Tries on either side of halftime from Paul Cooke, out of favour for the past few weeks, were the catalysts as Hull beat Saints for the first time in Super League and climbed above them in the table. More damaging for Saints was the news that Paul Newlove, their world-class centre, could miss the rest of the season after a suspected Achilles tear.
Cooke came off the substitutes' bench to play a crucial role as St Helens lost two matches in a row for the first time under Ian Millward's coaching. Not even one of their famous grandstand finishes could claw this one back as, once, they found themselves with just a little too much to do in the final stages. For a long time, though, Saints looked capable of compensating for both the absence of their influential Australian forwards, David Fairleigh and Peter Shiels, dealing with a birth and a death respectively
With Tommy Martyn back in their side for the first time in two months, they were never behind in the first half after Newlove gave them the perfect start with an interception try after 45 seconds.
Paul Sculthorpe and Martyn also got over the line, while Hull hung in through Tony Grimaldi but Millward was not prepared to risk Martyn as his goal-kicker and, crucially, Sculthorpe missed five of his seven attempts.
That left the door open for the home side and, three minutes before half-time, Cooke began to stride through it. The rangy stand-off took a pass from Grimaldi to go over for his first and, with Steve Prescott kicking impeccably, Hull were level by the interval. Cooke struck again four minutes after the break, this time taking a lofted pass from the tireless Jason Smith, and when Paul Broadbent scrambled on to Smith's kick three minutes later Hull had a handy 12-point lead. There is no such thing as a comfortable cushion against Saints, as Kevin Iro reminded them by powering over. Cooke, dropped for some indifferent defence recently then turned try-saver to keep John Stankevitch out and Richard Horne had the vision to kick from deep for David Maiden to win the race and apparently leave Saints with too much to do. Sean Hoppe and Martin threatened to make a mockery of that assessment, but Hull clung onto a momentous victory. With Newlove joining Sean Long on the sidelines, the battle to retain their title looks more and more arduous.
Hull: Prescott, C Smith, Campbell, Bird, Raynor, Horne, J Smith, Craven, T Smith, Felsch, Carvell, Logan, Grimaldi. Substitutes used: Maiden, Crowther, Broadbent, Cooke.
St Helens: Wellens, Stewart, Iro, Newlove, Sullivan, Sculthorpe, Martyn, Nickle, Cunning-ham, Matautia, Joynt, Hoppe, Stankevitch. Substitutes used: Jonkers, Hall, Higham, Edmondson.
Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).Reuse content