Pryce’s battling show helps Saints cash in

St Helens 26 Leeds 18
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The Independent Online

St Helens drew level with Leeds in the Super League table, getting the better of an often bitter battle with their great enemies. Two tries from Matt Gidley were a major factor in deciding the game, but it was the skill and physical presence of Leon Pryce that did even more damage to the Rhinos' prospects.

It was a Leeds error that paved the way for the game's opening score, Matt Diskin's forward pass to Carl Ablett conceding possession. Saints seized upon their opportunity, with Sean Long and Leon Pryce releasing Matt Gidley for the try. Leeds drew through Keith Senior – making him only the second player, after Saints' Keiron Cunningham, to score in all 14 seasons of Super League.

Despite the loss of Leeds' important half-back, Rob Burrow, with a head-knock, there was little to choose between these two familiar foes until the minutes before half-time, when Saints suddenly grabbed control. The effervescent Long was at the heart of the first of two quick-fire tries, making the initial break and finding Chris Flannery with his pass. James Roby was in support for the inside ball and scored with some ease.

Three minutes later, Pryce managed to spin out of a couple of tackles and touch-down, with Long's third conversion making it a comfortable-looking half-time lead.

The second half saw emotions erupt, first with a brawl initiated by Lee Smith and Lee Gilmour and then with Ryan Bailey's ferocious tackle on Maurie Fa'asavalu. After another outbreak of hostilities, it was Leeds who regained control of themselves first, moving the ball quickly for Senior to send in Ryan Hall. Kevin Sinfield's second touchline conversion brought Leeds within range, but even after Long was forced off the Rhinos still found it impossible to suppress Pryce.

It was his pass out of the tackle that unleashed Jon Wilkin on a raid completed by the young winger, Gary Wheeler. When Flannery sent Gidley away for his second and Saints' fifth, the destination of the points was decided, despite a late consolation from Senior.

St Helens: Wellens; Gardner, Gidley, Gilmour, Wheeler; Pryce, Long; Hargreaves, Cunningham, Graham, Wilkin, Flannery, Clough. Substitutes used: Roby, Fa'asavalu, Cayless, Ashurst.

Leeds: Webb; Donald, Smith, Senior, Hall; McGuire, Burrow; Leuluai, Diskin, Peacock, Ablett, Jones-Buchanan, Sinfield. Substitutes used: Bailey, Burgess, Gibson, Allen.

Referee: P Bentham (Warrington)