The loss of their half-backs, Kyle Eastmond and Leon Pryce, cost St Helens dear in this absorbing battle between Super League's great rivals. Saints lost Eastmond with a recurrence of his ankle injury in the first half and Pryce with back spasms in the second.
"When you lose key players it's hard to mix and match. The guys tried everything they could, but it was just a little bit too tough," said their coach, Mick Potter, who also had qualms about the legality of Ryan Hall's try that decided a fluctuating affair.
"I thought Saints did well, to lose their key halves and hang in there," said Leeds' coach Brian McClennan. "We've got the two points and we're happy for it, but we're not kidding ourselves that we played well."
Saints began as though intent on blowing the Rhinos away. Monopolising early possession, they had gone close by the time Pryce launched a high kick, won by Ade Gardner, jumping above Scott Donald. When the ball came to ground, Chris Flannery had just enough room to touch down.
Leeds would have been further behind if Jonny Lomax had been able to punish Lee Smith's wild pass by squeezing over in the other corner. When Leeds did get on the scoreboard, it was with a try that was a mirror image of Saints' first. Kevin Sinfield kicked, Donald got above Gardner and Chris Clarkson was there to finish it off. Those who believe the high kick plays too big a part in modern rugby league continued to get ammunition for their argument from two more Leeds tries. The first came when Gardner could only steer the ball into the arms of Brett Delaney and the second from an evil bounce. Paul Wellens was left stranded, Greg Eastwood reacted first and Keith Senior sent Danny McGuire over for a converted try and a 10-point lead.
It looked bad for Saints, who had already lost Eastmond in his first match back after a month out. They overcame that extra handicap by drawing level before half-time. Swift handling by Pryce and Matt Gidley sent Lomax over and then Flannery split the Leeds defence for his second, sliding over and grounding the ball despite Smith's efforts. Chris Dean had a try disallowed for a forward pass but there was no stopping Pryce after 51 minutes when he took Scott Moore's pass and carved through McGuire's attempted tackle to give his side the advantage.
Pryce also had to be helped off in obvious pain soon afterwards, just before Lomax's penalty put Saints further ahead. McGuire's knock-on prevented a potential reply, as did a forward pass from Danny Buderus which also reflected Leeds' anxiety. They had fresh hope, though, when Ryan Bailey barged through and set up McGuire for his second try. Bailey also figured prominently in the try that put Leeds back in front, throwing the ball blind out of the tackle for Hall to eventually cross in the corner.
Leeds: Smith; Donald, Delaney, Senior, Hall; Sinfield, McGuire; Bailey, Buderus, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Clarkson.
Substitutes used: McShane, Kirke, Ambler, Eastwood.
St Helens: Wellens; Lomax, Gidley, Flannery, Gardner; Pryce, Eastmond; Graham, Roby, Hargreaves, Clough, Dixon, Moore.
Substitutes used: Dean, Fozzard, Ashurst, Emmitt.
Referee: R Silverwood (Mirfield).Reuse content