James Segeyaro scored two tries as Leeds earned a hard-fought 22-18 win over Hull KR in the Super 8s Qualifiers.
The Rhinos, as they so often do, have hit form at the business end of the season and last night’s victory over their Super League rivals made it seven wins in eight games.
In-form Kallum Watkins scored the only try of a scrappy first half and Liam Sutcliffe added two goals to give Leeds an 8-0 lead at the break.
James Greenwood’s try and four points from the boot of Josh Mantellato brought Rovers level in the early stages of the second half, only for Sutcliffe to edge the Rhinos back in front with a penalty.
Australian hooker Segeyaro stood up when Leeds needed him most as last year’s treble winners edged to victory despite tries from James Donaldson and George Lawler.
Rovers produced a superb performance to leave Headingley with a 30-10 victory in April and they were quickest out of the blocks as they aimed to build on last weekend’s big win over Batley.
The Rhinos were opened up by Albert Kelly five minutes in but Ryan Hall came to the home side’s rescue by hauling down Rovers prop Mitch Allgood just metres short of the tryline.
Hall’s try-saving tackle set the tone for a first quarter dominated by defence as both sides struggled to get going in attack.
When the first try finally arrived in the 26th minute it owed much to quick hands as Leeds swiftly moved the ball out to the right where Watkins, scorer of four tries in Leeds’s thumping 62-6 win at Featherstone, finished with a flourish.
The Rhinos continued to repel everything Rovers threw at them before extending their lead in the closing stages of the first half.
Sutcliffe had to be at his best defensively to help hold Adam Walker up over the line and then made no mistake with a penalty minutes later when the Robins were penalised for interference.
There was a sense the visitors needed to score the next try and they did just that three minutes into the second half as Greenwood punished a Carl Ablett error by sprinting 40 metres to touch down under the posts.
Mantellato added the simple conversion to make it a two-point game and then levelled the scores with a penalty after Keith Galloway was penalised at the play of the ball.
The penalties were coming thick and fast, with Leeds next to benefit as Sutcliffe made no mistake from close range after Rovers were sanctioned for holding down.
Both sides spurned good opportunities to score the crucial next try before Segeyaro forced his way over from dummy-half to make it 14-8 to the Rhinos.
Sutcliffe converted to make it a two-score advantage and Leeds appeared to have wrapped up the win when Hall went over, only to be pulled back for an earlier forward pass.
Rovers made the most of the reprieve and pulled back to within two points of their hosts courtesy of Donaldson’s powerful converted effort on the back of a sustained period of pressure.
It was set up for a grandstand finish but Walker knocked on from the restart and Segeyaro punished him with another close-range try.
There was still time for Lawler to go over from acting half but it was too late for Hull KR, who suffered their first defeat in the Qualifiers.
Leeds: Sutcliffe, T. Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Galloway, Segeyaro, Singleton, Ferres, Ablett, Jones-Buchanan. Substitutes: Keinhorst, Achurch, Garbutt, Cuthbertson.
Hull K R: Cockayne, Sio, Minns, Thornley, Mantellato, Blair, Kelly, Tilse, Lunt, Allgood, Greenwood, Clarkson, Donaldson. Substitutes: Larroyer, Walker, Thompson, Lawler.
Referee: P Bentham (RFL).
Adam Swift grabbed four tries as super-charged St Helens made it seven wins in a row to give their play-off hopes a massive lift.
Fourth-placed Saints moved four points clear of nearest rivals Catalan who crashed to a 39-16 loss, their sixth defeat in their last seven Super League matches.
Man of the match Swift notched four touchdowns for the second time this season after a similar haul against Hull KR on June 17.
The home side led 16-12 at half-time thanks to a Swift treble with forwards Dave Taylor and Jason Baitieri bagging the Dragons’ tries, both converted by Lucas Albert. Swift, Jack Owens and Joe Greenwood added Saints’ tries after the break.