Rugby League: Leeds grandly inspired by Harris

Leeds 44 St Helens 16
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The Independent Online
LEEDS WILL resume hostilities with Wigan at Old Trafford on Saturday, after making short work of a St Helens side that never looked remotely capable of barring their route to the Grand Final.

The theory that last week's defeat at Wigan would have taken the edge off Leeds turned out to be well wide of the mark as, inspired yet again by Iestyn Harris, they punished Saints for an error-ridden performance.

"Saints are a good side, but we blew them away tonight," said their coach, Graham Murray.

Shaun McRae, coaching Saints for the last time, admitted: "They were the better side in every aspect. They put us under a lot of pressure and we failed to cope with it."

Despite their extra two days rest and a cleaner bill of health, Saints could not get into the game for long enough in the first half to deny Leeds a match-winning lead.

They were under strain from the start, compounded when Tommy Martyn missed touch with what would have been a relieving penalty kick. From the next attack, Daryl Powell kicked through the defence and Leroy Rivett was adjudged, after what must have been minute study of the video evidence, to have touched down.

Harris, involved in everything, landed the conversion, a penalty after Paul Atcheson had tried to stop him playing the ball and another immediately after when Paul Sculthorpe obstructed Adrian Morley as he chased a short kick-off.

Saints's only points of the half came out of the blue, Martyn's kick eluding Francis Cummins and Apollo Perelini kicking through to score.

Poor discipline and ineffective tackling were always likely to catch Saints out, however. Even though Harris missed a penalty, the pressure remained on and Harris's long pass sent Marc Glanville in. Even when a fine double tackle from Chris Smith and Sean Long kept Cummins out, Anthony Sullivan's knock-on soon put Saints under the cosh again.

All Saints could argue in their defence was that a couple of marginal decisions had gone against them, as when Glanville fired a border-line pass out of the tackle for Cummins to race away for Leeds' third try, Harris adding the conversion and another penalty before half- time.

Any thought of Saints mounting a fightback were ended in the first five minutes of the second half. Harris's pass to the wing appeared to be hanging in the air for a possible touchdown, but Rivett took it and left Sullivan flat-footed.

Leeds: Harris; Rivett, Blackmore, Godden, Cummins; Powell, Sheridan; Masella, Newton, Fleary, Morley, Farrell, Glanville. Substitutes used: Mathiou, Holroyd, Hay, St Hilaire.

St Helens: Atcheson; C Smith, D Smith, Newlove, Sullivan; Martyn, Long; O'Neill, Cunningham, Goldspink, Joynt, Perelini, Sculthorpe. Substitutes used: Hammond, Davidson, Anderson, Matautia.

Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).