Leeds Rhinos 12 St Helens 13: Injury-hit Rhinos suffer painful golden point defeat
Rhinos could not have given much more in the toughest of circumstances, losing four players to injury, three of them in the first 32 minutes and finishing with 12 men after James McDonnell was sent-off.
If ever there was an argument against golden point, this was it. The least Rhinos deserved was a point.
Already without the injured Blake Austin and Jack Sinfield, Leeds lost their only specialist half, Aidan Sezer, to an apparent groin injury, seconds after Handley scored the opening try.
Leeds, unexpectedly, were 12-4 ahead when centre Harry Newman suffered what appeared to be hamstring damage in a tackle and was helped off in clear pain, with 29 played.
Almost unbelievably, Morgan Gannon was the next to go down, just three minutes later, being chaired off by medical staff with damage to his right leg.
Leeds lost another player at the start of the final quarter when Tom Holroyd became the latest to hobble off, though he somehow managed to return in the final stages.
Rhinos were in front as late as the 69th minute and had chances to win it. They will feel some decisions went against them, including touchdowns ruled out on video evidence, once after referee Liam Moore had signalled a try. Handley’s touchdown came off a one-two with Martin who did well to make the break and use his support.
Martin added the extras, but Saints replied with a four-pointer after 11 through a diving finish by Tommy Makinson from Jonny Lomax’s pass.
Incredibly, Rhinos scored the only other try of the first half, Cameron Smith following up to cross after Makinson and Jack Welsby collided trying to deal with Myler’s high kick. Martin converted.
Leeds were close to going in at the break three tries clear, but Moore and Griffiths ruled Sam Walters – just back on the field after passing a head injury assessment – had knocked on just short of the line.
Saints stepped up a gear at the start of the second half, Curtis Sironen going over from Dodd’s pass and Makinson tagging on the
Rhinos were desperately unlucky moments later when Justin Sangare juggled Holroyd’s pass before touching down; Moore indicated a try, but video official Griffiths decided there was conclusive evidence the ball had touched a Saints hand before the prop regathered.
Makinson took the two to level the scores with 12 minutes left when Sangare was penalised and McDonnell was dismissed three minutes from time following a skirmish with Lomax.
Martin’s extra-time penalty, following a foul on Mikolaj Oledzki which led to Sione Mata’utia being sin-binned, fell short and both sides missed drop goal attempts before Dodd won it with 32 seconds left in the set from a penalty.
Leeds Rhinos: Myler, Handley, Newman, Macdonald, Olpherts, Gannon, Sezer, Walters, O’Connor, Holroyd, McDonnell, Martin, Smith. Substitutes: Johnson, Oledzki, Donaldson, Sangare.
St Helens: Welsby, Makinson, Hurrell, Hopoate, Ritson, Dodd, Lomax, Walmsley, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Sironen, Batchelor, Bell. Substitutes: Mata’utia, Paasi, Wingfield, Lussick.
Referee: Liam Moore (Wigan).