The sides starting the evening sat in ninth and tenth spots in the fledgling Super League 2023 table met at the Totally Wicked Stadium as St Helens took on Hull FC with the prize on offer being a spot in the top half of the table.
Most pundits thought that this would be the game where Saints would restart their domestic campaign after a couple of recent blips against the Rhinos and the Leopards, while few Airlie Birds fans had any optimism about a likely successful outcome of a trip across the Pennines to take on the reigning World Champions.
Hull were given an eighteen-point start on the coupon, it was Saints opportunity to fill their boots and compound Tony Smith´s misery.
Saints lost Mark Percival with a niggle just minutes before the kick off and he was replaced in the starting line-up by the exciting Tee Ritson.
It was a tense opening twenty minutes, both sides offences probing but opposing defences holding firm, both sides looking a little nervy and unwilling to take attacking risks.
Ben Davies was held up over the line on twenty-three and on the next play Jon Bennison looked like he was over in the opposite corner but the referee called a forward pass.
On thirty-one Andre Savelio was held up over the line and two plays later Josh Griffin was unable to ground under the tackle of Davies. The deadlock was not going to be easily broken.
An awful goal line dropout from Hull on thirty-eight was collected unopposed by Ben Davies who ran a simple twenty metres to score in the right corner. Tommy Makinson was unable to add the touchline conversion, but Saints carried a 4-0 lead into the interval, FC going into the sheds with some pride from their first half efforts despite trailing.
There was great enterprise from Hull at the start of the second half and with forty-seven on the clock Scott Taylor somehow got the ball on the Saints line under the tackle of three defenders. Jake Clifford added the conversion to give his side the lead.
On fifty-four Saints scored from the back of the scrum when Bennison zig-zagged his way through the FC defence to dip for the line and ground. Joey Lussick took the ball and added the conversion for a 10-6 lead to the home side.
On the hour Saints stepped on the gas with James Bell offloading to Jack Welsby to slide in for the third try for the red vee. Lussick was on target from the touchline for 16-6.
Hull responded immediately when Jake Winfield spilled the ball twenty from his own line, Jake Clifford on hand to pick up the loose ball and sprint for the line. Clifford converted his own try and again the margin was back to just four points.
Great invention from Hull on seventy-five should have seen them back on level terms but the ball just got away from Brad Dwyer´s grasp with the try line begging after two delightful chip kicks.
The game was over on seventy-seven when Bennison picked up his second of the night in the left corner after Saints switched the direction of their attack brilliantly, bamboozling the FC defence. Lewis Dodd was unable to add the conversion but at 20-12 it was too much for Hull.
A much improved performance from Hull FC after last weeks debacle against Salford, but still not enough to upset a well below par St Helens side who are still scrambling to shake off their Australian hangover. It was all about strong defences, and in the end Saints was the strongest. Early season fodder from both sides but Saints ended it with a smile on their face as they move up to sixth spot in the table, Hull FC frowning and now in tenth place.
St Helens: Welsby (T), Makinson, Davies (T), Ritson, Benninson (2T), Lomax, Dodd, Walmsley, Roby, Lees, Bell, Sironen, Knowles. Subs: McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Lussick (2G), Wingfield, Paasi. 18th Man: Royle.
Hull FC: Hoy, Swift, Griffen, Scott, Litten, Lovodus, Clifford (T, 2G), Brown, Houghton, Satae, Savelio, Sao, Fash. Subs: Cator, Dwyer, Lane, Taylor (T). 18th Man: Barron.
Score Progression: 4-0 : HT : 4-4, 4-6, 8-6, 10-6, 14-6, 16-6, 16-10, 16-12, 20-12 : FT.
Lead Exchanges: St Helens – Square – Hull FC - St Helens.
Referee: Liam Moore.