Rugby League: Leeds thrive despite being short-handed

St Helens 18 Leeds 31
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The Independent Online
LIKE the Leeds team as a whole, Andy Hay is having an eventful season. Two weeks ago, his try beat Wigan and last night he was sin-binned and scored two tries as Leeds again made Hay while the odds were against them.

Leeds, incapable of playing in an unexciting game at present, overcame the handicap of having first Hay and later Iestyn Harris sidelined for 10 minutes each. They also had to overcome a Saints side shaken up by the team selection of their coach, Shaun McRae, and showing more spirit than of late.

Saints even took an early lead, right in front of the banners bemoaning the dropping of Bobbie Goulding, a beautifully worked move involving Sean Long, Tommy Martyn, Paul Sculthorpe and Andy Haigh putting Anthony Sullivan over the line.

Saints showed a good deal of that sort of panache; the problem was that they were far too porous in defence, as illustrated by Harris' slight of hand and Paul Atcheson's missed tackle for Francis Cummins to equalise and Harris to kick Leeds ahead.

With Hay off the field for interfering in the tackle and Saints level through Long's penalty, Leeds again specialised, as they did at Sheffield last week, in playing a man short, Tony Kemp and Graham Holroyd carving the opening for Brad Godden to score.

When Holroyd put Hay over for his first try - Harris fielding a kick near his own corner flag and throwing a 40-yard pass to launch the attack - Leeds looked likely to run away with it. But Martyn's superb ball out of the tackle sent Chris Joynt in for a converted try before half-time and Karle Hammond's lovely kick and regather brought them level four minutes into the second half.

Saints had their chances to take the lead, but Keiran Cunningham was held up over the line, Hammond lost the ball just short and Paul Newlove passed the ball into touch with two players outside him.

Leeds have built their unbeaten start to the Super League season on punishing mistakes and they were soon in front to stay through a close-range effort on Daryl Powell.

The sin-binning of Harris created a flutter of uncertainty and Long's goal brought Saints back within four points. But then Hay won a penalty try when Atcheson ripped the ball from his grasp as he reached over the line and Harris returned from the bin to notch a penalty and a drop goal.

It was not as comfortable as the final score made it look, but it was an eighth win in a row for a side that clearly does not believe in the possibility of being beaten at the moment.

"I was really impressed with our effort," McRae said. "But Leeds were absolutely superb on the day and showed why they are title-contenders."

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

Leeds: Harris, Sterling, Blackmore, Godden, Cummins, Kemp, Holroyd, Masella, Sheridan, Fleary, Hay, Farrell, Powell. Substitutes used: Mathiou, St Hilaire, Glanville.

Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).

Wigan kept up the pressure on Leeds at the top of the Super League as they handed Hull a comprehensive lesson. The visitors led 12-0 after 17 minutes with tries from Neil Cowie and Simon Haughton and never looked in danger of falling to a Hull side which has now lost six successive games after winning their opening two matches.

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