Leeds Rhinos boss Rohan Smith makes bold claim after Blake Austin settles St Helens thriller
The Super League Grand Final rematch – Saints’ first home game since winning the World Club Challenge – appeared to be going to script after the hosts built up a 24-12 lead in the second half.
“Blake is one of those blokes who can kick them from wherever in training,” said Smith. “I feel like he’s come up with a lot of big plays and I thought if he got a clean shot at it I’d back him.
“It was a great game and obviously there is a big party planned tonight. I thought the game had a lot in it – ups and downs and a lot of momentum shifts.
“I thought we did enough to win and at no stage today did I think we were going to lose. We certainly haven’t played a perfect game but we played hard and we kept in it, and kept having a go at creating opportunities when we were down by 12.”
On a sour note, Leeds lost hooker Kruise Leeming with what is feared to be a recurrence of the foot injury that kept him out for a chunk of last season.
Smith added: “He’s got a sore foot – he had a fracture in his foot last year and the sign is it’s in a similar spot so we just have to see what the X-rays say.”
Saints head coach Paul Wellens admitted his side’s indiscipline cost them dearly as they suffered a first loss to the Rhinos since 2018.
Sione Mata’utia and Curtis Sironen were both sin-binned before Konrad Hurrell was sent off for a late hit on Richie Myler just before Austin booted the winning one-pointer with 18 seconds remaining.
“I think certain aspects of our game weren’t there tonight,” said Wellens. “In periods we lacked some concentration and in the late period we lacked some discipline and composure, which is unlike us in big games.
“We’ve got to keep our cool in those types of moments and we didn’t quite do that tonight. It’s a valuable lesson that we need to learn because we make ourselves easier to beat when we’re in that frame of mind.
“We didn’t get the rub of the green in certain situations but that’s completely out of our hands now and all we can do is move forward as a team and try to improve off the back of this. There is a great learning opportunity here if we are prepared to take it.”