Leeds 16-14 St Helens: Ryan Hall and Adam Cuthbertson tries see Rhinos beat Saints
Last Updated: 19/08/17 4:24pm
England winger Ryan Hall marked his 300th appearance for Leeds with a crucial try to help get them back on course for a home semi-final with a tight 16-14 win over St Helens.
The Rhinos turned around an 8-2 half-time deficit to gain the tense win on the night the club bade a fond farewell to the famous South Stand, which is to be demolished as part of a major Headingley Stadium re-development.
It means Leeds are three points clear of third-placed Hull with four matches left of the Super 8s, while St Helens missed the chance to climb back into the top four.
Just two points separated the two sides in their meetings in the regular season and there was once more little to choose between them.
Leeds coach Brian McDermott wanted a reaction from his side to their 38-6 thrashing by Wakefield and, although this was a marked improvement, the first-half performance did little to cheer the South Standers in the 16,326 crowd or the array of former players who were paraded at half-time.
Teenage full-back Jack Walker took his opportunity to impress and hooker Matt Parcell was typically industrious, but Leeds could find little creativity and when they got a sight of the Saints line they lacked composure to make it tell.
Saints' early tactics were to pepper Leeds winger Tom Briscoe with a series of high balls to test his fragile confidence, but with little reward, the only scoring for 35 minutes was penalty goals.
Centre Mark Percival succeeded with one from two shots at goal for the visitors, while Kallum Watkins tied it up a 2-2 until Saints' former England hooker James Roby lit up proceedings with the highlight of the first half.
He broke through the first line of defence on halfway and second rower Zeb Taia was in support to get full-back Jonny Lomax over for the only try of the half, which Percival converted to make it 8-2.
The Rhinos looked a far more lively outfit after the break and drew level when Walker combined with centre Liam Sutcliffe to get Hall over for a try on his landmark appearance which Watkins converted superbly.
The try breathed fresh confidence through the Leeds ranks and they ought to have taken the lead when Watkins had another penalty chance from almost in front of the posts, but miscued his kick.
However, the Yorkshiremen were able to force a series of repeat sets and Saints' defence finally cracked on 63 minutes when Hall kept the ball alive on the last tackle and stand-off Joel Moon got prop Adam Cuthbertson crashing over for the all-important try.
Watkins added the conversion and put two scores between the sides with a second penalty, which proved crucial when substitute half-back Danny Richardson pulled a try back for the visitors six minutes from the end.