There was no doubt that the most mouthwatering tie of the restart round, the eighth of Super League 2020, was the clash between the champions St Helens and the side who were sitting at the top of the table until the Wigan Warriors overtook them in this afternoon’s game.
Both sides have already got a game under their belts since the coronavirus lockdown, Saints scoring a comprehensive win over the Catalans Dragons while the Giants launched one of the all time finest comebacks to beat the Giants in Golden Point thanks to a Luke Gale Drop Goal.
Saints were big favourites with the bookies and the Rhinos had been given a ten point start on the handicap coupon. A win of any description would take Leeds back top of the pile, Saints needed to win by more than twelve points to go ahead of Wigan on points difference and into top spot.
Both sides made early errors close to their opponents line, spurning try scoring opportunities.
It was Saints legend, James Graham, who got the first try of the game when he took a crash ball from close to push his way over the line. Lachlan Coote added the conversion for a 6-0 lead.
On fourteen the Rhinos slipped off Alex Walmsley as he spun out of the tackle to complete a ten metre run and score next to the left upright. Coote kicked the conversion for 12-0, it was already looking ominous for the Rhinos.
On twenty-six Tommy Makinson found space on the overlap wide right to dive over from five metres out as the Rhinos defence tired from tackling effort. Coote was again accurate with the boot, this one from the touchline.
Depite the Rhinos going on the attack in the closing stages of the half they were unable to breach the Saints defence and it was the champions, through Regan Grace, who extended their lead. The winger took a pass off Coote and went ninety metres through a broken defence to score under the sticks. Coote added the conversion to give his side a 24-0 half time lead.
Leeds applied some good pressure at the start of the second half. But on fifty-six Saints added to their lead thanks to a fantastic Grace try as the winger went airborne and stretched to score one-handed by the corner flag. Coote converted from the touchline for 30-0.
Grace completed his hat-trick on sixty-four, running the length of the field after collecting the ball in his own goal area. Coote added the conversion for 36-0 while the Rhinos scratched their heads in frustration.
An Alex Walmsley break created the seventh Saints try as he fed the supporting Theo Fages who went in under the sticks. Coote added the conversion for 42-0, Saints stunning, the Rhinos stunned.
Bentley broke the Leeds line with ease in the dying seconds and passed to Coote to add a try to his goals. Coote kicked the extra two for a stunning 48-0 win.
It was an easy outing for a red hot Saints against an injury ravaged Rhinos. Everything which the Red Vee touched turned to gold, everything Leeds touched turned to garbage. Saints go top of the table on points difference while the Rhinos have tumbled from top to fourth.
One for the record books, this was the first time in the summer era that Leeds have been kept scoreless at Headingley, not something they will be at all proud of.
Rhinos: Handley, Briscoe L, Newman, Sutcliffe A, Briscoe T, Gale, Seumanufagai, Dwyer, Prior, Mellor, Martin, Smith Subs: Leeming, Cuthbertson, Evans, Oledzki.
Saints: Coote (T, 8G), Makinson (T), Naiqama, Costello, Grace (3T), Lomax, Fages (T), Walmsley (T), Roby, Graham (T), Taia, Bentley, Knowles. Subs: McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Lees, Amor, Smith.
Referee: Chris Kendall.
Ground: Emerald Headingley Stadium, Leeds