Leeds 22-23 St Helens: Saints leave it late to down spirited Rhinos
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 16/06/18 7:22am
A drop-goal from Danny Richardson two minutes from time condemned Leeds to a fifth successive Betfred Super League defeat and strengthened St Helens' lead at the top with a thrilling 23-22 victory at Headingley.
The Rhinos are one of only two teams to have beaten Saints in 2018 and they must be wondering how they failed to complete the double after producing an heroic performance against the odds.
The reigning champions went into the contest with 12 absentees and played the game with only 16 men after coach Brian McDermott opted not to give a debut to 17-year-old prop Tom Holroyd, one of four teenagers in his 17-man squad.
St Helens, who suffered two two-point defeats at Headingley in 2017, were far from their best against a Leeds team that produced one of their most complete displays of the season.
The Rhinos made the brighter start, with acting captain Adam Cuthbertson setting the tone.
Saints thought they had opened the scoring in the 11th minute when stand-off Jonny Lomax, one of five England players in the visitors' line-up, forced his way over only to have his try disallowed for obstruction.
Leeds immediately made the most of that let-off, working their way upfield and man of the match Matt Parcell broke through the first line of defence to send winger Tom Briscoe away for the first try, which Liam Sutcliffe converted.
It took the leaders some time to quell the Rhinos' enthusiasm and find their rhythm, but they struck twice in the second quarter to go in front.
Full-back Ben Barba showed his eye for the opening and made it count as he ghosted through for a solo try, his 20th of the campaign, in the 23rd minute. Richardson's conversion levelled the scores at 6-6.
Barba was then involved in a score for Lomax, who finished off a break by Mark Percival for his 10th try of the season, which put Saints in front 10-6.
Leeds probably needed the half-time hooter to halt the visitors' momentum but they were lively at the start of the second half, drawing level when Briscoe re-gathered a grubber kick from substitute Cameron Smith to score his second try of the night.
Saints hit back immediately, with hooker James Roby twice held up over the line after trademark dashes from dummy half and Percival was also tackled over the line without being able to ground the ball before he got on the end of another Barba pass to restore Saints' lead.
Richardson's touchline goal made it 16-10 but the never-say-die Rhinos were level once more after Ryan Hall claimed possession from the re-start and prop Mitch Garbutt took Parcell's pass close to the line to spin over for a converted effort.
Leeds managed to retain possession and Sutcliffe was on target with the second of two penalties to edge his side back in front on the hour.
The champions looked to have won it when second rower Brett Ferres gathered the ball from his own kick through to score their fourth try nine minutes from the end and make it 22-16.
But Sutcliffe's missed conversion kept the door open for Saints and they duly struck two minutes later when the outstanding Percival made the running for co-centre Ryan Morgan to go over for their fourth try.
Richardson kept his nerve to land the equalising conversion and was again on target two minutes from the end with his drop goal.