Kristian Woolf delighted with St Helens spirit and performance of Jack Welsby
St Helens coach Kristian Woolf hailed his side’s character as they overpowered Hull FC 34-16 at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
Jack Welsby scored a hat-trick of tries as he proved a more-than-able deputy for the injured Regan Grace as Saints bounced back from their first defeat of the season at Catalans last weekend with some style.
Lachlan Coote scored a try and kicked five goals with other tries coming from Morgan Knowles and Joe Batchelor. Hull FC winger Mahe Fonua crossed twice with the other try coming from ex-Saints winger Adam Swift. Marc Sneyd kicked two goals.
The teams meet again in the semi-finals of the Betfred Challenge Cup at Leigh Sports Village next Saturday.
Woolf said: “I was particularly happy with the first half tonight – we had a different energy about us. We wanted to work hard and had a better mindset than last week.
“What we did tonight was get back to the standards we set at the start of the season. We have got plenty of improvement left in us. I am happy with the performance but we can still improve and improve a lot.”
Woolf singled out the performance of Welsby for special mention after he scored three tries.
He said: “Jack is just a good footy player. Wherever he puts himself on the field he is an exceptional player and I love his ability to rise to the challenge, wherever we play him.
“He has played in multiple positions and he’s been happy to do that. That’s a real sign of what sort of player he’s going to be for this club.”
Asked if the game would have much bearing on next Saturday’s semi-final, Woolf said: “Tonight was all about with coming up with a really good response from last week (losing at Catalans).
“This week will be about freshening our bodies and minds because the semi-final will be a completely different ball game with a lot on the line. It’s do or die finals footy and this group knows how to win those games and we can draw on that experience.”
Hull FC coach Brett Hodgson said: “We didn’t start the game with enough intent. Saints are a big powerful team and you can’t let them get on top of you. I felt they had more energy and showed more effort. There are lessons to learn.
“Fatigue contributed to the errors we committed as we had to do so much defending.”
Asked if he thought his team could pick themselves up in time for next weekend, Hodgson admitted there were lessons to be learned.
He said: “We are going to have to respond. Saints will be favourites next week but we just weren’t at the level we wanted to be at. I think tonight we were off the mark and St Helens played exceptionally well. The tough thing for us is going to be working out why.
“I was proud of the effort and the willingness to fight in the second half of the game. Ultimately it was too little too late. We effectively beat ourselves tonight. I know that this playing group care and they will be hurting and they will try and respond.
“We’ve learnt from games in the past and hopefully we’ll do the same after tonight. We are still on a path to try and improve all the time but if you’re not willing to invest initially you’re going to get burned.”