Martyn's try decisive for Saints

Hull FC 20 St Helens 24
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St Helens maintained their bid for their third Super League title in a row, their walking wounded producing one of their bravest performances to survive an inspired fight-back from Hull.

Hounded for much of the match and pegged back to 20-all with five minutes to play, Saints still somehow found the winning thrust, Tommy Martyn's try taking them through to meet the losers of tomorrow's Bradford-Wigan match in the final eliminator.

David Fairleigh made a surprise return as a substitute for Saints but there were no miracle cures for Hull, with David Maiden added to their casualty list.

Saints were under early pressure after an uncharacteristic knock-on by Keiron Cunningham and, when John Stankevitch was penalised for ball-stealing, Matt Crowther kicked the game's first point. It was almost far worse for the champions, Paul King losing the ball reaching over the line after a penetrative run by Paul Broadbent.

Saints absorbed early pressure before breaking out for a try. Tommy Martyn did the initial damage, linking with Kevin Iro for John Kirkpatrick to score in the corner but Hull replied within three minutes when a long pass from Tony Grimaldi stretched Saints' defence and Steve Prescott sent in Gareth Raynor. More ominously for Saints, Fairleigh was having treatment on his shoulder following his first tackle after coming on as a substitute and did not last until half-time. However, Paul Sculthorpe put Saints back in front by going through some ineffectual tackling to score under the posts.

Hull continued to waste their chances after the interval, Paul Cooke playing the ball into touch after making a threatening break. The lesson in finishing was not long in coming, Cunningham going over at the other end with an unstoppable surge from dummy half.

Prescott went close, but Saints once more showed how it was done, Tim Jonkers charging down the right and Stankevitch getting over the line.

Hull came back into it when Grimaldi gathered Richard Horne's kick and held off Paul Wellens. Two minutes later, they were over again, running the ball on the last tackle for Raynor to take Campbell's pass and go low by the flag.

With 12 minutes left of what was becoming an agonisingly tense affair, Hull were level, Crowther and Kirkpatrick jumping for Horne's kick and the ball running free for Deon Bird to touch down. King and Crowther nearly fashioned a winner for Hull and Saints looked out on their feet. They have proved, though, that they keep going until the hooter has sounded and Sculthorpe's long pass found Stankevitch with Sean Hoppe in support to give Martyn the winning pass.

Hull FC: Prescott; Raynor, Campbell, Bird, Crowther; Cooke, Horne; Broadbent, King, Felsch, Maher, Logan, Grimaldi. Substitutes used: Craven, Fletcher, Jackson, Parker.

St Helens: Wellens, Hall, Iro, Hoppe, Stewart, Sculthorpe, Martyn, Shiels, Cunningham, Matautia, Joynt, Stankevitch, Jonkers. Substitutes used: Cruckshank, Edmondson, Fairleigh, Kirkpatrick.

Referee: R Connolly (Wigan).

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