16th March 2018, 22:06 | Leeds
Centre Ash Handley maintained his remarkable tryscoring record against St Helens as champions Leeds Rhinos ended their 100 per cent record in the 2018 Betfred Super League.
The scores were locked at 14-14 after an hour when Handley struck twice in six minutes, taking his tally of tries to 10 in five matches against Saints, to put the Rhinos on their way to a thrilling 28-20 victory.
Anthony Mullally crashed over from close range to put the visitors ahead before Saints hit back through Ben Barba and Adam Swift, only for Richie Myler to cross the whitewash to ensure it was 12-12 at the break.
The hosts edged back in front after 55 minutes through a penalty from Danny Richardson, who kicked eight points, but Kallum Watkins restored parity with his third goal four minutes later before Handley's timely double.
Barba's second score of the night gave Saints some hope as they trailed 22-20 with nine minutes remaining but Matt Parcell ensured Leeds took maximum points when he powered over for their fifth try of the match.
A very happy birthday 🎉 pic.twitter.com/zzDQ9BpHNk— Betfred Super League (@SuperLeague) March 16, 2018
Leeds head coach Brian McDermott said: "There was better stuff we could do in offence, at times it looked pretty clunky.
"I was pretty disappointed with the first half, you can’t come to St Helens and offer tame offence. But we certainly turned it up.
"We were just willing to keep putting our bodies in front of Saints. I don’t think we were crash hot and I won’t say it was a really good performance – it won’t get us anywhere near the Grand Final – but what it has done is put some steel into you.
"To know we can come here with a lesser team, and by tenacious defence and great attitude still get a win.
"We were without four big men but Brad Singleton and Anthony Mullally put in big shifts tonight and I’ve got to pay tribute to Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Brett Delaney and Carl Ablett, they got through so much work."
Big thanks for all the messages. Massive effort from everyone to get the win and a great way to celebrate my 100th game for @leedsrhinos. 👌🏼— Tom briscoe (@tom_briscoe) March 16, 2018
Saints boss Justin Holbrook said: "It’s disappointing, that’s for sure. I thought we created enough chances in the first half.
"I thought we were a bit unlucky at times – Tommy Makinson got over the line and couldn’t ground the ball – but in the second half Leeds just took their chances.
"We had too many guys not playing well enough tonight. Robes (James Roby) and Ben Barba were fantastic but too many others weren’t.
"When too many individuals that didn’t perform the way they should, you get what you deserve. Leeds worked harder than us and beat us to the punch."