Hull FC may have missed out on the play-offs but they could leave the KCOM Stadium with their heads held high after losing 6-22 to St Helens.
The Black and Whites showed character, they showed grit, but they were ultimately beaten by the better side on a night they were denied the chance to enter the play-offs and extend their season by at least another week.
It was an emotional night for some, with Mark Minichiello playing his last ever career game, and while he didn’t get the send off his illustrious career deserved, his teammates gave it their all without being able to crack the notoriously tough nut in front of them.
Ultimately, Hull’s season ends in disappointment on the back of four straight Super League defeats, with the defeat ensuring Castleford Tigers take the title of the Yorkshire’s top side in 2019 by taking the final spot in the play-offs.
Saints' ability to get the ball over the line proved to be the difference on the night, with Tommy Makinson getting over twice in the corner to put the visitors ahead.
Scott Taylor hit back, though, and gave Hull fans hope that they were about to witness something amazing.
However, it simply wasn’t meant to be as, despite pressure from Hull, Makinson, Mark Percival and Regan Grace wrapped up the game and brought Hull’s season to an end.
All week the Black and Whites had spoken about the variety of reasons why they needed a performance against Saints and it was a rousing start from the home side, facing up to the League Leaders’ Shield winners in defence and forcing them to work for their yardage.
On the ball, too, Hull were advancing, but unfortunately they never came close to troubling the Saints line and despite their strong work at the back, it was Hull who conceded first.
It’s been a problem area all season that Hull have not managed to address and with their season in the balance, the defensive nous of their left edge was looking like their downfall.
It was Bureta Faraimo who abandoned his post for Makinson’s first, a looping ball from Lachlan Coote drawing him out to look for the interception, but the winger succeeded in doing was gifting the best finisher in the league his first of the night.
Hull responded well and Chris Satae very nearly forced his way over, only to be pulled back just two metres short of the line.
But, just moments later Makinson was celebrating again and it was Faraimo at fault once more. Absolutely oblivious to the danger behind him, the winger watched on as Theo Fages floated a kick into the corner for the unchallenged Makinson to dot down.
Things weren’t looking good for FC as Danny Houghton left the field, but there was a notable change in momentum when Albert Kelly intercepted a pass in Saints half and forced the visitors onto the back foot.
It was that interception that led to Hull’s only try of the night. Making the most of some unorganised and lacklustre last tackle play, Jamie Shaul cut inside and weaved his way through the Saints line before offloading to Taylor, who powered over the line.
The Black and Whites thought they had a second when Marc Sneyd chipped over the top, but at such a speed he couldn’t quite collect the bouncing ball to draw his side level and Saints punished the home side for it.
On the very next play, Saints went the full length of the pitch and after getting away with what looked to be a spilled ball from Mark Percival, Makinson went over in the corner for his hat-trick.
The Black and Whites started well in the second half, though, and with the crowd doing well to add to the urgency on the pitch, FC found themselves camped on the Saints line.
Three consecutive penalties piled the pressure on Justin Holbrook’s but they stood firm and rebuffed Hull.
The came close to scoring when Albert Kelly tried to pick out Ratu Naulago in the corner, only for the referee to rule that the Fijian hadn’t been able to touch the ball down.
There was no faulting Hull’s efforts, particularly without the ball, with Lee Radford’s side displaying some fine defensive play, but they just didn’t have the skill to open Saints up at times.
And when Makinson burst into the space down Hull’s right side, the game was all but out of Hull’s reach. The winger was eventually caught by Jamie Shaul, but they kept the pressure up in the corner and Percival eventually found his way over.
Albert Kelly was sin-binned for dissent in the dying moments and the game was wrapped up when Grace snuck over in the corner.
It was a disappointing way to say goodbye to some legends of the game, but when the final hooter went it felt like a significant era in the club’s history had come to an end.
Hull FC: Jamie Shaul; Bureta Faraimo, Josh Griffin, Carlos Tuimavave, Ratu Naulago; Albert Kelly, Marc Sneyd; Scott Taylor, Danny Houghton, Chris Satae; Mark Minichiello, Jordan Lane; Gareth Ellis
Bench: Josh Bowden, Jake Connor, Masi Matongo, Brad Fash.
St Helens: Lachlan Coote, Tommy Makinson, Kevin Naiqama, Mark Percival, Regan Grace; Jonny Lomax, Theo Fages; Alex Walmsley, James Roby, Luke Thompson; Zeb Taia, Dom Peyroux, Morgan Knowles
Bench: Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Kyle Amor, Jack Ashworth, James Bentley.
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