|St Helens (18) 24|
|Tries: Lussick, Dodd 2, Percival Goals: Makinson 4|
|Leeds (12) 25|
|Tries: Handley, Martin 2, Smith Goals: Martin 4 Drop-goal: Austin|
Leeds Rhinos picked up their first win of the Super League season thanks to a late drop-goal winner from Blake Austin at champions St Helens, who had Konrad Hurrell sent off for a shoulder charge.
In a see-sawing game, it looked as though Saints were on course for a 13th straight win over Leeds when they led 24-18 inside the last quarter.
But Rhyse Martin’s converted score levelled it up with 10 minutes left.
Austin bided his time for the drop-goal chance he took with seconds to spare.
The finish was a thrilling one but was played out in controversial circumstances, as Leeds were given a penalty for Saints’ reactions to what looked like a shoulder charge from Sam Walters on Matty Lees, which went unpunished.
There was still a sense of injustice lingering from the home support as Hurrell made contact with Richie Myler’s head with his shoulder as Myler passed the ball, and referee Chris Kendall brandished a red card.
Rohan Smith’s Leeds had to show plenty of character of their own, belying a clunky start to the season with a committed performance against the team that beat them in last season’s Grand Final.
The visitors took the lead with a storming try from Ash Handley on the back of Nene McDonald’s run, and despite losing the lead, fought back to level thanks to Rhyse Martin’s clever take from a Aidan Sezer kick.
There was another fightback to come when Smith shuttled through to score his second in as many games and Martin’s second brought them level.
Saints had made history with their World Club Challenge win over Penrith in Australia a fortnight ago and then backed that up at Castleford on Sunday to make a winning start to their Super League title defence.
However, against the Rhinos their energy levels were tested towards the end, particularly having played two chunks of 10 minutes without key back-rowers, and dug deep to wrest control of the game from their opponents.
After conceding the opening try, Joey Lussick took advantage with a typical dummy-half sneak, while Lewis Dodd’s two tries saw him dazzle with footwork and then collect a gift from a loose pass.
Mark Percival’s score in the second half came from a superb Jack Welsby kick in behind, but it was not enough in the end as Saints were overcome late on.
St Helens: Welsby; Makinson, Hurrell, Percival, Bennison; Lomax, Dodd; Walmsley, Lussick, Lees, Mata’utia, Sironen, Knowles.
Interchanges: McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Wingfield, Bell, Royle.
Leeds: Myler; Fusitu’a, MacDonald, Handley, Olpherts; Austin, Sezer; Holroyd, O’Connor, Tevevano, McDonnell, Martin, Smith.
Interchanges: Sangare, Donaldson, Walters, Leeming.
Referee: Chris Kendall