Saints march on against Rhinos
Winger Tom Makinson scored two tries in the last 16 minutes to help leaders St Helens snatch a dramatic 14-10 victory over Leeds Rhinos and maintain their 100 per cent record in First Utility Super League.
Coach Nathan Brown has been insisting all along that the Rhinos are the team to beat in 2014, but he will need to look closer to home after his side's tremendous win against the odds.
Leeds twice held the lead, courtesy's of Danny McGuire's 250th try of his career and three goals from returning skipper Kevin Sinfield.
But, with the scores tied at 10-10, Sinfield was wide with a drop-goal attempt six minutes from the end and Makinson pounced for the winning try four minutes later to condemn the visitors to their first defeat of the season.
It was a fitting way for Saints skipper Paul Wellens to mark his record-equalling 413th Super League appearance, but the result was tough on Leeds' Rob Burrow, who played the whole match at hooker in the absence of the ailing Paul Aiton and was his side's most potent threat in an absorbing contest.
The two sets of outside backs, arguably the most naturally gifted in the league, were expected to provide the highlight but it was the packs who stole the show, with Saints' young forwards holding their own against their more experienced opponents.
Jamie Peacock produced another prodigious effort for the Rhinos but St Helens' spirited performance was illustrated by 19-year-old loose forward Andre Savelio, who was given his debut in the absence of seven first-choice players through injury and suspension.
The game was played at a frantic pace from the start and early fumbles by Carl Ablett (Leeds) and Jonny Lomax (St Helens) only served to ramp up the excitement.
Leeds were the first to settle and took the lead with McGuire's landmark try on 18 minutes, supporting a half-back by Ablett to produce a trademark finish.
Sinfield's goal brought up his 3,500th point for the club and put his side into a 6-0 lead, but a knock-on from centre Kallum Watkins deep inside his own half put the visitors under pressure and they immediately cracked.
A strong burst from Savelio got Saints close to the line and loose forward Anthony Walker took James Roby's pass to crash over for his first try of the season, only the second of his Super League career.
Makinson's conversion levelled the scores and that was how it stayed for the next half hour.
England winger Ryan Hall went close to touching down McGuire's high kick but chances were at a premium due to the fierce, uncompromising defence from both sides.
Leeds edged 8-6 in front with a penalty from Sinfield on 55 minutes and they had the momentum when they forced two goal-line drop-outs.
However, Lomax was a secure last line of defence and the pressure was relieved when McGuire lost the ball attempting to score from dummy half.
When Saints broke clear, centre Josh Jones touched down, only for his try to be ruled out by video referee Phil Bentham for a knock-on in the build-up.
However, there was no denying Makinson moments later.
Wellens used his strength to open up space down the right flank and Makinson produced a tremendous finish at the corner to put his side in front for the first time on 64 minutes.
Makinson was unable to add the goal and Sinfield drew his side level five minutes later with his second penalty, awarded by referee Richard Silverwood for an illegal ball steal.
Sinfield was wide with a 40-metre drop-goal attempt six minutes from the end and it was to prove decisive in a pulsating finish, as Lomax gathered Lance Hohaia's kick over the Leeds defence and punted the ball ahead for Makinson to touch down at the corner.