Saints show their strength in depth to overpower Hull

St Helens 44 Hull 22
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The Independent Online

St Helens consolidated their lead at the top of Super League and took full advantage of Leeds' slip-up by inflicting a fifth defeat in a row on Hull yesterday.

It was a hot-and-cold performance – highlighted by the rampaging running of Tony Puletua, the craft of Leon Pryce and the rich promise of Kyle Eastmond – but it was far too much for a Hull side feeling the after-effects of their Humberside derby defeat on Good Friday.

"It was always going to be hard for us after a very energy-sapping game at the KC and we came up against a side running pretty hot," said the Hull coach, Richard Agar.

The visitors resisted the temptation to give a debut to their new signing, Stuart Reardon, opting instead to draft Richard Whiting and Danny Washbrook into an unfamiliar-looking back division.

This mix-and-match line-up was too often all at sea defensively. After Hull had made and missed a couple of early chances, they conceded three tries in 10 minutes.

The first came from close range from the powerful Puletua and the next two, from Lee Gilmour and Jon Wilkin, courtesy of passes from Pryce. With the returning Sean Long landing two of his three conversions, Hull were already losing touch. Their one encouraging moment came right out of the blue when, with Saints threatening to score a fourth, Matt Gidley slipped the sort of precise pass to Hull's Graeme Horne that he normally reserves for Ade Gardner. Horne, an emergency left-winger, could hardly believe it himself as he ran 90 metres to score.

If that was Hull's opportunity to get back into the match, it was a fleeting one. Before half-time, Saints were over the try-line again, Long and Pryce opening the way for Paul Wellens.

Shaun Berrigan's fumble, Puletua's charge – "He's getting better and better and adds a lot of quality to our team," said his coach, Mick Potter – and Pryce's finish started the second half in the same mode, before Willie Manu got one back for Hull.

That was followed by a timely reminder of the talent Saints have coming through. The young half-back Eastmond came into the game and, within four minutes, had scored a try and set one up for another understudy, Chris Dean. After Gardner's try, Eastmond claimed a second, although Hull made the scoreline look slightly more respectable through Mark Calderwood and a second from Horne.

St Helens: Wellens; Gardner, Gidley, Dean, Meli; Pryce, Long; Graham, Cunningham, Puletua, Gilmour, Wilkin, Clough. Substitutes used: Roby, Hargreaves, Eastmond, Fa'asavalu.

Hull: Thorman; Calderwood, Whiting, Yeaman, G Horne; Washbrook, R Horne; Dowes, Houghton, Thackray, Manu, Tickle, Radford. Substitutes used: Berrigan, King, Lee, Maloney.

Referee: T Alibert (France).