Leeds Rhinos: Liam Sutcliffe. Goals: Kevin Sinfield: 4/4.
St. Helens: Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, James Roby. Goals: Mark Percival 1/1. Jordan Turner, 0/1. Tom Makinson, 1/1. Drop Goal: Lance Hohaia (74).
Twelve man Leeds Rhinos lost out to a late St Helens comeback as the Lancashire side moved to within a point of claiming the League Leaders’ Shield on Friday night.
Leeds were down to 12 men after Joel Moon’s 20th-minute red card for a shoulder charge on Saints’ Mark Percival. But they battled hard and led 12-2 at the break thanks to Liam Sutcliffe’s try and four kicks from captain, Kevin Sinfield. Saints hit back in the second half, however, with tries from Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook and James Roby, before Lance Hohaia’s late drop goal.
The game began in tense fashion as the sides traded penalty goals, Percival kicked Saints ahead early on before Sinfield replied with one of his own.
On 20 minutes, the game took a dramatic turn. St Helens centre Mark Percival took the ball up and was met by a heavy challenge from Joel Moon who correctly received a red card from referee, Richard Silverwood. Despite this setback, the Rhinos rallied and began to get on top with Sinfield kicking another penalty to take the score to 4-2 after 28 minutes.
Then, perhaps surprisingly, the Rhinos extended their lead on the half hour mark as Liam Sutcliffe used a combination of agility and strength to find his way to the line from 15 meters out.
Kevin Sinfield converted from just to the left of the posts to give Leeds a 10-2 lead. Sinfield kicked a further penalty, his third of the night, on the stroke of half time, to give the Rhinos a 10 point lead going into the break.
Leeds stood firm in the face of adversity and it took until the 63rd minute before the visitors finally had their first try of the game. London-born prop Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, who was operating at centre following Percival’s earlier injury, got on the end of a fine pass from Lance Hohaia to stroll through a gap in the Leeds defence.
Jordan Turner flashed a simple conversion attempt wide which left his side six points adrift with 12 minutes left.
But, St. Helens built some momentum on the back of ‘LMS’ s’ try and James Roby soon squeezed his way over from close range as the game entered the final ten minutes. Tom Makinson took over the kicking duties and levelled the scores at 12-12 before Hohaia’s dramatic 74th minute drop goal finally gave Saints what proved to be a decisive lead.
The result means that only Castleford Tigers can now catch Saints at the top of the table while the Rhinos, who have lost their last three league games and face a tough trip to Wigan next week, slip to sixth, two points adrift of the second-placed Tigers.
WeLoveLeague Man of the Match: Liam Sutcliffe.