Mark Percival’s man-of-the-match performance and stunning late try sealed a well-deserved 19-12 victory for St Helens over Hull in Super League.
The England centre was in sensational form as he bagged a 14-point haul to send Lee Radford’s side home empty-handed.
Percival crossed just after the break and then, after Hull had fought back to make it 14-12, he shot over for the decisive late score, forcing the ball down in what looked an impossible position and under pressure from three defenders.
Rookie scrum-half Danny Richardson, stepping in for the injured Matty Smith, landed a late drop-goal to put the cherry on the cake.
The win could have been more comfortable if Saints had converted pressure into points during a dominant first half. Lock Morgan Knowles went close on two occasions, his first effort chalked off for offside by the television match official after Hull’s Jamie Shaul had coughed up the ball from a Richardson kick.
The second was a powerful charge from the Saints back-rower that inched them close to the line but he could not force the ball over.
Justin Holbrook’s Saints were making all the running in the first quarter and Dominique Peyroux charged through a gaping hole but was pulled down a yard short of the whitewash.
But despite all the ball and the pressure it was Hull who plundered the points as Albert Kelly found Josh Griffin who sent in Shaul for the opening try. The pass from Griffin looked to have drifted forward but was missed by referee Phil Bentham.
Marc Sneyd tagged on the extras as Hull drummed up a 6-0 lead from nowhere but their advantage was to be short-lived as James Roby equalised, sneaking over from dummy half.
Percival added the conversion and it was level pegging until the final seconds of the half, when a great charging run from the busy Peyroux was rewarded with a penalty after Hull infringed at the ruck. Percival made no mistake to edge Saints in front.
Saints struck first after the break after Theo Fages ghosted through the Hull defence to deliver a neat pass to Percival, who romped home from 20 metres and converted.
Saints prop Luke Douglas went close after a short ball from Roby and then Knowles once again nearly powered in - it was just a matter of when the home side would cross after a period of sustained pressure.
However, Hull had other ideas and they hit Saints with an impressive sucker-punch as Sneyd’s towering kick was not dealt with and Mahe Fonua steamed over.
The goal was landed by Sneyd and then the scrum-half hit a massive 40/20 kick to put Saints on the back foot. At 14-12 the game was in the balance and the momentum had shifted to the Airlie Birds.
Hull’s Fetuli Talanoa was next to touch down for the visitors after Tommy Makinson fluffed his lines with a standard kick to the corner, but the try was chalked off by the officials for an infringement and Percival took full advantage.
Saints built some excellent field position and then executed a series of passes to the England flier to spectacular go over in the corner.
He missed conversion but it mattered little, with the game in the bag. Richardson had the final say as he hit a one-pointer to make sure.