Super League: St Helens end run of defeats with 30-22 victory over Leeds Rhinos
Last Updated: 20/05/13 9:50pm
St Helens staged a remarkable fightback to secure an unlikely 30-22 victory over Leeds Rhinos at Headingley, ending a run of five straight defeats in the process.
The visitors had not lost six on the spin since the 1985-86 season, but they looked on course to match that unwanted record after a sloppy start which saw them concede three unanswered tries in the first 25 minutes.
Saints were the architects of their own downfall as they produced a string of errors and one such, a Luke Thomspon knock-on, set up the opening try. Quick hands from first Danny McGuire and then Zak Hardaker put in Kallum Watkins who expertly touched down for his 50th Rhinos try - although Kevin Sinfield surprisingly missed the conversion.
Leeds' second arrived on ten minutes and again Saints were culpable having been caught offside to gift the hosts dangerous field position. It was to cost them as the ball was spun from right to left into the hands of Joel Moon who easily stepped inside Nathan Ashe before stretching out to score. Sinfield added the extras.
Yet more indiscipline from Saints, this time back-to-back infringements by first Tony Puletua and then Jon Wilkin, handed Leeds the chance to extend the lead on 21 minutes and they duly accepted, Rob Burrow ducking in between defenders from close range to touch down next to the posts. Sinfield converted again for a 16-0 lead.
Having been completely outplayed and looking disorganised and bereft of ideas, it came as real surprise that Saints roused themselves with two quick tries to get back into the contest.
They belatedly got on the board with their first attack of any real note. After a high-kick from Wilkin had initially caused confusion, it was Stuart Howarth who cleverly sent Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook over under the posts following a dummy which wrong-footed the Leeds defence - Tommy Makinson converted.
They were back to within just four points on 32 minutes with a similar score; a quick offload from Wilkin sent Sia Soliola clear and the New Zealand international crashed over under the posts, Makinson again adding a simple conversion to make the half-time score 16-12.
Saints carried that momentum into the second half and were level within four minutes of the restart. A fabulous offload from Willie Manu released Mark Percival and the youngster waited before passing to Makinson who showed a fine turn of speed to race over.
He could not add the extras to move his side ahead, but they did hit the front minutes later when a suicidal error from Hardaker inside his own in-goal area was pounced upon by Anthony Laffranchi who touched down for the simplest of tries. Makinson's conversion made the scoreline 22-16.
Hardaker then came up with another mistake, this time failing to collect a stab forward from the boot of Paul Wellens, which allowed Makinson to drop down on the ball and claim his second try.
Leeds looked totally shell-shocked, but were roused on the hour mark after a fine carry from Jamie Jones-Buchanan which helped to lift the crowd. A couple of plays later Ryan Bailey bulldozed over from close range for a try which Sinfield converted to reduce the deficit to four.
That set up a grandstand finish, but it was Saints who killed the game seven minutes from time, Thompson bursting through and finishing superbly under pressure to ensure the visitors would end their miserable run of defeats.