A MAGNIFICENT team performance this afternoon earned Leeds Rhinos a place in Monday’s Tetley’s Challenge Cup quarter-final draw.
Leeds scored five tries to two and were the better team in every department as they saw off visitors St Helens 32-12.
Winger Ryan Hall was a deserved man of the match, handling everything Saints threw at him and gaining valuable metres as he cleared Rhinos’ lines.
Full-back Zak Hardaker also shone and Leeds’ pack muscled up against bigger opposition, with Kylie Leuluai, Jamie Peacock, Mitch Achurch, Carl Ablett and Brett Delaney running their blood to water.
Leeds led 12-6 at the break, thanks to Hardaker’s second try, on 37 minutes.
That came after superb work by Joel Moon and Hall in the build-up and Kevin Sinfield landed his second conversion.
Hardaker also opened the scoring, after five minutes, with a strong finish from a pass by Danny McGuire.
In between Leeds’ scores Saints scored on a rare attack when Sia Soliola’s offload sent Mark Percival into a gap and Adam Swift was in support to cross, Luke Walsh converting.
Rhinos had a try disallowed when Walsh dropped the ball and McGuire picked up to go over, but video referees Ben Thaler and Ian Smith ruled the tackle had been completed.
The hosts extended their lead through a Sinfield penalty at the start of the second half and then Moon crossed from Ablett’s pass and Sinfield’s goal made it 20-6 on 48.
Saints rallied when Josh Jones burst over from Jonny Lomax’s pass, Walsh converting and the visitors applied massive pressure after that.
But Leeds’ defence stood firm and they sealed the win with six minutes to go with a brilliant long-range try, Sinfield, McGuire and Hardaker handling before Watkins burst down the right flank and put the supporting McGuire in.
Sinfield converted and then completed the scoring a couple of minutes time after Peacock stepped over for a popular try.
Leeds’ win was marred by an injury to Rob Burrow, who was hurt making a tackle 16 minutes from time.