SAINTS boss Justin Holbrook was pleased to see his side emerge from a tough hit-out against Hull FC to finish the regular season a record 16 points clear of the second placed side.

The 22-6 victory, courtesy of a first half Tommy Makinson hat-trick, plus second half scores from Mark Percival and Regan Grace was enough to see off the challenge of a Hull side who needed a win to keep their season alive.

Although Saints were a bit off with the ball, particularly in an error-ridden second half, they defended stoutly throughout against a desperate side that threw plenty at them.

Holbrook said: “We expected a really tough game and we got that. We knew Hull had everything to play for and it was always going to be hard, but we handled it well.

“It was end-to-end stuff in the first half, a really fast game.

“Obviously the second half wasn’t terrific, but we came up with some good tries in the first half and defended well all game.

“The side will fight for each other and showed with how much defending we had to do due to us not being great with the ball.

“The game stands us in good stead – we wanted a tough hit out and we got it.

“We have earned the right to a week off to get ready for the finals.

“We do need a week off – we have played 33 weeks straight now and that gives us a chance to freshen up.”

Golden Boot Makinson was singled out for praise, not simply for his three well-taken touchdowns, but for his often unsung work too in the hard yards.

“On a night in which we were not great with the ball he still comes up with those finishes.

“On top of that he gets us out of our own end better than anyone in the game.

“He did that for us tonight and I thought he was our best by a long way,” Holbrook said.

The 16-point margin between first-placed Saints and second-placed Wigan breaks the Cherry and Whites’ 15-point record margin in 1987.

Saints have lost just three league games – one less than the 2006 treble winners – and the table underlines the team’s consistency this term.

Holbrook said: “To be good enough to finish 16 points clear of the second spot is a huge effort.

“It doesn’t win you the trophy at Old Trafford, but it is a huge credit to the playing group to turn up every week and play to a certain level to win games.”