Hull produced a dominant performance to secure their place in the quarter-finals of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup with a crushing 47-18 win over St Helens.
Saints coach Keiron Cunningham reckoned his opposite Lee Radford had taken a huge gamble by allowing second-row pair Frank Pritchard and Sika Manu to miss the cup tie in order to lead their countries in the Pacific Test in Sydney, but Hull fans need never have worried.
Radford had the luxury of being able to bring back skipper Gareth Ellis and Australian back-rower Mark Minichiello and both slotted back in superbly to plug the gaps as the Black and Whites cruised to a fourth successive win at Langtree Park, where Saints lost for the fifth time this season.
Hull were also indebted to two-try prop Scott Taylor and scheming half-back Marc Sneyd, who kicked seven goals from nine attempts, plus a drop goal, and tormented St Helens with a magnificent tactical game.
The home side made the best possible start, with centre Mark Percival taking Jonny Lomax’s pass and brushing off the attempted tackle of Mahe Fonua to score a fifth-minute try, but it was not long before the cracks began to appear in their shaky defence.
Veteran stand-off Leon Pryce, who was in the last Saints team to lift the cup in 2008, made a half-break to get hooker Danny Houghton over for an equalising score and two minutes later Taylor pulled himself free from Joe Greenwood’s challenge to touch down for his first try.
Sneyd was at the heart of everything good from the visitors and, after he creating a perfecting attacking position with a booming 40-20 kick, he got Ellis striding through a hole in the St Helens defence for Hull’s third try.
Saints briefly halted the flow of the game when skipper Jon Wilkin’s short pass got Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook over for a second try, again converted by Luke Walsh, but it did little to weaken Hull’s stranglehold.
A strong burst from Minichiello set up the position for full-back Jamie Shaul, another impressive performer, to scoot over from dummy-half for Hull’s fourth try and Sneyd kicked his fourth conversion before adding a drop goal on the stroke of half-time to extend his side’s lead into a three-score advantage at 25-12.
The contest might have been over had Hull made the most of their territorial domination at the start of the second half but left-winger Fetuli Talanoa had a try disallowed for a knock-on in the build-up and was also brought down inches short after finding space out wide.
Saints took advantage of the let-offs by scoring on the counter-attack, Walsh taking an offload from Atelea Vea to go through a gap and using winger Matty Dawson as a foil to go in for his side’s third try.
Walsh kicked his third conversion but Saints’ joy was short-lived as Sneyd’s cut-out pass got winger Curtis Naughton over at the corner and it was from his hurried crossfield kick that Hull scored their sixth try through veteran centre Kirk Yeaman.
As Saints crumbled, Taylor demonstrated his awesome strength to score his second try and Talanoa produced an acrobatic finish to round off the scoring with Hull’s eighth.