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Leeds Rhinos

2017 Super League Champions

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St Helens 30 Leeds Rhinos 26

6th April 2002

By Leeds Rhinos

St Helens, masters of the great escape, pulled off another Houdini act by snatching victory thanks to a last-minute try from Anthony Stewart.

Leeds were clinging to a 26-24 lead when Saints captain Chris Joynt released the left winger with a superb offload and he finished decisively over 40 metres to break the hearts of the visitors.

WP – Home MPU

Saints gained two valuable Super League points to leapfrog Leeds into second place and keep the pressure on leaders Bradford and also gain a psychological boost ahead of next Sunday's Challenge Cup clash with the Rhinos.

 The outcome will have delighted coach Ian Millward, who fielded a reserve front row for this semi-final dress rehearsal, and must have conceded defeat when Leeds went 26-18 ahead on the hour.

The holders badly missed inspirational hooker Keiron Cunningham and understudy Mick Higham almost cost his side victory by conceding three penalties for high tackles.

Leeds stand-off Ben Walker made Higham pay by kicking six points to add to his two conversions and a try as Leeds gave as good as they got.

 The Rhinos, too, rested key players and began with a trio of internationals on the bench, and Coach Daryl Powell will be relieved to welcome back Kevin Sinfield, Matt Adamson and Ryan Sheridan for the trip to Wigan's JJB Stadium.

 Leeds twice overturned an eight-point deficit to establish an 18-14 interval lead and did so while down to 12 men.

They were trailing 14-6 when loose forward Willie Poching was sin-binned for persistent interference at the play-the-ball but they drew level with a solo try from Great Britain prop Barrie McDermott and two goals from the prolific Walker.

 And the visitors went in front in first-half injury time with a third try after St Helens had been reduced to 12 men thanks to the sin-binning of Paul Sculthorpe for a professional foul.

St Helens' veteran forward Sonny Nickle, making his first appearance at Knowsley Road since his infamous tackle that broke the jaw of Leeds hooker Robbie Mears last September, was roundly booed by the Rhinos fans each time he received the ball.

But Nickle gave his side a solid start before giving way to substitute Barry Ward, although Saints faltered after a bright opening.

 They quickly picked up from where they left off against Wigan, with Sean Long and Sculthorpe combining in a sweet passing move to get centre Martin Gleeson over for a fifth-minute try and stand-off Tommy Martyn then adding a second courtesy of a delightful dummy.

A conversion and penalty from Long put Saints 12-2 in front but Walker began the fightback when he ghosted through a gap in the Saints defence on 18 minutes.

A second penalty from Long stretched his side's lead but Leeds stepped up a gear in the absence of Poching, with McDermott barging his way over on 28 minutes and then Andy Hay punching another hole in the home defence for centre Keith Senior to add a third try.

The low-key nature of the game continued at the start of the second half with both sides guilty of some elementary handling errors.

Walker edged Leeds further in front with a third penalty goal and was then wide with a drop-goal attempt as the visitors sought to put two scores between the sides.

Saints launched their terrific fightback on 53 minutes when Martyn went over for his second try after Cummins, playing at centre, went for the interception.

The Leeds skipper made amends three minutes later when he supplied the final pass for winger Mark Calderwood to go over for his side's fourth try after they had cleverly engineered an overlap.

That looked to be enough but Joynt spun out of an attempted tackle by Marcus St Hilaire to cross for a 68th-minute try and then, as the clock was ticking down, he sent Stewart away for the winner, with long kicking his fifth goal.

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