Fozzard soon into his stride as Saints withstand Hull fightback

St Helens 30 Hull 16
Click to follow
The Independent Online

The Saints coach, Ian Millward, reckoned his side had enjoyed their best pre-season since he arrived at the club and his players proved the point as they hit the ground running with a highly impressive start to their league campaign.

With the newly installed captain, Paul Sculthorpe, and Sean Long at the heart of things and Keiron Cunningham looking back to his imperious best, Saints threatened to blow Hull away at times when the game finally got underway after a 10-minute hold-up due to crowd congestion. The prop Nick Fozzard, newly arrived from Warrington, marked his debut with two first-half tries.

Fozzard put Saints on the front foot with a smartly taken tap penalty and Long, Jason Hooper and Paul Wellens combined smartly to put Willie Talau over in the corner after five minutes.

Hull briefly enjoyed a spell of pressure, forcing two drop-outs and pulled back two points with a Paul Cooke penalty before Saints responded with some sublime football to run in three tries in an inspired 11-minute spell.

Long's angled kick stood up perfectly for the on-rushing Hooper to beat the Hull full-back, Sean Briscoe, and romp over. The visitors' problems piled up when their winger Gareth Raynor was sin-binned for holding down Martin Gleeson after another flowing attack.

Fozzard took full advantage of Hull's temporarily depleted numbers, hitting the resulting tap penalty at full speed and bulldozing his way over the line before going over by the side of the posts after Cunningham's artistry from dummy half as Saints opened up a 20-2 interval lead.

But Hull came out for the second half looking a totally transformed side and threatened to turn the game on its head with three tries in 12 minutes. Raynor went over on the left, then Colin Best raced clear from his goalline after collecting a Long kick, and he added a second by the flag.

Saints were grateful for a Cunningham try, after Long's clever pass, to keep their noses in front and Long tagged on a penalty on the hour. Long and Talau then combined to send the Samoan rugby union star Dom Feaunati over for a debut try to seal their hard earned success.

St Helens: Wellens; Albert, Gleeson, Talau, Feaunati; Hooper, Long; Fozzard, Cunningham, Edmondson, Joynt, Gilmour, Sculthorpe. Subs (all used): Higham, Mason, Bennett, Hardman.

Hull: Briscoe; Best, Barnett, Eagar, Raynor; Cooke, R Horne; King, Swain, Dowes, K Yeaman, McMenemy, Chester. Subs (all used): Carvell, McNicholas, Lupton, Wilkinson.

Referee: R Silverwood (Mirfield).