|Leeds (12) 12|
|Tries: Handley, Smith, Goals: Martin 2|
|St Helens (4) 13|
|Tries: Makinson, Sironen Goals: Makinson 2 Drop-goal: Dodd|
St Helens’ World Club Challenge hero Lewis Dodd was again the match-winner as his golden-point drop-goal edged a thriller against 12-man Leeds Rhinos.
During a gruelling 80 minutes in which the two sides could not be separated, Leeds had James McDonnell sent-off.
Both sides missed multiple drop-goal attempts in golden-point time, while Leeds’ Rhyse Martin missed a penalty goal attempt from distance.
Dodd finally nailed it, just as he did against Australian champions Penrith.
That triumph down under in February has come at a cost for Saints, as their remarkable achievement in winning in Australia has not coincided with their best form in Super League, where they are in sixth place as they seek a fifth straight crown.
All the same, they are now just six points behind leaders Warrington with a game in hand, and could well be buoyed by this success.
Leeds have won six and lost seven, a sequence of results that sums up their unpredictable nature.
In this rematch of last season’s Grand Final, Saints and a relieved Paul Wellens came away with the points. Leeds, though, earned themselves much credit with a display in adversity that highlighted their strengths in a topsy-turvy season.
At one stage, four players had been ruled out through injury, with Aidan Sezer, Morgan Gannon and key centre Harry Newman all limping off and unable to return, while Tom Holroyd played through what looked like a hamstring issue after going off for treatment.
Rohan Smith’s side were steely against a Saints side who currently lack the ruthlessness of the group that has won the past four Super League titles. It was the Rhinos approach, though, that seemed to knock the visitors off their stride, even as their two already makeshift halves departed to force ongoing reshuffles.
Ash Handley put them in front when Rhyse Martin was set away by Derrell Olpherts from deep, but a clunky Saints did find their groove to send 300-game Tommy Makinson over in trademark fashion shortly after.
It was not the turning point for the visitors, who were behind again before half-time when Makinson’s escort attempt merely obscured Jack Welsby’s sight of a bomb, and Cameron Smith punished his spill to score.
Curtis Sironen’s raw power helped Saints pull within two points when he dashed over, and a penalty goal gave Makinson the chance to square things up with Leeds creaking.
Golden point ensued, after Rhinos back-rower McDonnell was dismissed after coming together with a bloodied Jonny Lomax, and the match was heading for a draw until Dodd finally hit the mark with about a minute to go.
Leeds back-rower Rhyse Martin told BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra:
“I feel we’ve got that effort in us every week. We just put the pressure on ourselves in a lot of the games but when we compete we’re a really good team.
“We put a team like Saints under the pump so tonight it’s disappointing but I’m proud of the effort from the boys.
“It’s just belief, we know everyone in this team can play anywhere if they need to, we just want to do it for each other and the fans at Leeds.”
St Helens half-back Jonny Lomax told BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra:
“It was an exciting game, I’m worn out. There was a lot of running around. It’s great to get the win and two points, which is like four points the way the league is at the moment.
“We can’t get carried away, we were too loose in certain areas of the game and we need to improve. It’s easy to talk about improving after two points, but if we’re having some honesty we have to be better than that.
“We spoke that we had to build fatigue in the game and we didn’t have any respect with the ball and that showed. It doesn’t matter then if they’re down to one sub. There were too many unforced errors.
“You start the game believing you can go on to win the game. In golden point we weren’t disciplined in our set-up and we didn’t nail one. The one we did nail, ‘Doddy’ did well because we didn’t set that up properly. Hats off to him, it was a fantastic play.”
Leeds: Myler; Handley, Newman, MacDonald, Olpherts; Gannon, Sezer; Walters, O’Connor, Holroyd, McDonnell, Martin, Smith.
Interchanges: Oledzki, Donaldson, Johnson, Sangare, [Tindall].
Sent off: McDonnell (77).
St Helens: Welsby; Makinson, Hurrell, Hopoate, Ritson; Lomax, Dodd; Walmsley, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Sironen, Batchelor, Bell.
Interchanges: Mata’utia, Lussick, Paasi, Wingfield, [Bennison].
Sin-bin: Mata’utia (84).
Referee: Liam Moore