IT was a third defeat on the trot, but Saints boss Keiron Cunningham was pleased with the effort in his side's 24-14 defeat at Hull FC.

Saints had led 14-10 but conceded two tries in the last 12 minutes to hand victory to the hosts.

Although there was plenty of spirit in the effort, they paid for some sloppy handling, which often gave up good field position, and ultimately a poor last tackle play when skipper Jon Wilkin opted to kick rather than put the ball through hands.

Cunningham said: "I thought we were immense.

"If we had same effort the last two weeks, we win those games comfortably.

"We were a bit clumsy with the ball in the second half but I can't fault the effort. I'm really pleased we got a really good response. There are a lot of good signs."

Saints led twice, courtesy of tries from Dom Peyroux and the outstanding Mark Percival, but were punished with an eight-point try awarded against them after prop Alex Walmsley was ruled to have fouled Carlos Tuimavave in the act of scoring.

Marc Sneyd converted the try to nudge his side back in front and added a penalty from in front of the posts.

"If that was a penalty try, you're giving them every single week," Cunningham said.

"That's two weeks in a row. We're getting some real tough calls."

Cunningham had made changes to the team that had lost to Wakefield with Danny Richardson and Luke Thompson dropping out and Wilkin moved to scrum half.

Cunningham explained: "Jon isn't a half-back but I thought he stepped up and ran his blood to water."

He then said there may be positive news on the absent Matty Smith.

"Matty is not too far off," he said. "Initially we said 12 to 14 weeks but we might get him back a bit earlier."