Super League: Leeds 8-18 St Helens – Saints claim comeback win

St Helens bounced back from their first Super League defeat of the season to beat Leeds Rhinos at Headingley.

Fired-up Leeds took a deserved lead through Luis Roberts’ superb finish and two Rhyse Martin goals.

But the visitors hung tough and Waqa Blake’s try and Jonny Lomax’s touchline conversion made it 8-6 at half-time.

Saints took charge after the break, while the Rhinos faded as two tries in three minutes from Jonathan Bennison and Moses Mbye sealed victory.

A sixth straight win at Headingley allowed St Helens to move level on points with Super League leaders Wigan Warriors – after their late win at Salford on Thursday – while Leeds stay fifth.

After a minute’s silence for Leeds legend Lewis Jones – who died last week aged 92 – the Rhinos produced a rip-roaring first-half tribute, as a host of slaloming runs, particularly from the electric Lachlan Miller and Brodie Croft, caused carnage.

Harry Newman’s thrilling run down the touchline was stopped inches short by Lewis Dodd’s superb last-ditch challenge, but moments later Roberts cut through five covering defenders to wrestle his way over.

Saints almost scored from nowhere when Matty Lees streaked towards the line, but Miller got back to make the challenge.

And the visitors fell 8-0 behind when Joe Batchelor was pinged for a ball steal and Martin’s penalty split the posts.

Saints had been firmly under the pump, but stayed in the game and hit back shortly before half-time, Blake finishing from close range after James Bentley spilled Dodd’s high kick.

Lomax, taking over kicking duties after winger Tommy Makinson tweaked a hamstring in the warm-up, added a fine touchline conversion.

Leeds’ scrambling defence held out under relentless pressure after the break, but they finally cracked when Saints put the ball through the hands and Lomax sent Bennison to the right corner before adding his second touchline conversion, off the upright.

A soft score put the visitors in control when Mbye sold Jarrod O’Connor a simple dummy and dived between the posts.

Leeds were limited to glimpses of their first-half display after the break by a dominant defensive performance from Paul Wellens’ side.

And as they slid to a 10th defeat in their last 11 meetings with the 10-time Super League champions, the Rhinos’ frustrations grew late on when Sione Mata’utia escaped the sin-bin for a crunching late challenge that forced Bentley off the pitch.

Leeds will have a chance to make amends for their second defeat of the season when the two sides clash once again at Headingley next Friday in the standout tie of the Challenge Cup sixth round.

Leeds Rhinos head coach Rohan Smith told BBC Radio Leeds:

“I thought that was the best game I’ve seen this year in Super League. It was two good teams going at it.

“I really liked the way we were patient first half, flowed, defended really well, played some good footie, and had a lot of front-foot opportunities.

“We probably didn’t capitalise on it points-wise but against quality teams you’ve got to go the distance to get the points and we weren’t quite able to do that.

“I was happy with the way we played, particularly in the first half, and even in the second half there were a few moments where we had back-to-back-to-back clangers or major mistakes that we made and that was the difference in the game.”

St Helens head coach Paul Wellens:

“We were almost hit by a cyclone, it was a combination of things – they started the game with much more intent than we did, and the athleticism of some of their players can really hurt you.

“On the flip side, we need to be better from our intent and how we start the game, because we very quickly lost control and it took us some time to win it back.

“I thought, as a collective, our intent around our defensive work at the start wasn’t where it needed to be, but what was there was a willingness to scramble and work hard for each other.”

[On Tommy Makinson’s injury] “Tommy pulled up tight with his hamstring and when it’s like that you’re foolish to take a risk.

“We had to have a last-minute reshuffle and it’s a credit to the playing group that they can handle that disruption and still go out and get a result.”

Leeds: Miller, Handley, Martin, Newman, Roberts, Croft, Frawley, Oledzki, Ackers, Sangare, McDonnell, Bentley, C Smith.

Interchanges: Holroyd, Edgell, O’Connor, Goudemand.

St Helens: Welsby, Blake, Mata’utia, Hurrell, Bennison, Lomax, Dodd, Walmsley, Clark, Lees, Whitley, Batchelor, Knowles.

Interchanges: Delaney, Mbye, Bell, Wingfield.

Referee: Jack Smith.

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