Saints 34 Hull 22
A HUGELY improved second half display saw Saints take the spoils against Hull after something of a sloppy start.
Saints had trailed 10-6 at the break against a rugged Hull team that played to a very simple formula, backed by size and an in your face determination, but with some subtle offloads.
Maybe after last week’s thumping of Warrington, some of the Saints team were guilty of thinking that they simply had to show up, move the ball and the points would come.
Defensively, in the first half at least, there was not the same steel and it appeared as though Saints had handed the initiative to the Humbersiders early on in the opening 40.
At times parts of the first half, including the response from an initially sombre home crowd, bore far too much resemblance to the troubled sections of last year with the support silenced pretty early on when Mickey Paea crossed after only two minutes.
Saints were quick to respond when Tommy Makinson somehow managed to keep the ball in play on the right, with it being then transferred through the hands of Jordan Turner and Willie Manu, with the latter popping up a lovely pass for James Roby to power home for his first.
Luke Walsh improved it and Saints looked to have stretched that lead, only for Mark Percival to lose the ball stretching over the line.
The visitors cashed in and on 23 minutes Joe Westerman smuugled the ball out of the tackle for the under-rated Richard Whiting to score.
Ben Crooks’ conversion was the last score of the half and in some senses Saints can count their blessings after a sloppy 40 minutes in which they had been too lateral with the ball and too inattentive in defence.
And to make matters worse Jordan Turner came off second best when trying to tackle Gareth Ellis and was led off the field with concussion.
Coach Nathan Brown would not reveal what he said to his charges at half time, but in the second half they were more direct and focused.
And Sia Soliola took a route one to the try line when he steamed in for the all important first one of the second half, which Walsh improved to put Saints’ noses in front.
Another big score came eight minutes later when, with all eyes focused on Walsh, Saints’ second kicker Jon Wilkin was given time to launch a neat grubber behind the line for Jonny Lomax to touch down.
Wilkin had an excellent second half and really got hold of the game, and led by example.
With Walsh again directing, Soliola took on the line before slipping it back on the inside for Roby to nip in for his second of the night approaching the hour mark.
That looked like game over but Ellis powered home all too easily to keep the contest alive.
Saints’ fans were not on tenterhooks for long with Tommy Makinson producing a now trademark acrobatic finish in the corner from a Lomax pass with 12 to play.
Three minutes from time Kyle Amor, who had a much better second stint, put a dent in the Hull line before Lomax engineered space for Mark Percival to go in, with Walsh’s goal making it 34-16.
That should have been it, but seconds before the hooter Richard Horne popped it for Danny Houghton to go in under the sticks.
But that was mere consolation for the travelling Hull hordes to take back with them.
So Saints remain unbeaten, but this performance will again show they are not quite there. But they will get better, particularly with Mose Masoe due back in the next fortnight to beef up the front row.