The Debrief: St Helens return to winning ways, Paul Wellens rotates, Hull FC in despair

Ben Olawumi
St Helens

St Helens celebrate a try against Hull FC

St Helens thumped Hull FC 58-0 at the Totally Wicked Stadium on Friday night, inflicting an eighth defeat of the year on the visitors.

The Red V – as most could have predicted pre-match – were comfortable throughout and they recorded their sixth Super League victory of 2024.

In the process, they went a long way to ensuring it would be them lifting the Steve Prescott Cup come the end of the season, with that silverware awarded annually based upon the aggregate score of Saints & Hull’s meetings in the regular Super League campaign.

With talking points aplenty from the Round 8 clash, Love Rugby League has picked out a few in The Debrief.

St Helens return to winning ways

In the build-up to this game, Saints boss Paul Wellens refused to set a ‘points target’, at least publicly, and instead just wanted to see his side put in a professional performance across 80 minutes, which they haven’t done over the last two weeks.

After a defeat in Super League at Catalans Dragons and one in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals to Warrington Wolves this weekend, he got what he asked for tonight.

With a handful of errors aside, Wellens’ men executed well and returned to winning ways with aplomb. They were 24-0 up by half-time, and continued to score points for fun in the second 40.

Paul Wellens rotates

When the team-sheets came out, so did the news that Saints were without both Lewis Dodd and Daryl Clark, players who Wellens told the club’s social media channels pre-match had been carrying niggles over the last few weeks.

Jack Welsby
Jack Welsby

Their absence – and likely Wellens wanting to test out the utility value of some of his aces too – saw Wellens shuffle his squad a little.

Jon Bennison reverted to full-back, with the returning Waqa Blake in turn taking his spot out on the wing. Usual full-back Jack Welsby deputised for Dodd in the halves, and Saints were also able to welcome back both Mark Percival & Matty Lees.

None of those filling a hole in a different position than usual looked out of place – far from square pegs in round holes.

Hull FC in despair as year of woe continues

Spanning back to last August, it’s now one win in 15 games for Hull, and – as we know -, that one win came by the finest of margins against newly-promoted London Broncos in March. FC deserved to lose that game, but it’s a good job they didn’t, or they’d be sat bottom of the ladder now.

The statistics continue to say everything that needs to be said where the Black & Whites are concerned, and we’re not in the business of slating players or clubs for that matter, but what they’ve served up so far in 2024 has been appalling.

For the fourth time in the last five, they conceded 50+ points once again tonight. They’d conceded 36 tries in the four games prior to this evening which led to Tony Smith’s dismissal, and Saints scored another 10 against them to take the tally up to 46 tries conceded in five games.

The definition of ‘despair’ is ‘an utter loss of hope’. That’s pretty much spot on as to how we’d describe the Airlie Birds’ situation at the moment.

Black & Whites’ youngsters dig in

Very, very few things offer any bit of hope for Hull at the moment, but if we had to signpost one thing, it would be the youth that they’re bringing through.

Jack Charles
Hull FC’s Jack Charles

Not for the first time this year, we saw academy products really dig in this evening in a black & white shirt. Their failings in execution or defence certainly aren’t through a lack of effort.

Those lads stepping up can hold their heads high, and in years to come, we’re sure we’ll see some kick on – whether that’s with FC or not.

From the outside looking in, the senior figures in that dressing room need to start leading the way, on and off the pitch. What’s been served up from most of them so far this year simply isn’t good enough.

Computer says…. TRY?

Let’s be honest, tonight’s game isn’t one which will live long in the memory. What everybody expected to happen did happen.

One thing those in attendance – and those watching on TV – might remember however is the technical error towards the end of the first half.

Konrad Burrell barged his way towards the try-line, came up short and video referee Liam Moore confirmed that. The wrong graphic got shown on the big screen though, with a try indicated, and referee Tom Grant was left to tell the celebrating Saints that it had indeed not been given.

A few comedic boos from the crowd followed, and we know it didn’t make much difference, but something like that happening in a tighter game could cause carnage. Not a good look at all. Please, get the basics right.