Leeds 12 St Helens 26: Smooth Saints prosper as Leeds lose their discipline

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The Rhinos, runaway leaders of Super League all season, had their lead cut to a mere two points in a stormy match that saw their prop, Nick Scruton sent off for a spear tackle. It will suit the conspiracy theorists that that was one of a number of decisions by the St Helens-based referee, Steve Ganson, that went against them, but Leeds were to blame for their own loss of discipline in the second half.

Their grip on top spot is now tenuous and, if a team weakened by international calls loses to Castleford for the second time this season next weekend, they could be knocked off the summit for the first time this year.

Scruton was dismissed in the 52nd minute for upending Keiron Cunningham and dumping him unceremoniously on his head with an obviously dangerous throw. "It was a sending off office," said Saints coach Daniel Anderson. "It might take a bit of the gloss off our performance, but I thought we were fantastic up to that point."

Leeds' Brian McClennan made it clear that he was not imputing the integrity of any referee officiating on his home town team, as new league rules permit him to do. "But out fans were very upset and there was a bit of confusion in our ranks over some decisions," he said. Those decisions also included placing Ryan Bailey on report for a tackle on Maurie Fa'asalu, whose response was to score the game's opening try, from a reverse pass from Leon Pryce, who finished the game with a thigh injury that threatens his place in the England side to play France next Friday.

Leeds equalised through Kevin Sinfield's try and goal, but Saints led again when Sean Long's wicked kick came back off the post for Bryn Hargreaves after Ganson and his touch judge may have missed a knock on in the build up.

Saints stretched their lead through Francis Meli early in the second half and then Scruton made his own departure.

Almost immediately, Meli got his second and the game was beyond Leeds, although Scott Donald did get one back for them.

But then Pryce plucked Long's beautifully judged kick out of the air and Long's conversion and penalty completed a victory that confirms Saint's breath on the back of Leed's neck.

Leeds: Webb, Smith, Ellis, Senior, Donald, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Diskin, Bailey, Peacock, Ablett, Sinfield. Substitutes: Scruton, Tamsey, Burgess, Jones-Buchanan.

St Helens: Wellens, Gardner, Gidley, Talau, Meli, Pryce, Long, Graham, Cunningham, Hargreaves, Gilmour, Wilkin, Sculthorpe. Substitutes: Roby, Clough, Fa'asavalu, Thompson.

Referee: S Ganson (St Helens).