Hull FC 18 St Helens 18

Lance Hohaia makes a break with Hull FC players in pursuit
Lance Hohaia makes a break with Hull FC players in pursuit

SAINTS defied logic to claim a share of the spoils in an incident-packed encounter at the KC Stadium on Sunday.

How they emerged almost unscathed from what was a near 80-minute battering is difficult to explain.

But they produced one of the finest backs-to-the-wall defensive displays imaginable to prevent tumbling to a second Super League defeat of the season at the hands of the Airlie Birds.

Hull had so much possession, after conceding 12 early points, it was almost scandalous that they failed to take full advantage of the situation, and were left reflecting where it all went horribly wrong.

Saints, on the other hand, will be buoyed by a performance which oozed character, commitment and a never-say-die attitude.

It could prove a pivotal moment in a season when, despite currently languishing in sixth spot, they have the quality to make a serious challenge for a top-four berth.

At the same time, they had to overcome some of their own inadequacies – particularly a tendency on the day to give the ball away unnecessarily when in possession, which just added to the pressure.

Neither did they get a rub of the green from some rather controversial decisions by French referee Thiery Alibert, whose general handling of the game left a great deal to be desired.

Acting head coach Mike Rush said: “I don’t think I have ever been in charge of a team at any level which has had to defend so much and for such a long period of time. We were simply magnificent.”

Saints defended solidly right from the start, obviously having done a little extra defensive work in training after being ripped apart the previous weekend by Wigan Warriors.

And they were eventually rewarded for their dogged determination with a well-created opening try in the 18th minute from recalled winger Adam Swift.

The teenager put the finishing touches to a slick move, cutting inside three defenders to score.

Tom Makinson goaled and, three minutes later, Saints doubled their advantage.

Michael Shenton played a prominent role in the move before the ball was delivered into Lance Hohaia’s slipstream for the half-back to crash over the whitewash, leaving Makinson to add to his goal tally.

Hull halved the deficit after 26 minutes when a sustained spell of pressure ended with Richard Whiting touching down from Richard Horne’s offload.

Danny Tickle landed the extras, and they emphasised their growing dominance when Horne claimed an early second-half try.

But despite being under the cosh, Saints stunned the home crowd by scoring in a 57th-minute breakaway try from Jon Wilkin, only for a Josh Perry error to set up Tickle for Hull’s third touchdown, which he also converted to bring the scores level.

It set the stage of a nerve-tingling finale in which the Humbersiders looked to have wrapped up the points, thanks to a 71st-minute Tickle penalty.

But showing the kind of single-mindedness that had punctuated their performance, Saints rescued a point with a Makinson penalty two minutes from time.