St Helens 20-28 Leeds: Rhinos halt Saints' unbeaten run
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 17/03/18 8:03am
Ash Handley maintained his remarkable try-scoring record against St Helens as champions Leeds ended their 100 per cent record with a 28-20 result at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
The scores were locked at 14-14 after an hour when Handley struck twice in six minutes, taking his tally of tries to 10 in six matches against Saints, to put the Rhinos on their way to a thrilling 28-20 victory.
Saints, who were hit by the absence of England prop Alex Walmsley with a neck injury, stay top of the table but Leeds are just two points behind with a game in hand.
Leeds had a particularly inexperienced bench and teenager Jack Walker, who was an unused substitute in the win over Hull a week earlier, found himself in the thick of the action after only five minutes when full-back Ashton Golding was forced off with concussion.
The Rhinos also lost skipper Kallum Watkins due to injury but demonstrated exceptional resilience to pull off a memorable victory.
Saints made a lively start and centre Mark Percival thought he was away for a try only to be brought back for an obstruction and it was the visitors who drew first blood.
Ireland prop Anthony Mullally, making a rare start in the absence of Mitch Garbutt and Adam Cuthbertson, got up a head of steam and proved unstoppable as he charged through the Saints defence for his first try of the season.
Watkins' goal made it 6-0 but Saints went on to dominate the rest of the first half, without making their possession count on the scoreboard.
Exciting Australian full-back Ben Barba scythed through for an equalising try on 16 minutes and was held up on his back shortly afterwards while centre Tommy Makinson outjumped Ryan Hall to collect a high kick only to drop the ball over the line.
Danny Richardson nudged Saints in front with a penalty and created a try for winger Adam Swift with a flash of inspiration, gathering a loose ball and speculatively passing inside for Makinson to supply the final pass.
Leading 12-6, Saints looked in total control and were pressing for a third try when Leeds came up with a breakaway score, Joel Moon getting winger Tom Briscoe through a gap and scrum-half Richie Myler providing support for the try.
Watkins' second conversion tied the scores but Richardson put his side back in front 14 minutes into the second half with his second penalty, awarded for Carl Ablett not playing the ball correctly.
Still the Rhinos came back, though, and after Watkins had once more levelled the scores with a penalty, Handley gave them the lead for the second time on the hour when he pounced on a bouncing ball from Myler's kick into space.
That put a spring in the Rhinos' step and had Myler been able to finish off a clean break by hooker Matt Parcell, the game might have been over but Barba pulled off the tackle and Watkins was brought down just inches short of the line in another raid.
Watkins had to go off after taking a knock in that tackle but the champions stretched their lead when Moon stepped through a hole in the Saints defence and put in a slide-rule grubber kick for Handley to grab his second try.
Barba set up a grandstand finish when he superbly finished a break by winger Regan Grace, with Richardson cutting the deficit to just two points with his fourth goal.
But Parcell made sure of the win for Leeds with their fifth try seven minutes from the end.