Monday Night Super League was launched this week with an entertaining encounter between the competition’s most successful clubs, as St Helens defeated rivals Leeds Rhinos 31-18 at Headingley to complete a league double over the reigning champions The game was the first of a series to be televised by Sky Sports on Monday evenings this summer as rugby league’s elite competition takes the place of Sky’s coveted ‘Monday Night Football’ slot over the coming months. The occasion was given an extra sense of grandeur, as the Leeds club kicked off the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations prior to the match.
The match itself started well for the hosts as the Rhinos, who have defeated Saints in four of the last five Grand Finals, gained the early initiative and scored the first points as Ryan Hall out-muscled the challenge of Tommy Makinson and moved the ball inside to Danny McGuire for the stand-off to take the opening try.
On the 20th minute however, Saints pulled level albeit slightly against the run of play. Lance Hohai’s kick caused havoc for the Rhinos defence, as the ball bounced away from Leeds fullback Brent Webb and was picked up by the alert Jonny Lomax who displayed great strength to force his way over the line and ground the ball under the attentions of two Leeds defenders.
Saints took the lead ten minutes later with a skilful move, as returning prop Tony Puletua offloaded the ball out to James Roby who darted through the gap before switching the ball inside to Lomax who tipped it to Paul Wellens for the skipper to put the Saints in front. With Saints looking dominant territorially, Leeds capitalised on a quick shift in momentum to equalise just before halftime. On the back of a penalty the Rhinos cut open the Saints defence with Brett Delaney finishing off a set-piece passing move off Sinfield’s inside ball to ensure the sides turned round at 12-12.
After the break Leeds went 18-12 ahead as Webb’s inside ball put Jamie-Jones Buchanan through. However, the second half was to be dominated by a clinically efficient Saints performance which smothered the home side out of the game. Just minutes later Saints had closed the gap with a wonderful try which provided the probable highlight of a high-skill encounter. After Saints moved the ball out to the right Michael Shenton demonstrated some impressive centre play, showing great slight of feet to delay the defence before flicking the ball out to Tommy Makinson for the youngster to finish in the corner, grounding the ball terrifically in the corner under heavy pressure. Makinson failed to convert the try as the scored remained at 18-16.
However, Saints were ahead just before the hour mark as Sia Soliola surged on to a Lomax pass before passing the ball back inside to Lomax for the scrumhalf to finish the move he started. Makinson’s goal and Saints were 22-18 ahead and never looked back. With Leeds being pinned back and failing to make any impression on their scarce haunts to the Saints end as the visitors’ defence stifled them. A several-minute delay followed as Makinson had to be stretchered from the field after picking up concussion from an accidental hit from Kevin Sinfield. The young winger was taken to the local hospital, thankfully receiving the all-clear later in the night that he hadn’t picked up any serious injury.
Almost immediately after the game restarted Saints had extended their lead with James Roby’s cut out pass on the last tackle finding Jon Wilkin to dive over untouched with Lomax taking over goalkicking duties to make it 28-18. The scoring was completed by the boot of Lomax, firstly with a penalty goal on the 72nd minute to extend the lead to 12. And after Sinfield’s kick-off failed to go 10 metres, Saints capitalised on the position with the man-of-the-match slotting over a drop-goal to make the win safe and complete a heartening result for the Saints fans, following last week’s disappointing Challenge cup exit to Wigan. Saintrs’ attentions will turn back to their local rivals once again next week as Super League travels to the Etihad Stadium in Manchester for the ‘Magic Weekend’ for a whole round of fixtures to be played across the weekend at the home of the new Premier League champions.
Super League Round Fourteen results:
Huddersfield Giants 12-32 Wigan Warriors
Salford City Reds 20-20 Bradford Bulls
Widnes Vikings 34-42 Catalans Dragons
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats 12-42 Warrington Wolves
London Broncos 12-14 Hull FC
Hull KR 70-12 Castleford Tigers
Leeds Rhinos 18-31 St Helens
Featured image: telegraph.co.uk