Stewart leaves it late for Saints

St Helens 30 Leeds Rhinos 26
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The Independent Online

A last-minute try from Anthony Stewart sealed one of the most nail-biting of victories even by Saints' standards and took them to second place in Super League. Leeds were two points ahead in the battle of two sides who will meet again next weekend with a place at Murrayfield at stake when Chris Joynt burst down the left to get a one-handed pass away to Stewart, whose pace and balance over the last 30 yards did the rest.

An old rugby league tradition states that dodgy looking teams be fielded in the week before a Challenge Cup semi-final, and Leeds kept to it by selecting a side with half a dozen regulars missing from the starting line-up. Saints were more recognisable, but with Kieron Cunningham and Darren Britt missing from their front row.

It was first blood to Leeds with a penalty from Ben Walker after Mick Higham had lived up to his name by going high in the tackle, but it all rebounded on them when Willie Poching knocked on from the kick-off to re-start. Saints, as they do so often, cashed in immediately, lovely handling from Sean Long supplying Paul Sculthorpe, who sent Martin Gleeson over unopposed.

Saints turned the screw when two consecutive sets of tackles were too much for the Rhinos to absorb, Tommy Martyn selling a huge dummy to score.

Two goals from Long took Saints further ahead and Leeds were in danger of drifting out of the game until Joynt gave them a lifeline with a rare fumble. From their next attack, the Rhinos stretched Saints' defence down the left and Ben Walker took a short pass from Rob Burrow to go in for a badly needed try. Walker's surprising missed conversion and Long's penalty gave Saints continued breathing space.

Leeds looked doomed when Poching was sent to the sin bin for another offence in the tackle, but the arrival of one of their big guns marked a change in fortune. Barrie McDermott had only been on the field for a minute before he muscled over from close in.

Two more goals from Walker levelled the scores, with the change of tide underlined by Sculthorpe going to the sin bin as Poching returned.

As half-time approached Leeds regained the lead, Keith Senior going over from Karl Pratt's pass.

Walker added two points to open the second half after another blemish by Joynt but Saints took advantage of Marcus St Hilaire stepping into touch to launch an attack that ended with Martyn coasting in for his second.

Martyn undid much of that good work with a knock-on that gave Leeds the ball for a well-worked try from Mark Calderwood, and Walker's penalty for another high tackle by Higham opened an eight-point gap. But then Joynt managed to step out of St Hilaire's tackle for a converted try that brought it back to two.

St Helens: Wellens, Albert, Gleeson, Newlove, Stewart, Martyn, Long, Nickle, Higham, Edmondson, Joynt, Stankervitch, Sculthorpe. Substitutes: Jonkers, B Ward, Hoppe, Bennett.

Leeds: St Hilaire, Calderwood, C Walker, Senior, Pratt, B Walker, Burrow, D Ward, Diskin, McDonald, Hay, Vowles, Poching. Substitutes: Cummins, Jones-Buchanan, Fleary, McDermott.

Referee: R Silverwood (Mirfield).

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