NOW this is what everyone should be writing about.
At the end of a week where the clubs’ powerbrokers went to war with blistering attacks on each other, the Leeds Rhinos and St Helens players took to the field to produce an utterly thrilling contest.
In the end, a 77th-minute drop goal from Danny Richardson edged Super League leaders Saints the narrowest of victories but, arguably, the remarkable hosts came out with more credit.
This was a fifth successive defeat for the defending champions but here, despite missing a dozen first-teamers, Brian McDermott’s side produced an heroic effort.
They had edged 22-16 ahead with Brett Ferres’s 71st-minute try but, crucially, Liam Sutcliffe shunted the conversion attempt wide just as he did with an earlier penalty.
Saints won the short restart and, after England centre Mark Percival – superb all night ahead of flying out to Denver tomorrow to surely face the Kiwis – punched a hole in Leeds’s defence, Ryan Morgan scrambled over.
Richardson held his nerve with the conversion and, though Morgan wasted another chance with a flicked pass into touch, cool-headed 21-year-old Richardson made sure with that one-pointer.
It is the fourth time already this campaign that the West Yorkshire club have lost by just a solitary point.
The defeat leaves Leeds in seventh but Huddersfield Giants, in eighth, have drawn level with them after a stunning 26-25 win over Catalans Dragons who come to Headingley next Wednesday.
There was splendid performances all over the field for Rhinos, not least from Australian hooker Matt Parcell who led from the front in typically effusive style.
But fellow countryman Adam Cuthbertson excelled, too, listed at loose forward but playing like a stand-off, constantly providing the handling in the middle to keep Saints guessing.
At just 18 years-old, centre Harry Newman was outstanding on his home debut while alongside him Ash Handley – a comparative veteran at 22 – was a rock.
Considering it was his first game in more than three months, Mitch Garbutt was colossal up front, twisting over for his first try of the season in the 54th minute to level the game again.
Leeds, who left 17-year-old prop Tom Holroyd unused on the bench, adopted an unusual tactic that saw Joel Moon routinely grubber the ball into touch even when approaching Saints’ 20.
At the end of a week where the clubs’ powerbrokers went to war with blistering attacks on each other, the Leeds Rhinos and St Helens players took to the field to produce an utterly thrilling contest.Dave Craven
It may have seemed overly conservative but it certainly slowed Saints down and, crucially, prevented the likes of Ben Barba and Tommy Makinson returning the ball against a broken field.
Leeds set their stall out from the off, playing with real pace and energy, looking to keep the ball alive as much as possible.
Having such a young side has its benefits. However, as well as that, they muscled up in defence, too, often forcing errors from their opponents.
It was unfamiliar errants as well including England hooker James Roby, after a sturdy hit from Ferres, and then Luke Thompson, the young prop who hopes to debut for England against New Zealand next Saturday. Leeds went ahead in the 13th minute, Parcell dummying clear to find Tom Briscoe, the winger who celebrated his new two-year deal with a fifth try of the season.
Jack Walker produced a fine try-saving tackle to deny Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook but Saints did get off the mark themselves in the 23rd minute, Typically, it was Ben Barba who did the damage, his stunning footwork from a standing start seeing him accelerate in from 10m out.
Richardson improved but he was off target when his side took the lead in the 32nd minute.
For once, Percival was able to get on the outside of Newman and he sprinted away for Lomax to finish. Still, Briscoe grabbed his second try at the start of the second period, latching onto Cameron Smith’s grubber.
Sutcliffe again missed the goal but Leeds’s desire to win was plain to see as Parcell and Walker and then Ferres and Cuthbertson both held up Roby as he twice got over the line in the same set.
Percival did finally get in from the next play as Richardson cleverly switched play and Barba’s instant pass got him in. Richardson converted but Ryan Hall – impressing before he flies off to America – leapt high to win a short kick-off allowing Garbutt to benefit, Sutcliffe improving in the 57th minute.
With Saints increasingly stretched, Sutcliffe missed one penalty but did add one to put them 18-16 ahead. Ferres’s try, though, wouldn’t be enough to complete a famous double.
Leeds Rhinos: Walker, Briscoe, H. Newman, H. Newman, Handley, Hall, Moon, L. Sutcliffe, Garbutt, Parcell, Mullally, Ferres, Walters, Cuthbertson. Substitutes: Holroyd, Smith, Dwyer, Ormondroyd. St Helens: Barba, Makinson, Morgan, Percival, Grace, Lomax, Richardson, Douglas, Roby, Thompson, Taia, Peyroux, Wilkin. Substitutes: Fages, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Knowles, Lees. Referee: Ben Thaler (RFL).