lead.
A Coote penalty on the half hour made it 18-4 and four minutes later Welsby got his second try of the half, again on the receiving end of an excellent Lomax miss-out pass, to dive over in the corner. Coote was unable to add the extras, Saints 22-4 ahead at the break.
Welsby should have got his hat-trick try on forty-two but failed to ground under the tackle of Mahe Fonua but he had to wait four more minutes when he took a Fages kick and grounded, almost in one movement. Coote added the goal for 28-4.
Fonua steamrolled his way over the Saints defence on fifty-eight after he took a Jake Connor pass ten from the Saints line. Sneyd added the conversion to bring up the double figures for the Airlie Birds.
A classy try on sixty-seven after a Morgan Knowles break was the provider as Joe Batchelor cross off and inside pass from Lomax. Coote added the goal but it was Hull who finished off the scoring when Fonua went over for his second as the final hooter sounded. Sneyd added the extras but Saints had a 34-16 win.
While you got the impression that Saints never really hit top gear, they were plenty good enough to record a big win against Hull FC and send a warning shot about their aspirations to defeat the red vee next weekend when the two sides meet again in the Challenge Cup semi-final. Lomax and Fages were the torturers in chief as they ran the FC defence ragged and exploited every weakness, no matter how small. Plenty of work for Hull to do over the coming week.
St Helens: Coote (T, 4G), Naiqama, Percival (T), Simm, Welsby (3T), Lomax, Fages, Walmsley, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Mata’utia, Thompson, Knowles (T). Subs: Paasi, Amor, Batchelor (T), Dodd.
Hull FC: Connor, Fonua (2T), Tuimavave, Griffin, Swift (T), Reynolds, Sneyd (2G), Sao, Houghton, Satae, Lane, Ma’u, Cator. Subs: Bowden, Brown, Fash, Johnstone.
Referee: Chris Kendall.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 10-0, 10-4, 14-4, 16-4, 18-4, 22-4 : HT : 26-4, 28-4, 28-8, 28-10, 32-10, 34-10, 34-14, 34-16 : FT.