THE alarm bells are ringing around Langtree Park after struggling Saints slumped to their third successive defeat of the season on Friday night.
It was also the fourth game on the trot in which victory has eluded them, having drawn at Hull KR a few weeks ago, and represents their poorest run of form since 2003.
That year they lost to Huddersfield Giants (36-22) on the last Sunday in March, and suffered further defeats in succession against Leeds Rhinos (24-16 in the league and 33-26 in the semi-final of the Challenge Cup after extra-time), as well losing 24-22 to arch-rivals Wigan Warriors.
More worrying – on the evidence of their display against the Airlie Birds – there seems to be a crisis of confidence among the players, and after Bradford Bulls stunning comeback victory over Hull KR at the weekend, they will view Saturday night’s trip to Odsal with a little trepidation.
And in the slipstream is a home game against Grand Final winners Leeds Rhinos and an away fixture at Warrington Wolves. Seven matches without a win is a possibility – but it doesn’t bear thinking about.
It’s hard to put your finger on why a team, which looks more formidable on paper than last year, is lacking its normal fluency despite the departure of prop James Graham to the NRL.
They are also finding it difficult to maintain a high tempo the longer a game progresses and there is an air of almost inevitability about the final result.
Teams are finishing far more stronger than Saints and it’s something they will need to be redressed sooner rather than later otherwise they could find it hard to escape from the bottom half of the table.
Hull always had the upper hand on Friday night, quicker around the ruck area in the absence of Saints’ Mr Consistency James Roby, dominant at half-back and showing greater strength in the forwards.
But not for the first time this season, Saints struck the first blow in an eventful and end-to-end opening when Jonny Lomax, Lance Hohaia, and Michael Shenton combined in a quick-fire move to send Ade Gardner burrowing his way over in the right-hand corner.
A great Paul Wellens tackle in a one-on-one situation with Tony Martin prevented Hull from postng their first points, but the Humbersiders drew level after 29 minutes when Wade McKinnon sliced his way through the Saints’ defence to score.
Tony Puletua, who along with Sio Soliola, had been the hosts most
purposeful and penetrative forwards, edged Saints in front again five minutes after the interval – shaping to pass in front of the posts before twisting and turning over the whitewash.
Jamie Foster landed his first goal but within seven minutes, the Airlie Birds had restored parity with a length-of-the-field try.
The move started virtually under the Hull posts after Saints substitute Josh Perry’s flick pass went astray, leaving jet-heeled Jordan Turner to race 80 metres to the line.
Danny Tickle slotted over his first conversion and then put the Humbersiders in pole postion with three back-to-back penalties between the 63rd and 76th minutes.
Even then Saints still had an outside chance of at least snatching a share of the spoils but the final nail was hammered in the coffin seconds from time when McKinnon pounced on a Richard Horne grubber kick and Tickle banged over his fifth conversion.