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Hull take thriller
Paul Cooke?s late drop goal from 45 metres ensured Hull?s recent renaissance hit new heights on Thursday night as they claimed their first win, by 27-26, at St Helens for 18 years.
The 6ft 5in stand-off scored one try and claimed six goals to help Hull edge a thrilling encounter which saw Saints field 14 men early in the second half.
But even with the extra man they could still not beat Hull, whose eighth successive win enhanced their reputation as serious contenders for the engage Super League title.
Last season?s Challenge Cup winners made an inauspicious start to the season and a 46-0 home defeat to Saints in March ultimately cost previous coach John Kear his job.
But Australian coach Peter Sharp is proving an astute coach as his replacement and this victory was every bit as deserved as it was enthralling.
Hull opened the scoring after seven minutes with a try created by Richard Swain, whose searing pace and clever footwork left Saints skipper Paul Sculthorpe for dead.
Swain?s diagonal run took him towards the left-hand corner and he showed outstanding awareness to provide a neat offload to the onrushing Kirk Yeaman, who crossed for his 21st try of the season.
Cooke landed the goal from a difficult angle but the response from St Helens was immediate and emphatic as they ran in three tries during a blistering nine-minute spell.
Great Britain full-back Paul Wellens collected Jason Cayless? pass to cross in the left-hand corner for a try awarded after being reviewed by video referee.
Three minutes later Ade Gardner narrowly failed to maintain control of the ball after good work from Jamie Lyon, but on the quarter-hour mark Saints claimed their second try.
The Merseysiders opted to run a penalty 20 metres out and intelligent handling from hooker Keiron Cunningham sent giant prop Nick Fozzard crashing over.
And four minutes later, Jon Wilkin and Wellens combined to send the in-form Sean Long bursting clear from 20 metres to cross between the posts.
With Lyon converting two of his side?s three tries, Saints established 16-6 advantage but Hull, who lost Yeaman to a serious ankle ligament injury after 24 minutes - almost certainly ruling him out of Great Britain?s forthcoming Test against New Zealand at Knowsley Road - hit back in style.
After 26 minutes, an exquisite offload from Cooke found Gareth Raynor unmarked on the left flank and he raced into the corner.
Cooke failed to convert but after Richard Horne?s superb dummy took him over the line after 37 minutes, Cooke added the extras and a penalty to send Hull in at the break 20-16 ahead.
Cooke was leading by example and got on the scoresheet after 50 minutes when he displayed outstanding dexterity to follow up his own kick and ground in the left-hand corner.
But Saints continued to probe and two tries in six minutes from Lyon and Gardner drew them level at 26-26 with 13 minutes remaining.
The match looked certain to end deadlocked, but Cooke had other ideas and his first drop goal for six years handed Hull a deserved victory.
St Helens: Wellens, Gardner, Lyon, Talau, Meli, Pryce, Long, Fozzard, Cunningham, Cayless, Gilmour, Wilkin, Sculthorpe. Replacements: Roby, V. Anderson, Graham, Fa?asavalu.
Hull: Tony, Blacklock, Domic, Yeaman, Raynor, Cooke, R. Horne, Dowes, Swain, Carvell, Radford, McMenemy, Washbrook. Replacements: Lee, Wheeldon, King, G.Horne.
St Helens (16) 26. Tries: Wellens, Fozzard, Long, Lyon, Gardner. Goals: Lyon 3.
Hull (20) 27. Tries: Yeaman, Raynor, R. Horne, Cooke. Goals: Cooke 5. Drop Goals: Cooke.
Referee: A Klein (London)