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Leeds bid South Stand farewell with scrappy win

Leeds Rhinos produced a fine second-half comeback to move themselves further towards a semi-final spot in an otherwise poor game.

In front of a packed home crowd, Leeds put behind them a meagre first-half performance and kept Saints at bay.

Justin Holbrook’s men could not take advantage of Wakefield Trinity’s loss last night and instead stay in fifth.

In their last game in front of the iconic South Stand, the Rhinos struggled to deal with St Helens’ pressure in the early exchanges – their frustration shown through back-to-back penalties, one that led to the away side taking the lead.

In-form Saints took their chance to gain a slim advantage when Stevie Ward was penalised for holding down and Mark Percival slotted over the goal for a two-point lead.

It was a first half filled with errors and penalties, partnered with a lack of creativity and flare made it more reminiscent of an early-round game as opposed to a top-five clash.

There was a rare moment of excitement in the 31st minute when Matt Parcell weaved his way down the left and fed in Liam Sutcliffe who only had to pass out to Ryan Hall for a simple touch down, instead he took the tackle and a Regan Grace break ensued.

That did open the game up, but both sides continued to make mistakes.

Leeds could not cope with the pace of James Roby in the first half, and were not creating much in attack – and it was the hooker who broke through the Rhinos’ defence to set up the only try of the half.

Roby passed to Zeb Taia who found Jonny Lomax on his right and the full-back dotted down under the posts. Percival, after missing an earlier penalty, scored the easy conversion to put Saints 8-2 up at the break.

The Rhinos needed to score first in the second half to keep the pressure on Saints, and Hall gladly obliged on his 300th career appearance.

Sutcliffe this time remembered the winger was on his shoulder and after a quick change of hands, Hall scooted over in the corner. Kallum Watkins kicked a superb conversion from the touchline to level the scores.

But the centre missed a much easier conversion ten minutes later when Kyle Amor was penalised for offside and couldn’t give his side the lead.

Despite Leeds enjoying all the possession and pressure early in the second half, the game still lacked spark and needed an injection of life.

St Helens put in a sterling effort to keep the home side out but could not stop them after being camped on their own line for three successive sets.

Adam Cuthbertson finally barged his way through the resolute defence and a Watkins conversion put Leeds in front for the first time in the game after 65 minutes. And he edged them further ahead with a penalty moments later.

After a strong first half, St Helens seemed to drop their intensity in the second and it took 20-year-old Danny Richardson to come off the bench and draw his side to within two points. He was on the field a matter of minutes before he ducked his way through Leeds defence over the try line but it was too little too late as the final whistle blew two minutes later.

Report by Zoe Shackleton

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