Sculthorpe sinks Leeds

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Another hugely influential display from Paul Sculthorpe, with three tries and seven goals, led St Helens to a resounding victory over Leeds who often lacked that sort of expert direction.

Every time Leeds play without Iestyn Harris, ruled out of this one by a knee injury, it is a dress rehearsal for his seemingly inevitable departure. At Saints, their task was made no easier by the return of the home side's own would-be Welsh convert, Kieron Cunningham, after missing last week.

If the balance of power seemed to favour Saints, Leeds should have taken the lead when Harris's stand-in, Kevin Sinfield, missed a simple penalty. Almost immediately, Saints demonstrated that the Rhinos needed to accept all the points they could get. They took the lead when Tommy Martyn slipped past a couple of tackles and got his pass away for Kevin Iro to score.

Sculthorpe missed the conversion but soon added a penalty when Sonny Nickle's break ended with Leeds caught offside. Like their first, Saints' second try came courtesy of a penalty conceded and a pass from Martyn, gradually getting back to his best after his long absence from the side. This time it was a long ball to Anthony Sullivan on the wing that unlocked Leeds' defence.

When Shaun Hoppe intercepted from Carl Pratt, Mark Calderwood succeeded in catching him only for Sculthorpe to score and stretch Saints' lead to the point where they looked to be well on their way to revenge for their thrashing at Headingley earlier in the season.

Leeds had shown precious little penetration or creativity, but everything changed radically in the five minutes before half time. Sinfield's clever kick bounced perfectly for Andy Hay to touch down, albeit from a suspiciously off-side position, and Hay's pass then released Keith Senior for Francis Cummins to mark his 100th consecutive appearance with a try. Two Sinfield goals then brought Leeds right back into it.

The pressure on Saints increased when Chris Joynt was sent to the sin-bin for interfering in the tackle at the start of the second half. That was Leeds' chance to capitalise, but they failed to do so, instead conceding an important try when John Stankevitch burrowed over. The crisis was definitely over four minutes later when Sculthorpe took Cunningham's short pass to glide in.

Sculthorpe's hat trick soon followed, although Leeds briefly reasserted themselves when Tonie Carroll was awarded a penalty try for Paul Wellens' push. Joynt's bustling run and pass to Martyn resumed normal service. Hay, just about Leeds' best player on the night, set one up for Carroll, but Hoppe rounded it off for Saints after another flowing move, Sculthorpe's kick bringing his tally to 26 points.


St Helens: Stewart; Hall, Iro, Hoppe, Sullivan; Martyn, Wellens; Nickle, Cunningham, McDonald, Fairleigh, Stankevitch, Sculthorpe. Substitutes used: Edmondson, Jonkers, Joynt, Higham.

Leeds: Cummins; Walker, Carroll, Senior, Calderwood; Sinfield, Pratt; McDermott, Mears, Mathiou, Hay, Farrell, Clyde. Substitutes used: Diskin, Wrench, Mullins, Ward.

Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).

Table, Digest, page 25