If there was one foregone conclusion from round sixteen of Super League 2022, it was that St Helens would defeat the Rhinos and extend their lead at the top of the table in the Thursday evening fixture broadcast live on Sky Sports.
Both sides made several changes from the sides which lined up a fortnight ago, Saints had a few missing and named Bennison at full back and Sironen in the second row, while Leeds notably had Sezer back in the halves and skipper Leeming at hooker.
The bookies had given the Rhinos a fourteen-point start on the handicap coupon, they had little chance of registering their sixth win of the campaign.
The Rhinos withstood the early Saints onslaught but with just under eight minutes on the clock Konrad Hurrell took the pass, stepped out of a tackle, and slid towards the line to stretch out and arm to score by the right corner flag. Tommy Makinson added with the perfect conversion from the touchline.
A couple of moments of magic from Harry Newman saw the Rhinos advance to the Saints line but the Saints defence held firm and after forcing a goal line dropout there was a high tackle which returned possession to the home side.
On seventeen Alex Walmsley crashed through the Rhinos line off a sensational Morgan Knowles pass to dive over. Makinson was again accurate with the boot, Saints already twelve up and in control.
The Rhinos struck back on twenty-two with a sensational try from Harry Newman. A cross-field kick by Blake Austin was offloaded by a falling, and touchline bound, David Fusitu´a into the hands of the Rhinos centre who weaved his way through the broken defence to score by the right upright. Rhyse Martin added the conversion, the Rhinos back within six.
A thirty-three-minute Kruise Leeming grubber was chased and grounded off the post pad by Sam Walters but after referring the decision upstairs as a try it was clear that the Leeds sub had knocked on in the process of grounding, the try ruled out.
A minute later Regan Grace stepped past the Leeds tacklers and under two tacklers the ball hit the turf, the referee giving a try on field and the video referee was unable to overrule the decision as there was no clear camera angle, despite Grace appearing to lose the ball in the tackle. Makinson was unable to add the conversion from wide, Saints 16-6 ahead at the break, Leeds counting themselves unlucky to be ten points adrift.
Konrad Hurrell got his second of the night on forty-three as he picked up a loose pass and bust between two Leeds defenders to cross the line from ten metres out. Makinson pushed his conversion attempt across the front of the posts.
Leeds defended three consecutive sets of six inside their own twenty around the fifty-minute mark and two minutes later Bodene Thompson was on hand to take the pass and score after Martin collected a tapped back Austin kick to the corner. Turning defence into attack, when Martin added the conversion, the Rhinos were back within eight.
On fifty-six Zak Hardaker lost the ball in the tackle as he brought it back from his own goal area. Two tackles later Agnacious Paasi crashed over the line to score under the sticks. Makinson added the conversion for 26-12.
Thompson was sin-binned for a reckless trip on sixty-three, the game slipping away from the Rhinos at speed. Three minutes later Joe Batchelor found space wide right after taking a Jonny Lomax pass and running the angle to score. Makinson was accurate with the boot for 32-12.
After Austin failed to make ten metres with a goal line drop out, Saints used their tackles and on the fifth they put Dan Norman over with an overlap. Makinson was off target with the kick.
War broke out on seventy-five after am awful tackle from Zane Tetevano on Konrad Hurrell after the Saints centre put in a kick. Tetevano was deservedly shown the red card.
James Bentley was sin-binned for slowing down the play the ball on seventy-eight and on the first play the ball after the restart Alex Walmsley went under a pile of Leeds tacklers and get the ball onto the ground before being flipped onto his back. Makinson added the conversion, Saints securing a big 42-12 win.
At times Saints rode their luck and took full advantage of a few dubious decisions to build a lead and eventually take the win as the Rhinos ill discipline kicked in during the closing stages. They weren´t at their best and uncharacteristically made a myriad of errors to leave the door ajar for the Rhinos in the early periods of the game. Leeds will take some solace from being in the game for the first hour, especially in their defence, but it was still a big defeat and another setback for the Rhinos as their play off aspirations lay in tatters.
Saints: Bennison, Makinson (5G), Hurrell (2T), Davies, Grace (T), Welsby, Lomax, Walmsley (2T), Roby, Lees, Sironen, Batchelor (T), Knowles. Subs: Lussick, Paasi (T), Winfield, Norman (T).
Leeds Rhinos: Hardaker, Fusitu´a, Newman (T), Martin (2G), Handley, Austin, Sezer, Oledzki, Leeming, Prior, Thompson (T, SB on 63), Bentley (SB on 78), Donaldson. Subs: Tetevano (SO on 76), Myler, Walters, O´Connor.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 10-0, 12-0, 12-4, 12-6, 16-6 : HT : 20-6, 20-10, 20-12, 24-12, 26-12, (SB), 30-12, 32-12, 36-12, (SO), (SB), 40-12, 42-12: FT.
Lead Exchanges: St Helens.
Referee: Tom Grant.