Blake Austin came up with the game-winning drop goal in the final minute to snatch a memorable win for the Rhinos over the team which defeated them in last year’s Super League Grand Final; St Helens had Sione Mata’utia and Curtis Sironen sin-binned, and Konrad Hurrell sent off
Last Updated: 03/03/23 11:48pm
Blake Austin’s last-gasp drop goal saw Leeds Rhinos snatch a 25-24 win away to St Helens in a pulsating rematch of last year’s Super League Grand Final.
The Rhinos, beaten in last year’s Old Trafford showpiece, stormed into the lead when Ash Handley finished a superb length of the field counter-attack after Sione Mata’utia was shown a yellow card for an off-the-ball tackle, but Saints hit back to lead through tries from Joey Lussick and Lewis Dodd.
Rhyse Martin’s try and conversion got Leeds back on level terms, only for Dodd to seize on an error to cross for his second which put the reigning champions 18-12 up at the break.
Mark Percival extended St Helens’ lead after the break, but a second yellow card for Curtis Sironen, a missed penalty from Tommy Makinson and a late red card for Konrad Hurrell proved costly for the hosts, with tries from Cameron Smith and Martin levelling the scores before Austin won it late on.
Story of the game
Less than two weeks after half-back Dodd served up a similarly stunning finale to clinch the World Club Challenge against Penrith Panthers in Australia, the hosts got a taste of their own medicine in a game where they had paraded that trophy ahead of kick-off.
The Rhinos exploited their first numerical advantage in a slick length-of-the-field move which saw Nene Macdonald bursting over the halfway line and offloading to Richie Myler, whose neat pass wrong-footed Jonny Lomax and sent winger Handley over for the opening score.
Papua New Guinea international Martin duly kicked his first two of what would prove a personal 16-point haul, but Leeds’ hopes of extending their lead were dashed inside the quarter-hour when they were penalised for offside deep in their own territory and hooker Lussick burrowed over from the play-the-ball.
No sooner had Mata’utia returned than Saints stretched ahead, capitalising again on a penalty to go over through Dodd, with the returning Makinson kicking his second of four successful conversions to put his side 12-6 up.
The Rhinos levelled in the 25th minute when Martin reacted to Austin’s kick and shrugged off the attention of Hurrell to roll over the line before adding the extras.
But once again the visitors proved their own worst enemies when Derrell Olpherts fumbled a pressure pass from Austin under the posts and Dodd reacted quickest to nip over for his second try of the night.
Leeds gave themselves a mountain to climb within moments of the restart after failing to deal with a Welsby kick to the corner where St Helens testimonial man Percival dug out his side’s fourth try of the game.
Trailing by 12, the Rhinos needed a swift reaction but got a mighty let-off when a rare Makinson error from a penalty prevented Saints nudging into a three-score lead.
The visitors capitalised with back row Smith crossing on the hour mark, shortly after Sironen was sin-binned for a late hit on Myler, and when a Makinson try was ruled out by the video referee the visitors sensed an opportunity.
As tempers frayed on both sides, Martin capitalised by jinking through a sluggish Saints defence before kicking his side level at 24-24 with 10 minutes left on the clock.
Austin’s first drop goal attempt was charged down with three to go then Hurrell saw red for a late hit on Myler, leading to the spell of pressure which culminated in Austin seizing his second opportunity with 18 seconds left on the clock.
What they said
Leeds Rhinos head coach Rohan Smith
“It was a great win – St Helens are a great club. I feel like we probably got them at the right time energy-wise, but take nothing away from the way we applied ourselves.
“I thought it was a great game, a great spectacle.
“We had to find every bit of energy we had tonight to get there in the end.”
St Helens head coach Paul Wellens
“Obviously, we’re disappointed as a team not to come out on the right side of the result, but I want to pay huge credit to Leeds.
“There was a lack of discipline and a lack of composure towards the back end of the game, and that’s disappointing because it’s something we normally do really, really well.”
Player of the match Aidan Sezer
“We’ve been below par the last couple of weeks. We spoke about what we can show tonight, and there’s no better chance than coming to Saints and playing against the world champs.
“The result shows the character in the group. It was a good result and something we needed.”
St Helens aim to bounce back from this loss when they travel to promoted Leigh Leopards on Friday, March 10. Leeds are back on home turf on the same night when they host Wakefield Trinity in a West Yorkshire derby (both 8pm).