Cooke stirs Tri-Nations pot by bringing Saints to earth

Hull 34 St Helens 8
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The Independent Online

His influential display at Huddersfield, however, marks him out as a player who could well play his way into contention. "He was disappointed to be left out," Horne said. "He's come out and proved a point today and shown everyone what he's capable of."

Cooke scored a try, set up two others, and kicked five goals as Hull won a match he feared he might miss. He was sent off for head-butting an opponent two weeks ago, and only a light, one-match suspension allowed him to take his starring role in a historic victory for the club, which goes into its first final for 20 years.

"Two weeks ago was the lowlight of my career," he said. "But this is definitely the highlight, even though I can't remember much about the last 25 minutes."

A blow to the head that left him dazed could not spoil Cooke's afternoon, but this was a result that also owed much to the character and determination of the Hull forwards, who completely outplayed Saints' star-studded pack. "If you can control their front row, you can stop their footballers playing," Horne said. "And we completely dominated them."

The Hull coach, John Kear, went into the game with a plan to make it a forward battle, and it was one his side won hands down. He even dusted down the old rugby league proverb that says that it is forwards who get you into finals and backs who win them. "It's an old saying, but we'll stick with it," he said.

The starting props, Ewan Dowes and Garreth Carvell, are two more who are not yet in Great Britain's plans. But on this showing, they should be.

Shayne McMenemy's two tries were just the most visible manifestation of his outstanding contribution, and Stephen Kearney had his best game yet for Hull. It was all too much for Saints, who were made to look thoroughly ordinary.

Hull: Briscoe; Barnett, Whiting, Yeaman, Raynor; R Horne, Brough; Dowes, Swain, Carvell, McMenemy, Kearney, Cooke. Substitutes used: King, Tony, Thackeray, G Horne.

St Helens: Wellens; Albert, Lyon, Talau, Gardner; Hooper, Long; Fozzard, Cunningham, P Anderson, V Anderson, Gilmour, Sculthorpe. Substitutes used: Wilkin, Graham, Roby, Fa'asavalu.

Referee: A Klein (London).