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Super League play-offs: Leeds Rhinos scrape past St Helens
Leeds kept their hopes of defending the Super League title alive after a late Danny McGuire drop goal gave them a thrilling 11-10 victory over St Helens at Headingley.
The Rhinos surged into a 10-point lead thanks to tries from Kallum Watkins and Joel Moon but the visitors fought all the way back to level things up as Willie Manu crossed the whitewash twice.
Saints, who have lost to Leeds in four of the last six Grand Finals, then had the chance to edge in front heading into the closing stages but Jordan Turner sliced a difficult conversion wide of the posts.
With the final minutes ticking down the contest became a race to convert the one-pointer, and after Jon Wilkin scuffed his attempt, McGuire coolly slotted over after being fed the ball from Kevin Sinfield.
The Rhinos will now face either Wigan or Warrington in the semi-finals, with the latter team able to pick Leeds or Huddersfield as their opposition via Club Call on Sunday.
The first half was tightly contested although both teams did look good on the counter-attack early on, with both Saints backs Tommy Makinson and Adam Swift both getting the chance to show their pace.
It took a tremendous cover tackle from Leeds skipper Sinfield to deny Swift, while Rhinos full-back Zak Hardaker threatened for the hosts with a number of breaks from deep.
The champions had the majority of possession in the first half and finally took the lead on 31 minutes when Watkins went over for his 20th try of the season.
Video referee Ben Thaler awarded the score after the centre had taken Hardaker's pass and twisted out of Francis Meli's tackle to reach the line before losing his grip on the ball.
There was an equally close call five minutes later when McGuire forced his way through several tacklers to plant the ball on the line but Thaler, using vision from RefCam, ruled he had lost control of it.
Saints' best chance of the opening 40 minutes came when prop Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook reached the tryline but was held on his back.
Leeds ought to have been further ahead at half-time but the scoreline took on a fairer reflection three minutes after the restart when McGuire's stabbed kick to the line bounced perfectly for centre Moon to touch down.
Sinfield's conversion made it 10-0 but a handling error from prop Jamie Peacock in his own 20-metre area gifted Saints the ideal attacking position and they capitalised as Manu took Wilkin's pass over the line.
Turner's goal cut the deficit to just four points and, with Wilkin orchestrating and kicking to good effect, St Helens continued to pile on the pressure.
It remained scoreless for 20 minutes until Wilkin produced another slick pass to get Manu romping over for his second try which brought the scores level and set the scene for the dramatic finish.
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First Utility Super League Table
|5||Hull K R||0||0|
|7||Salford Red Devils||0||0|
|First Utility Super League|
|Thursday 5th February|
|20:00||Widnes vs Wigan|
|Friday 6th February|
|20:00||St Helens vs Catalans Dragons|
|Saturday 7th February|
|15:00||Warrington vs Salford|
|Sunday 8th February|
|15:00||Huddersfield vs Hull|
|15:00||Hull K R vs Leeds|
|15:30||Castleford vs Wakefield|
|Thursday 12th February|
|20:00||Salford vs St Helens|
|Friday 13th February|
|20:00||Hull vs Warrington|
|20:00||Leeds vs Widnes|
|20:00||Wigan vs Huddersfield|
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