26 Leeds Tom serves it up for hungry Saints
TOMMY MAKINSON snuffed out a thrilling late fightback from holders Leeds to keep Saints’ Challenge Cup dream alive.
The Super League champions haven’t won the Cup for 13 years and very nearly extended that dire run with a late wobble.
A vastly weakened Rhinos side, who were down to 12 men for 35 minutes, put the match on a knife edge with two tries in five minutes from Brad Dwyer.
But Makinson, who had already scored one touchdown and kicked five goals, settled the nerves with a killer 79thminute converted try.
Saints coach Kristian Woolf said: “We did not play our best and gave the opposition a chance at times.
“But we get to live another day and that’s all that counts. It became a bit ugly and we got flustered. Then once we got on top we thought it was done and it wasn’t. We let in some soft tries. We need to be better.”
Leeds were forced to try and defend their Cup without 12 key players, including most of their first-choice backs.
They did well to defy predictions of a onesided win for Saints with a gutsy first half in which they only trailed 8-6.
But the doom-mongers would have been out in force again when Leeds forward Zane Tetevano saw red for a late high tackle on Theo Fages in the 45th minute. Once again Leeds were under the cosh and once again they stood tall, almost pulling off victory thanks to Dwyer’s double.
They couldn’t finish off with a win but coach Richard Agar (below) only had praise for his battlers. He said: “I’m proud of the performance from start to finish.
“We came within a whisker. To do that for 35 minutes with 12 men was a magnificent effort. I really applaud our guys. “We do not want to be gallant-spirited losers and the boys are gutted, but I know how much they put into that.
“We are out of the Cup but we had to overcome a number of hurdles. I don’t think I’ve ever had an injury situation where every spine player and pretty much all your backs are ruled out.”
Saints went ahead after three minutes through Makinson but Mik Oledzki soon powered over to haul Leeds level.
Saints also suffered the early blow of match-ending injuries to Matty Lees and Sione Mata’utia.
The disruption seemed to rattle them and they blew a string of scoring chances but the sending off of Tetevano finally settled Saints into some sort of rhythm.
Wales winger Regan Grace touched down in the corner thanks to a terrific flick pass from Jack Welsby.
Grace then added a second, courtesy of a cut-out pass from Jonny Lomax, and at 20-6 ahead they looked safe.
Instead Dwyer caught them cold with two sucker punch tries from dummy half to set up the nail-biting finish.
ST HELEnS: Tries: Makinson 2, Grace 2 Goals: Makinson 5 LEEDS: Tries: Oledzki, Dwyer 2 Goals: Martin 3