Leeds Outclass Saints to Extend Lead at Top

St Helens 16-41 Leeds Rhinos

St Helens 16 (6)
Tries: Makinson, Turner (2)
Goals: Burns (2)

Leeds 41 (28)
Tries: Handley (3), Hardaker, McGuire, Sutcliffe, Moon
Goals: Sutcliffe (3), Sinfield (3)
Drop Goals: Sinfield

Match Review

A first half hat-trick from Ash Handley guided Leeds to a comfortable 41-16 win over St Helens and extended their lead at the top of the table to six points.

Handley’s treble as well as scores from Zak Hardaker and Danny McGuire put the visitors 28-6 up at the interval, with Tommy Makinson responding for St Helens.

Two tries early in the second half from Jordan Turner had given Saints hope, but scores from Liam Sutcliffe and Joel Moon as well as a drop-goal from Kevin Sinfield secured a formidable win for the Rhinos at the home of the champions.

Leeds have only lost one game this season and came into the match on the back of five consecutive wins. The Rhinos were outstanding from start to finish and forced second-placed St Helens into making too many errors and creating few chances.

Young Rhinos winger Ash Handley has been given an opportunity to feature in the first team due to injuries to Ryan Hall and Tom Briscoe and showed once again that he is a talent for the future. Three minutes in, the winger took a gamble to intercept Josh Jones’s pass out wide before running 90 metres to open the scoring.

His second came soon after. Joel Moon sucked in the Saints defence to find Handley in space out wide to go over for his second.

Fully-fit again Kevin Sinfield was forced to start the game on the bench for the first time since 2003 as another youngster, Liam Sutcliffe, was given the role of leading the visitors around the park. It was a task he demonstrated immaculately all night and has quelled fears that may have existed from Rhinos fans about replacing Sinfield’s leadership, kicking and vision when he switches codes at the end of the season.

Sutcliffe broke through the Saints line on 19 minutes from half-way before finding Zak Hardaker on his inside with the full-back extending the lead to 18-0.

An almost identical play followed 10 minutes later but this time it was Carl Ablett making the break before feeding the experienced Danny McGuire who scored Leeds’ fourth of the match. Sinfield’s introduction to the field saw him take over the kicking responsibilities from Sutcliffe and the Rhinos captain added the extras to make the score 24-0.

Saints head coach Keiron Cunningham must have feared another annihilation similar to the one they suffered at the hands of South Sydney in the World Club Challenge in February. However, the home side did manage to get on the scoreboard just before half-time with Tommy Makinson collecting Jon Wilkin’s kick through.

With the half-time hooter imminent Kallum Watkins broke the St Helens line before being held up 20 metres short. The ball found its way to Sutcliffe who had the vision to kick into the corner for Handley to complete his hat-trick and take the half-time score to 28-6.

Fit-again Luke Walsh came on for St Helens in the second-half and made an immediate impact, with the Australian’s looping pass out wide finding Jordan Turner who went over.

The two players combined again just after the hour-mark with Walsh’s cross-field kick eventually making its way to Turner to score his second.

However, any hopes Saints had of getting back into the game ended five minutes later with Sutcliffe shrugging off three St Helens defenders at ease and running the remaining distance to the line.

A drop-goal from Sinfield and a last minute try from Moon secured a 41-16 victory for Leeds who extend their lead over St Helens to six points having now played every side in the league once.

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