|St Helens (28) 40|
|Tries: Grace, Welsby, Knowles 2, Makinson, Walmsley, Mata’utia Goals: Coote 6|
|Leeds (6) 6|
|Try: Dwyer Goal: Martin|
St Helens bounced back from their Magic Weekend disappointment against Catalans, sealing a top-two finish with a thumping home victory against Leeds.
Saints did the damage in the first half with prop Alex Walmsley scoring one of five tries in a rampaging display.
Sione Mata’utia ran in a sixth after the break before Morgan Knowles’ second added to Regan Grace, Jack Welsby and Tommy Makinson tries.
Brad Dwyer got Leeds’ only score, as they struggled to break Saints down.
The defeat is a blow to the Rhinos’ play-off hopes, as a congested top-eight battle for the remaining three places to join minor premiers Catalans, Saints and Warrington in the top-six play-offs.
All eyes will be on Hull KR against Castleford on Saturday, with Rovers the Rhinos’ final-day opponents, and a desperate shootout for the knock-out phase to come.
While Richard Agar ponders a nervy finish, his opposite number in the Saints ranks – Kristian Woolf – will be delighted by the response to missing out on the League Leaders’ Shield with a performance that laid down a marker to their title rivals.
In Walmsley they had a steamroller of a front-rower to tumble Leeds down the middle, and on the back of that dominance a backline capable of the class to open up their defence.
Welsby and Lewis Dodd thrived on the quick rucks and the space created by the pack hulks, while Makinson and Grace both finished smartly.
Knowles showed his immense value too, switching from ball-playing linchpin to wide-running back-rower when injury to Mata’utia forced him off, and also added two tries from muscular surges close to the line.
Mata’utia’s ankle injury and a Mark Percival head injury were the only sour notes to an otherwise near-perfect display.
For Leeds, there were bright spots – Dwyer snapping up a trademark sneak try, while Harry Newman and Richie Myler tried to take the game to a Saints side almost obsessed by maintaining defensive standards.
St Helens: Coote; Makinson, Naiqama, Percival, Grace; Welsby, Dodd; Walmsley, Roby, Lees, Mata’utia, Batchelor, Knowles
Interchanges: Thompson, Amor, Smith, Wingfield
Leeds: Broadbent; L. Briscoe, Newman, T. Briscoe, Handley; Leeming, Myler; Holroyd, Dwyer, Prior, Walters, Martin, O’Connor
Interchanges: Smith, A. Sutcliffe, Thompson, Johnson