St Helens took a giant step towards winning the League Leaders’ Shield tonight at Headingley, coming from 12-2 down to beat Leeds Rhinos 12-13, after the Rhinos had to play for 60 minutes with 12 men following the dismissal of centre Joel Moon for a shoulder charge to the head of his opposite number Mark Percival.
Percival was carried off the field, and referee Richard Silverwood had no hesitation in issuing the red card to Moon.
At the time the score was 2-2, after Percival and Kevin Sinfield had traded early penalties.
But Moon’s dismissal seemed to inspire the Rhinos, who scored ten further first-half points through a try by Liam Sutcliffe after great work by Brett Delaney, with Sinfield adding the conversion and kicked another two penalties.
St Helens came out for the second half hoping that the Rhinos would tire, but for much of the game that prospect seemed unlikely, until Saints at last managed to breach the Leeds defence when Lance Hohaia fed Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook for the Londoner to touch down, although Jordan Turner missed the easy conversion.
But after Turner gained a great position with a deep kick into the Rhinos’ half, Saints were able to set up the position for Roby to touch down from dummy-half and this time Tommy Makinson was able to add the goal for his team to draw level with ten minutes to go.
And when Kallum Watkins dropped the ball, Saints were able to get back into the Leeds half for Hohaia to kick a field-goal in the 74th minute, giving St Helens a one-point lead that was enough to see them home.
It had been a thrilling encounter that was played in front of 17,682 supporters at Headingley. After the game the Rhinos paraded with the Challenge Cup trophy for their supporters, who will face an anxious wait to see how seriously the RFL Match Review Panel views Moon’s infringement.
A full report, photos and analysis for this game will feature in Monday’s issue of League Express.