Leeds went four points clear at the top of Super League as St Helens' slide continued at Headingley last night.
The decline of the reigning champions' - they could be in ninth place by tomorrow night if other results go against them - is the story of the season. Although there was no faulting their persistence, this was a game Leeds should have had comfortably won long before the end.
Saints made the most disconcerting start when Ade Gardner allowed Kevin Sinfield's kick to bounce twice and was then beaten to it by Mark Calderwood. He got his pass away to Chev Walker and Leeds were away into an early lead, extended by Sinfield's touch line conversion.
Saints would have been worse off if Leeds had capitalised on an even more glaring mistake by Anthony Stewart, or if Mike Bennett had not made a try-saving tackle on David Furner. Instead they reduced the gap to two points after 13 minutes when Keiron Cunningham forced his way over on a rare attack.
More typical of the first half was the pressure Leeds exerted after that score, eventually producing another try for them when Gary Connolly skipped past Sean Long to touch down.
Sinfield missed that conversion and a penalty, but made up for it with a superb pass to David Furner to set up Francis Cummins for the third Leeds try, with Sinfield again goaling from wide out.
Saints kept a toe-hold in the game, thanks to Danny McGuire failing to cope with a routine kick from Long, leaving the ball for Cunningham to claim his second and for Long again to convert. On the balance of play, Saints could be hugely relieved to be only six points down at the break.
Six minutes into the second half, Saints were right back in it, with Paul Wellens bouncing out of a string of ineffectual tackles.
Leeds now only led by virtue of Long's missed conversion, but they doubled their advantage after Darren Smith had gone high on their man of the match, Andrew Dunemann.
Jason Hooper was lucky to only go on report for a late tackle on Sinfield, before a mix-up between Darren Albert and Stewart produced another penalty for the Leeds captain.
Dunemann and Sinfield both missed with drop goal attempts that would have given Leeds a reassuring seven points margin. That left the door just slightly ajar for Saints, who had chances in the remaining minutes but lacked the precision to turn their pressure into points.
Leeds: Connolly; Calderwood, Walker, Senior, Cummins; Dunemann, McGuire; McDonald, Diskin, McDermott, Furner, Adamson, Sinfield. Substitutes used: Burrow, Bailey, Poching, Feather.
St Helens: Wellens; Stewart, Gleeson, Albert, Gardner; Sculthorpe, Long; Britt, Cunningham, Mason, Joynt, Bennett, Smith. Substitutes used: Hooper, Higham, Ward, Jonkers.
Referee: K Kirkpatrick (Warrington).Reuse content