Super League: St Helens 20-28 Leeds Rhinos
|Betfred Super League|
|St Helens (12) 20|
|Tries: Barba 2, Swift Goals: Richardson 4|
|Leeds (12) 28|
|Tries: Handley 2, Mullally, Myler, Parcell Goals: Watkins 3, Myler|
Super League champions Leeds ended leaders St Helens' winning start to the season as they ran in five tries in a classic at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
It was 12-12 at the break after Ben Barba and Adam Swift scored for Saints in between converted Leeds tries from Anthony Mullally and Richie Myler.
Two unconverted tried from centre Ash Handley stretched Leeds clear.
And, although Saints full-back Barba got a second, Rhinos hooker Matt Parcell's late try sealed it.
Saints sorely missed prop Alex Walmsley, who is now set to miss England's mid-season international against New Zealand with a neck injury, according to coach Justin Holbrook.
They may have sensed this slight upset might be on the cards when, for the first time this season, they were not ahead at the break.
But Leeds, already weakened by injuries, made light of the early loss of full-back Ashton Golding with concussion and the late loss of Watkins.
Leeds get their kicks
Danny Richardson's early second-half penalty put Leeds back in front, but Kallum Watkins then also landed his third kick of the night to tie it up again at 14-14.
That was the cue for Handley to strike twice in quick succession - and both owed a bit to good fortune as Saints made a mess of dealing with kicks.
First, they misread Myler's up-and-under, and the loose ball fell for centre Handley to scoop up and go over in the left corner for his first try of the season.
Handley was then in again when Joel Moon's miscued grubber kick broke off the back-tracking Swift's shin into the Leeds centre's path and he fell on it to score.
Leeds left the door open when Watkins missed the first of those two conversions, then, after he had gone off, Myler hooked the second wide. And, when Regan Grace galloped down the left with 10 minutes remaining to set up Barba for his second try, Richardson added the extras to bring it back to 20-22.
But Parcell's try restored the six-point cushion, Myler added the kick and, on coach Brian McDermott's 48th birthday, Rhinos secured a fourth win in five games.
What they said
St Helens coach Justin Holbrook:
"We created enough chances in the first half. And we were a bit unlucky at times. Tommy Makinson got over the line and couldn't ground the ball. But, in the second half, Leeds just took their chances.
"We had too many guys not playing well enough. James Roby and Ben Barba were fantastic but too many others weren't.
"Leeds worked harder and beat us to the punch."
Leeds coach Brian McDermott:
"At times it looked pretty clunky. I was pretty disappointed with the first half. But we certainly turned it up. My old coach Peter Fox used to say: 'If you are willing to tackle the opposition to death you have a chance of winning games.' That's what we did.
"I don't think we were crash hot and I won't say it was a really good performance - it won't get us anywhere near the Grand Final - but it's good to know we can come here with a lesser team and, by tenacious defence and great attitude, still win.
"We were without four big men but Brad Singleton and Anthony Mullally put in big shifts and I've got to pay tribute to Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Brett Delaney and Carl Ablett. They got through so much work."
St Helens: Barba; Swift, Makinson, Percival, Grace; Lomax, Richardson; Amor, Roby, Thompson, Peyroux, Taia, Wilkin.
Interchange: Fages, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Douglas, Lees.
Leeds: Golding; Briscoe, Watkins, Handley, Hall; Moon, Myler; Mullally, Parcell, Singleton, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Delaney.
Interchange: Walker, Smith, Oledzki, Walters.
Referee: James Child (RFL)