St Helens 12 Hull 8: Meli helps Saints see off Hull to reach final

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The Independent Online

St Helens, Super League leaders all season, became the first team into the Grand Final last night, but if they meet Hull again at Old Trafford in two weeks' time they will not have an ounce of complacency about their ability to beat them.

A game short of points but richly endowed with everything else was won by Francis Meli's try on the hour, but Hull, the only team to win at Knowsley Road this year, contributed fully to a compelling contest.

There was nothing to make Hull believe they cannot beat the winner of tonight's showdown between Bradford and Warrington and then give Saints an equally tough time at Old Trafford. "If they play like that, there'll be very hard to beat but they have to do it all again," said Saints coach Daniel Anderson.

Hull's Peter Sharp added: "It was a tremendous effort. We just came up a little bit short but we'll regroup."

Hull had the better of the opening stages, keeping Saints pinned in their own half but the home side began to impose themselves and after 17 minutes took the lead in fortuitous fashion, Paul Wellens' pass from dummy-half skimming past two of his team-mates before reaching Ade Gardner on the wing - he went over for a try converted by Jamie Lyon.

Hull continued to test the Saints defence and they drew level after 23 minutes when Meli lost the ball in the tackle. The visitors probed clinically until they created space on the left for Kirk Yeaman to crash over, Paul Cooke kicking the goal from close to the touchline.

Both sides got within scoring range, but Richard Horne lost the ball for Hull and Leon Pryce did likewise for Saints.

Immediately before the break, Willie Talau almost reached Sean Long's kick to touch before it ran dead but parity was the least that Hull deserved by that stage.

Hull finally took the lead two minutes into the second half with a Cooke penalty after Jon Wilkin had been caught stealing the ball in a tackle, but Lyon made the scores level six minutes later from similar range after Graeme Horne had gone high on Wellens.

Hull turned down another kick at goal in favour of attacking with the ball in hand, but could not make their enterprise pay off.

At the other end, Richard Whiting's tackle stopped Willie Talau, and Yeaman came up with an equally good effort to halt another Saints attack.

In the 60th minute, Long produced a perfectly-timed short pass to send Lee Gilmour through a gap. Although the Great Britain second rower's pass was low, Meli managed to stoop to reach it, pick it up and scramble over for the try.

Talau was rightly denied another Saints try for a forward pass from Pryce, and although Hull hunted until the last minute for a score that could have taken the game into extra time, they were ultimately denied.

St Helens: Wellens, Gardner, Lyon, Talau, Meli, Pryce, Long, Anderson, Cunningham, Cayless, Gilmour, Wilkin, Hooper. Substitutes: Roby, Graham, Bennett, Fa'asavalu.

Hull: Tony, Briscoe, Domic, Yeaman, Raynor, Cooke, R Horne, Dowes, Swain, Carvell, Radford, McMenemy, Washbrook. Substitutes: King, G Horne, Wheldon, Whiting.

Referee: A Klein (Keighley).