Lewis Dodd was the hero for St Helens once again as his kick sealed an incredible golden point victory over Leeds Rhinos as they came from behind to win 13-12 at Headingley in the Betfred Super League on Friday night.
The man who was the match-winner for the Saints against Penrith in the World Club Challenge earlier in the year was on hand for his team again, although it took him several attempts to hit the mark.
There was excellent rugby league on display and there was plenty of drama, including the sending off of Leeds’ James McDonnell for violent conduct in the closing stages. Last year’s Grand Finalists served another excellent battle, one that will go down as one of the best matches of the season.
On his 180th Leeds appearance, Ash Handley opened the scoring at Headingley as the Saints were carved open inside the opening five minutes. After doing brilliantly to create the try for Handley, Rhyse Martin stepped up to add the extras.
It seemed to be a match made for milestones as Tommy Makinson pulled one back for St Helens on his 300th appearance for the club, but he couldn’t capitalise with the conversion. The Rhinos extended their lead when Cameron Smith was alert to pounce after a coming together including Makinson, Jack Welsby and Sam Walters. Martin converted to give Leeds a 12-4 lead.
Rohan Smith’s side looked far more dangerous when in possession, while Saints looked lost at times, making avoidable mistakes that they simply wouldn’t have made last year. Their poor first half was summed up right before the interval when James Bell lost possession after failing to secure the ball - it was as though it was a bar of soap.
Betfred Super League: Hull KR Meet Wigan In Top-Three Tussle
Hull FC's Superb Turnaround Continues As Fourth Straight Win Earns Cup Progress
Saints coach Paul Wellens would have likely given his players some stern words in the dressing room at half time. Whatever he did say seemed to take effect as Curtis Sironen got over the line minutes after the restart. Makinson was able to convert at the second attempt to reduce Leeds’ lead to two points.
This provided the hosts with a huge test of their nerves and character. For how bad the Saints had been in the opening 40 minutes, their pedigree as serial champions of this division meant they still posed a threat. Justin Sangare thought he had given the Rhinos some more breathing room as he looked to do brilliantly in securing the ball in his grasp and getting over the try line. But his jubilation quickly faded as his try was ruled out by the video assistant after Agnatius Paasi was adjudged to have gotten a decisive touch in the build-up.
The second half was a much more interesting contest. St Helens started to look more positive in possession and there was significant improvement from them defensively. Leeds’ grip on the game slipped further as Sangare conceded a penalty for taking out Jake Wingfield. Makinson’s kick was successful to bring the score level.
Momentum was with Wellens’ men but Leeds themselves were still knocking on the door. In the closing stages the result could’ve gone either way, the back and forth drama was keeping everyone on the edge of their seat.
Dodd tried to recreate his World Club Challenge-winning moment at the death with a kick with two attempts. His first was brilliantly charged down and his second was a poor miss by his standards, much to the delight of the home team as the game was taken to extra time. With the late loss of McDonnell, the extra period of play provided a huge test for Leeds as the Saints were applying more pressure.
Dodd saw another opportunity wasted from a kick to secure the coveted golden point as fortune didn’t appear to be on his side on the night. Saints’ Sione Mata’utia was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle at the end of the first period of additional time. Martin had the chance to clinch the victory but his long-range penalty kick fell just short.
The determination from both teams defensively was remarkable given how drained they were after the stellar contest in normal time. There were excellent challenges from both sides, and it would have been very harsh for either one of them to lose.
Dodds’ moment came right at the death again and despite missing several beforehand he made sure he hit the mark when it mattered to record a huge victory for the reigning champions.