Leeds 12 – 13 St Helens
St Helens half-back Lewis Dodd booted a one-pointer in the dying seconds of golden-point extra-time in the Betfred Super League clash with Leeds Rhinos at Headingley to seal victory for the visitors; earlier in the night, Saints’ women had beaten the Rhinos 38-18
Last Updated: 26/05/23 11:25pm
Lewis Dodd’s drop goal with just 26 seconds of golden-point extra-time left saw St Helens snatch a nail-biting 13-12 win over Leeds Rhinos in their Betfred Super League clash.
Tries from Ash Handley and Cameron Smith helped the Rhinos into a 12-4 lead at half-time at Headingley, with Tommy Makinson responding for the visitors with a try on his 300th Saints appearance.
Leeds were not helped by losing Aidan Sezer, Morgan Gannon and Harry Newman to injury before the break, and a converted try from Curtis Sironen and penalty goal from Makinson drew Saints level before the home side had James McDonnell sent off for punching late on.
Neither side was able to conjure up a winner in normal time and both had numerous attempts at the one-pointer before Dodd, who kicked the crucial goal in Saints’ World Club Challenge win over Penrith Panthers, finally nailed the winning score just as the match seemed to be heading for a draw.
The fixture was part of a double-header which earlier in the night saw two tries apiece from Emily Rudge and Shona Hoyle help Saints’ women secure a 38-18 win over the Rhinos in the Betfred Women’s Super League.
Saints snatch pulsating win over Rhinos
In the circumstances it was remarkable enough feat for the Rhinos to fashion an eight-point interval lead given the first-half injury carnage.
No sooner had Rhyse Martin shrugged off the sluggish attentions of Jonny Lomax to set up Handley’s sixth-minute opener, the sight of Sezer limping up the tunnel as Martin was duly converting raised concerns.
Makinson stretched in at the corner to bring his side back within two points, but the visitors looked sluggish and a collision between the England winger and Jack Welsby under Richie Myler’s high ball coughed up a simple chance for back-row Smith to extend the Leeds lead.
Papua New Guinea forward Martin’s extras took the score to 12-4 but far more concerning was the sight of Newman, only recently eased back from his succession of injury blows, being helped from the field in some distress.
Gannon followed, helped gingerly off after a collision with Sironen which left both men stretched out on the turf, but amid the carnage it was still Leeds who threatened the next score as Sam Walters burrowed agonisingly short.
The Rhinos’ resistance lasted until five minutes into the second half when player-of-the-match Sironen bundled past Myler to round off a strong spell of Saints pressure with Makinson’s first points with the boot hauling his side back within two.
But Leeds refused to buckle, and when normally dependable Saints prop Alex Walmsley coughed up a cheap error at the play-the-ball only a subsequent mistake by Justin Sangare saved the Saints prop’s blushes.
The visitors eventually dragged themselves level with 13 minutes left when Makinson kicked the two after Sangare was penalised for a late tackle on Jake Wingfield.
There was still drama to come as a mass brawl led to McDonnell being dismissed, and although the numbers were evened up in golden point when Sione Mata’utia was sin-binned that did not stop Saints from clinching victory at the last through Dodd’s boot.
Rudge and Hoyle help Saints women down champions
The win for the men made it a double at Headingley for Saints after their women had scored a resounding victory over the Rhinos in the opening match of the night.
Former England captain Rudge got the ball rolling for the visitors as she was sent charging over for the opening try after three minutes, although the Rhinos were level 13 minutes later after Caitlin Casey took a pass from Eloise Hayward to burst through a gap.
It was pretty much all Saints after that though, with Amy Taylor kicking a penalty and Rudge racing 30 metres for her second after being released by Faye Gaskin – named player of the match on her return from nearly two years out due to injury.
Gaskin had a hand in Hoyle’s first which made it 20-6 at half-time, and the back-row then followed Leah Burke in crossing within six minutes of the restart to put the away side firmly in the ascendancy.
The Rhinos briefly threatened a revival after hitting back through former Saints star Amy Hardcastle’s solo score and Hayward, Luci McColm’s finish and Katie Mottershead topping off scintillating attacking move secured a convincing win against the reigning BWSL champions.
What they said
St Helens player of the match Curtis Sironen
“It was a very weird game. There were lots of errors, lots of penalties…but thank God for Lewis Dodd!
“We’ll take the two points from Leeds tonight and move forward from that.”
Leeds Rhinos head coach Rohan Smith
“I couldn’t be prouder of our players. It’s one of those days where you’ve won a lot more than two competition points.
“There is a lot of bravery, commitment and courage in that dressing room, and we know we can find it when it matters most.”
St Helens Women player of the match Faye Gaskin
“It was an absolute privilege – our girls were class today. It was tough, but I wanted to give [head coach] Matty [Smith] a bit of a selection headache.
“The injury was tough and I struggled really bad, but I got a lot of support from Rugby League Cares…and I’m really grateful.”
Leeds Rhinos Women head coach Lois Forsell
“We had the answers to get the job done, but we just didn’t give ourselves the chance to do it.
“If you get on the front foot, that’s a big thing in rugby and we didn’t manage to do that and didn’t really have the desire to make that happen in the first half – and that’s where it mattered for us.”
St Helens and Leeds’ men’s teams head to St James’ Park in Newcastle for Magic Weekend. The Rhinos close out day one against Castleford Tigers and Saints face Huddersfield Giants in the second game of day two. The women’s teams are next in action in the Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup quarter-finals.