Cunningham remains upbeat after defeat

St Helens' Luke Douglas (left) and James Roby tackle Hull FC's Scott Taylor
St Helens' Luke Douglas (left) and James Roby tackle Hull FC's Scott Taylor

Keiron Cunningham saw enough signs in his side’s 24-14 defeat by Hull to believe their fortunes are about to turn.

Saints conceded two tries in the last 12 minutes to let the lead slip for a second time as they went down to a third successive defeat but Cunningham was encouraged by his players’ efforts.

“I thought we were immense,” he said. “If we had same effort the last two weeks, we win those games comfortably.

“We were a bit clumsy with the ball in the second half but I can’t fault the effort. I’m really pleased we got a really good response. There are a lot of good signs.”

St Helens conceded a late penalty try in their home defeat by Wakefield a week ago and on Friday were punished with an eight-point try awarded against them after prop Alex Walmsley was ruled to have fouled Carlos Tuimavave in the act of scoring.

Marc Sneyd converted the try to nudge his side back in front and added a penalty from in front of the posts.

“If that was a penalty try, you’re giving them every single week,” Cunningham said.

“That’s two weeks in a row. We’re getting some real tough calls.”

Cunningham reacted to the defeat by Wakefield by axing young scrum-half Danny Richardson, the man originally chosen to stand in for broken-leg victim Matty Smith, and moving skipper Jon Wilkin into the halves.

That switch was described by Cunningham in pre-season as plan Z but needs must and Wilkin once more demonstrated his versatility and his importance to the team.

“It was a game too far for young Danny,” Cunningham explained. “Jon isn’t a half-back but I thought he stepped up and ran his blood to water.”

Wilkin may have only have a little over a month to perform the makeshift role, with Cunningham indicating that Smith is nearing fitness.

“Matty is not too far off,” he said. “Initially we said 12 to 14 weeks but we might get him back a bit earlier.”

Stand-off Albert Kelly scored the first and last tries of the match and his half-back partner Sneyd kicked six goals from as many attempts to register 500 points for the club as Hull recorded a third win of the season in coach Lee Radford’s 100th match in charge.

Radford said he had no complaints over the sin-binning of substitute Jansen Turgit for elbowing Walmsley in the face and admitted the eight-point try was controversial but insisted his side deserved to get the win.

“I’ve seen them given and not given but I will take it,” he said. “There was some controversy but I thought ultimately we just had that bit more will about us.

“Probably our desperation towards the end got us the win, particularly when we were down to 12 men, against a side who were quite desperate themselves at minute.

“To out-do them in that part of the game at the back end was really pleasing. There were some outstanding individual performances.

“It’s a big win, in a physical game against a good side. I’m pleased, it was real tough day at the office.”